Is a Word Just a Word?

Is a Word Just a Word?

Every time I finish a Pride and Prejudice variation, I say “Now I will work on my suspense romance.” Many writers work on more than one piece or genre at a time, and I have been known to do this, but writing in 1810 England and modern day New Jersey at the same time is just too tasking on the brain. Why? The language.

In writing Regency romance, I quickly learned to research words to make sure they were actually in use during the time. I pride myself on avoiding words which came into fashion after 1805 (a random year I chose to make life easy). I also stole words I read in other Regency romances after looking them up to make sure they met the model. After one of my word choices was mentioned in a review, I added another consideration to my process: Will this word make my reader stop reading and question the meaning of it? In addition, writers choose between American or British spellings. There is sooo much your favorite authors have to consider when writing.

But the fun thing is finding all these great words. I remember taking my first book, The Ball At Meryton, to my critique group and one of the members commented, “Equipage – I love that word.”

A long time ago, I started paying attention to the Word of the Day on and recording my favorites – even going so far as to color code some of them for specific characters. I thought I would share a few with you.

Aesthete = a person who has or professes to have refined sensitivity toward the beauties of art or nature. A person who affects great love of art, music, poetry, etc., and indifference to practical matters.

Argy-bargy = a vigorous discussion or dispute. (Scottish, of course.)

Brachylogy = brevity of diction; concise or abridged form of expression.

Brickbat = an unkind or unfavorable remark; caustic criticism.

Calumniate = to make false and malicious statements about; slander.

Corybantic = frenzied; agitated; unrestrained.

Embonpoint = excessive plumpness; stoutness.

Eximious = distinguished; eminent; excellent.

Factotum = any employee or official having many different responsibilities. A person, as a handyman or servant, employed to do all kinds of work around the house. (When I was a state employee, we filed this under “other duties as assigned.”)

Froideur = an attitude of haughty aloofness; cold superiority.

Gormless = lacking in vitality or intelligence; stupid, dull, or clumsy. (Scottish again.)

Irenic = tending to promote peace or reconciliation; peaceful or conciliatory.

Mansuetude = mildness; gentleness.

Natter = to talk incessantly; chatter. A conversation; chat.

Prink = to fuss over one’s dress, especially before the mirror. To deck oneself out. To deck or dress for show.

Puffery = undue or exaggerated praise. Publicity, acclaim, etc., that is full of undue or exaggerated praise.

Risibility = the ability or disposition to laugh. Humorous awareness of the ridiculous and absurd.

Sippet = a small piece of bread or the like for dipping in liquid food, as in gravy or milk; a small sop. A small bit; fragment. A crouton.

Stultify = to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous. To render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffectual, especially by degrading or frustrating means.

Termagant = a violent, turbulent, or brawling woman.

Thrasonical = boastful; vainglorious.

And one more Scottish:

Whigmaleerie = a whim; notion. A whimsical or fanciful ornament or contrivance; gimmick.


Did any bring to mind a specific character or two? What are your favorite words?

17 Responses to Is a Word Just a Word?

  1. I remember studying for the SAT and my favorite part was the flash cards I had with obscure words and their meanings. I pride myself with knowing a lot of these words but Regency opens a whole other set of vocabulary that I am having fun getting to know. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Our school never did spelling bees, but when I would look up a word in the dictionary, I would then read others around it. Guess those were some of my first ventures down the research rabbit hole. lol

  2. I keep a journal of words like this from my Word-of-the-Day phone app and from words I run across in my reading. I started it in July 2015 and I’ve nearly filled it–just twenty single-sided pages left to fill. I love collecting words!!

    Creating a word collection is also an exercise I do with homeschooling families in the online Groovy Grammar Workshop that I often teach at Brave Writer. Then we play games with the words we’ve collected, eventually doing a modified diagramming game with the words. It’s really fun–and a great way to get kids engaged in the power of words!! 😀

    Thanks for this wonderful post!!!

    Susanne 🙂

  3. Those are great words 🙂 What a fun post!

    Most of my favorites aren’t historical, although I do like Beau, Coxcomb, Popinjay and Dandy.

    I also like Parsimonious, Serendipity, Foibles and Guff.

    Right now, my most favorite words are Favonian and Wend.

  4. I did know some of those words but certainly not all!
    Brickbat – used by Lady Catherine!
    Froideur – Lady Catherine again perhaps? And Caroline Bingley
    Gormless – definitely Mr Collins
    Ironic – Jane
    Mansuetude – Jane again
    Prink – Caroline Bingley
    Risibility – Elizabeth
    Thrasonical – Mr Collins or Caroline Bingley!

    I’m stuck for a new one as I have no idea what words qualify as to date! How about Lackadaisical?

    • Of course you are correct for Brickbat, but I actually had this noted as Darcy in regards to his comment at the Meryton assembly. And don’t forget Mr. Bennet for Risibility.

      I love Lackadaisical – though it is also seen in a negative light (lazy, indolent), I prefer to think of it as the feeling an overly warm summer afternoon creates (lacking vitality or purpose. lazy or idle, especially in a dreamy way.).

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