WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

There are so many bugs running through a city near us that they had to quarantine the local homeless shelter. Simply covering our mouths and washing our hands (every time we have to cover said mouth or touch something shareable) would go a long way toward slowing the spread of the illnesses, but sometimes the fact of so many people driven inside under together conditions beyond their control just provides the perfect breeding ground for all those nasty germs.

Sick as a Horse

Horses are said to be extremely sick at their stomachs, from being unable to relieve themselves by vomiting. Bracken, indeed, in his Farriery, gives an instance of that evacuation being procured, but by a means which he says would make the Devil vomit. Such as may have occasion to administer an emetic either to the animal or the fiend, may consult his book for the recipe.

There were myriad illnesses running around during the Regency era. This week, I’ll look at the diseases; next, the cures, folk remedies, and outright snake oil scams for them.

Ague

This is the somewhat obscure term for malaria; some texts will also refer to this as miasma. Doctors first ascribed the cause of the ague to unwholesome or poisonous air, but a little research soon showed mosquitoes (brought back from the great English fleet traveling to the West Indies) to be the common denominator. It turns out mosquitoes loved the marshlands of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, too. This illness was characterized by chills, shivering, fever, and sweating. The ague existed in England until the mid 19th century, when proper drainage helped eradicate the disease (if you’re watching Victoria, thank Prince Albert and his fascination with sewage systems).

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 1788, The British Museum.

Apoplexy

Otherwise known as a stroke. Apoplexy resulted in a sudden fit of paralysis and dizziness. The prefix of the word – apo – meant ‘to strike or hit,’ indicating both the unexpected and ferocious nature of this condition. The results of apoplexy could bring death, while recovery usually involved some incapacitation, such as paralysis, palsy (tremors), or inability to speak. Many died within hours of the attack. Bloodletting, the go-to remedy for all ailments, was believed to help the patient. Survivors were sometimes mistaken as mad due to their inability to speak or control bodily functions, and those without means were consigned to asylums.

It’s odd to me how this word has also come to mean extreme anger, such as an ‘apoplectic rage.’

Bilious Fever

This term was applied as loosely as today’s ‘flu.’ During the Regency, it meant anyone suffering from fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, and was blamed on a disorder of the bile.

Biliousness

If you had a disorder of the liver or gallbladder, with accompanying gastric pain, this was your illness. Bile was not to be messed around with, evidently.

Cancrum Oris

This devastating ulcer could destroy the cheek, lips, tongue, palate, or face, and was often fatal (friendly tip: do not Google this for pictures). It was most often seen in children between the ages of two and five, and was caused by poor hygiene and poor nutrition. Damage was usually irreversible and could even lead to gangrene.

Catarrh

This term is most often seen in novels as the Regency equivalent of the head cold, a disease characterized by ‘inflammation of, and discharge from, a mucous membrane’ in a body cavity or in the airways, but catarrh could be so much more. Bronchial catarrh was bronchitis, epidemic catarrh was influenza, suffocative catarrh was croup, urethral catarrh was gleet, and vaginal catarrh was leukorrhea, according to Geri Walton. For some reason, I always picture an elderly, but stern, aunt telling all how she suffers so from catarrh…but not really.

Consumption

Consumption was the common name for tuberculosis, meaning a “wasting of the body by disease; wasting disease, progressive emaciation,” which replaced the old terms “the evil disease” and phthsis. There was no effective treatment for the disease. Spread through the air, saliva, and blood, it caused weakness, fatigue, fever, chills, night sweats, wracking cough, and spitting up blood. However, in the latter stages of the disease, sufferers experienced a burst of energy and creativity, leading many to call it a “romantic disease.” British poet Lord Byron wrote, “I should like to die from consumption,” helping to popularize the disease as the disease of artists (the pretty-boy fool). George Sand doted on her phthisic lover, Frédéric Chopin, calling him her “poor melancholy angel“.  The disease killed more people in Britain in the 1800’s than smallpox, measles, typhus, whooping cough, and scarlet fever combined, and it came to be known as The White Plague.

Tegg’s Caricatures No. 45: Dropsy Courting Consumption by Thomas Rowlandson, 1810, The British Museum.

Croup

This name was given to pretty much any sickness of the time that involved coughing but usually without leading to death. It occurred most often in children, as it does now, with coughing, hoarseness, mildly sore throats, and possibly mild fevers. The name arose from the local disease in southeastern Scotland, given wide publication by Dr. Francis Home of Edinburgh in his 1765 treatise on it, according to Etymology Online. In modern times, any child with a barking cough is said to have the croup.

Dysentery

This disease was characterized by inflammation of the mucous membrane of the large intestine. Its early name said it all: the bloody flux. Its symptoms were severe diarrhea, bloody and/or mucus-filled stools, fever, and abdominal pain.

Dyspepsia

This was indigestion caused by just about anything: overeating, late-night eating, eating something that disagreed with you, not chewing food up properly before swallowing, etc. Dictionary.com defined it as ‘deranged digestion,’ which is about the best definition I’ve ever come across for anything.

Effluvium

Those distasteful, foul-smelling, gasses or exhalations that were thought to cause disease. Not only could effluvia come from sewage waste, but females might infect males with their noxious fumes.

Furuncle

Also known as boils, these nasty skin abscesses were filled with pus, and brought great pain and suffering to those afflicted. Until the late 19th century, no one knew the cause of furuncles, but they remembered that they were a sign of the Plague, and feared them, and sufferers, accordingly.

Gout

This was a joint disease that most often affected the upper classes. In medieval medicine, the disease was thought to be caused by ‘drops of viscous humors seeping from the blood into the joints.’ This turns out to be close to the modern scientific explanation, as gout was often caused by the drinking of heavy or sweet wines, or excessive beer drinking combined with insufficient food. The disease can also be hereditary.

The Gout by James Gillray, 1799, The British Museum.

Palsy

This was uncontrollable tremors combined with partial paralysis, and could be caused by a host of diseases. So palsy was a symptom rather than an illness, but severe enough to deserve a mention. As seen above, survivors of apoplexy could suffer from palsy. As with most illnesses of the era, there was no cure.

Piles

The more common name for hemorrhoids, so-called from the ball-like shape.

Pleurisy

Pleurisy was an inflammation of the lungs marked by a hacking cough and sharp chest pain. Pleuritis meant ‘pain in the side,’ although in medieval times it meant ‘more,’ as in ‘more humours’ (those medieval doctors loved their bodily humours). Respiratory infections were the main causes of pleurisy.

Pneumonia

Inflammation of the lungs, or ‘winter fever,’ was defined by pain in the side, rapid breathing, fluttering pulse, cough, and fever.  Its symptoms were described as early as the Middle Ages and are similar to the descriptions of today.

Puerperal Fever

This has to be the saddest of all the illnesses of the era. Also known as Child Bed Fever, it was the main reason women feared pregnancy during the Regency. Symptoms included severe abdominal pain and high fever, and both mother and child could (and likely would) die from it. We now know it as an infection resulting from a prolonged or difficult childbirth where a foreign organism is introduced into the birth canal.

Putried Fever/Sore Throat

This is not your modern-day fever/sore throat. Think gangrene that attacked the tonsils and throat, destroyed the tissue, and gave off some of the noxious effluvium mentioned above. Think high fever and massively aching throat along the lines of the strep throat of today. This could also be called quinsy.

A Sore Throat (Egad its worse & worse) by H. Pyall, 1827, Harvard Medical Library.

Rheumatic Fever

This was a complication from Putrid Fever/Putrid Sore Throat. It was most often seen in children and was nearly always fatal. It was characterized by fever, inflammation, pain in and around the joints, and by inflammatory involvement of the pericardium and heart valves.

Scarlatina

Scarlatina, or Scarlet Fever, was the contagious disease characterized by a bright red, distinctive rash that looked like a sunburn with bumps, accompanied by a high fever and sore throat. There were traumatic epidemics in England and Wales in the mid 1800s that killed hundreds of people.

Smallpox

This virus was acute, causing blisters on the skin, mouth, and throat, accompanied by fever. Blisters that occurred near the eyes could cause blindness. It was fatal to one-third of those who caught it, but for those who survived, they were immune, though terribly scarred and marked such as survivors. Eighty percent of children that contracted this disease died. Smallpox was highly contagious, being easily inhaled or transmitted through bodily fluids. One of the first vaccinations ever created was for smallpox in 1798. An interesting side fact: smallpox was so named in contrast to great pox, which was syphilis.

The Cow-Pock –or– The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! by James Gillray, 1802, The British Museum.

Tetanus

Also known as Trismus and Lockjaw, this infectious disease affected the central nervous system, causing violent spasms and stiffness of the muscles all over the body (but most obviously in locking the jaw). Unbeknownst at the time, tetanus was caused by bacteria living in soil, saliva, dust, and manure – hence its extremely contagious nature – and entered the body through open wounds.

Surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell documented the effects of tetanus after the Battle of Corunna in the Napoleonic War in 1809, for the purpose of studying gunshot wounds; his most famous of his thirteen paintings shows the horrors and agony of full tetany.

Opisthotonus. Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds by surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell, 1809, public domain.

Typhus

This disease was also called ‘Pestilential’ or ‘Putrid Fever,’ or by names derived from the locality were the outbreak appeared, such as ‘Camp,’ ‘Jail,’ ‘Hospital,’ or ‘Ship Fever.’ Typhus spread by lice, and symptoms included delirium, headaches, fever, and a rash. The duration of the disease was tracked by the rash, which cleared in two weeks, if the patient survived. Typhus spread via overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, and people could catch it repeatedly if re-exposed. No cure existed until the discovery of antibiotics.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clerked

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clerked

This week’s word brought to you by the wonderfully expressive Mr. Knightley.

Clerked

Soothed, funned, imposed on. “The cull will not be clerked;” i.e. the fellow will not be imposed on by fair words.

“Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.”
Volume II, Chapter 8, Emma

“Not your vain spirit, but your serious spirit. –If one leads you wrong, I am sure the other tells you of it.”
Volume III, Chapter 2, Emma

“There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution. It is Frank Churchill’s duty to pay this attention to his father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it might be done.”
Volume II, Chapter 18, Emma

“Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have, is almost enough to make me think so too. Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do.”
Volume I, Chapter 8, Emma

“Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?—Emma, I had not thought it possible.”
Volume III, Chapter 7, Emma

“Men of sense, whatever you may chuse to say, do not want silly wives.”
Volume I, Chapter 8, Emma

“Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.”
Volume I, Chapter 8, Emma

Mr. Knightley – Can I get a witness, please?!

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • The above quotes are from the Jane Austen novel Emma, but are not matched to the gif scenes from the BBC/PBS miniseries Emma starring Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai from 2010. I just liked the quotes and JLM’s expressions. Apologies if this sets off anyone’s need for matchiness.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ The Parson’s Mousetrap (plus a giveaway!)

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ The Parson’s Mousetrap (plus a giveaway!)

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.
~The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820, public domain.

The Parson’s Mousetrap

The state of matrimony. See also noozed, priest-linked, spliced, swish’d, and yoakd.

The vernacular painted a pretty bleak portrait of marriage. Or perhaps an all-to-true one. Despite what some authors still get incorrect about the time period, there were no easy annulments, and even less easy divorces. Matrimony was truly ’til death us do part.’ Daughters had better hope their fathers negotiated favorable marriage settlements, that their unions fell somewhere along the scale of love match to cordial business arrangement, or that they produced what was required of them to cause their husbands to leave them in peace after obligations were fulfilled.

I’ll take our written happily ever afters.

 

Signing the Register by Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922), Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery UK, The Bridgeman Art Library.

Off for the Honeymoon by Frederick Morgan, 1903, Bonhams.

None But the Brave Deserve the Fair by James Shaw Crompton, 1915, from The Pears Annual, Digital Library, University of North Texas.

PS: I’m in a multi-author giveaway that’s open for two more days – this giveaway from BookSweeps ends on February 20th! If you haven’t already entered, don’t miss your chance to win 30 Victorian, Georgian, and Regency Romances, plus a brand new eReader. You’ll even get a collection of FREE reads just for entering! Enjoy and bon chance! Just click the graphic below:

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

Guess what happens this week!

If you guessed Valentine’s Day, you’re only partially correct. I was shooting for the day after Valentine’s Day, when candy goes on sale for half-price or more. Now that’s something to celebrate, amiright?!

Anyway. On to the Word of the Week.

The observation of St. Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. That celebration involved lots of naked men running around the city spanking women’s bottoms, which was thought to increase their fertility. Ahem.

And like all good pagan rites of yore, Christians swooped in and usurped the pagan’s place in the festivities; after the death of Christ, February 14th became a date associated with the martyring of three different saints, all coincidentally named Valentine (or Valentinus, in the Latin of the day).

Now, the first documented association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love came with the publication of Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382:

Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese — and flee your way —
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.

History also reveals a Frenchman (but, of course!) holds the honor as first to send a Valentine, although under tragic circumstances. After his capture following the Battle of Agincourt, the duc D’Orléans wrote a missive to his wife from his cell in the Tower of London. He addressed her as “my sweet Valentine.”

Poem from Charles, duc D’Orléans, to his wife in 1415. Photo courtesy BBC; original document at the British Museum.

Shakespeare brought the concept of Valentines and Valentine’s Day to the masses when  he penned Ophelia’s mournful song for Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5).

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door.
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more.

The idea of sending notes specifically on Valentine’s Day took off in England, so much so that a how-to book was published in 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. The rampant popularity naturally meant the term would be adopted into the vernacular.

Hence this week’s timely slang term.

Valentine (noun)

The first woman seen by a man, or man seen by a woman, on St. Valentine’s day, the 14th of February, when it is said every bird chuses his mate for the ensuing year.

Early Valentines were personal and hand-made, specific to the tastes and feelings of the sender and recipient. Witness this lovely Puzzle Purse Valentine from 1816. The squares are numbered so that the message can be read in order as each section is opened. The final message or illustration takes the center spot. Who wouldn’t love to receive one of these?

Valentine Puzzle Purse, 14 February 1816. Image courtesy Nancy Rosin.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

It’s February.

It may still be cold and wintry, but love is in the air, so things are heating up, of a fashion.

February hosts the most loved and despised of holidays – Valentine’s Day. Every year, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold across the United States. Heck, even 9 million people buy something for their pets. But take a stroll through social media anywhere near February 14th to find out what your single friends think of the so-called “love month.”

They just need to find themselves a Word of the Week.

Nug

An endearing word: as, My dear nug; my dear love.

Oh! Listen to the Voice of Love, James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

And here’s one’s dearest nug…at least prior to marriage.

Harmony Before Matrimony, James Gillray, 1805, British Museum.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Galligaskins

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Galligaskins

Slang term + video of period clothing illustrating term = terrific Word of the Week!

Galligaskins

Breeches.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, galligaskins were leggings or loose-fitting breeches worn by sailors. Think puffy, knee-britches. But by the late 18th century, and certainly the Regency era, as tight-fitting breeches had replaced the loose ones, the term galligaskin had come to be derogatory slang for just how tight those new breeches were, and poked delicious fun at how little they left to the imagination.

Mr. Timothy Long is now the Director and Senior Specialist of Couture at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois. Formerly, he was the Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, and he posted some fabulous short videos of collection discoveries with typed-up captions explaining the more fascinating aspects of the pieces he profiled. The videos are buried in his twitter feed, and are everything that is lovely and wonderful. Of course I found one of impeccable galligaskins, circa 1810. Make sure to click the link, because my screen shots don’t do the trousers justice.

1810 Galligaskins

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clan

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clan

Short and sweet again this week. I’m on the road to recovery, but the four-seasons-in-one-week-weather of Texas is not exactly helping to speed along my progress. Thanks for your patience in indulging my whimsical posts.

Clan

A family’s tribe or brotherhood.

I found a pretty funny – and pretty accurate – video on YouTube explaining the Georgian era. And since this week’s word is clan, and the vid is about the Georgians, the family must be those wild and crazy Hanovers. Of course we Regency nerds are most familiar with George III. Who said it was Byron, and not His Majesty, that was mad, bad, and dangerous to know?

The host’s demeanor when naming said clan gave me flashbacks to Pip Torrens introducing the Bennet ladies at Netherfield when they came to collect Jane in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Again, it may be the Elderberry syrup that heightens my entertainment capabilities.

Please enjoy It’s All a Bit Silly — Georgian Era, this week. (Fair warning: the language is occasionally not completely safe for work, so ear buds in public)

 

Slang word taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.