A Vocabulary Lesson with Guest Author Sharon Lathan

Today I'm pleased to introduce our guest blogger Sharon Lathan, author of Loving Mr. Darcy. Recently released, Loving Mr. Darcy is the second in her trilogy of Pride and Prejudice sequels called The Darcy Saga.

I love Sharon's topic today - a vocabulary lesson that will help you get even more out of the historicals you read, like Loving Mr. Darcy. Welcome Sharon!

A Vocabulary Lesson

Writing in an era some 200 years ago is a daunting task. Add to that the chore of tackling Jane Austen and it teeters on the brink of insanity! I haven’t decided yet whether I am crazy or brazen, but whatever the opinion, it is a very good thing that I am a lover of history and vocabulary. The research necessary to plausibly present a past world is tremendous. Writing in a style that is one’s own voice while also paying tribute to the original author is precarious. Using vocabulary that conveys a forgotten way of speaking while utilizing the language a modern reader will understand is rough.

Yet, as I said, I love history and I love vocabulary. I told a friend recently that I was a thesaurus addict! I absolutely love searching for new words to use and actually start to shake when I stumble across a new one. I have formed whole paragraphs around some really cool word, just because I have to use it! I try not to be overly obscure as I want my readers to enjoy the story and not falter when encountering a bizarre word. On the other hand, broadening ones vocabulary is a worthy endeavor and pausing to flip through the dusty dictionary is time well spent. Yes?

From time to time on my website I post an entry called “Vocabulary Rocks!” I share the origins and definitions of some of the cool words I unearth. I am going to share a few of my favs.

D├ęcolletage – Often this word is used in such a way that one thinks it means the actual cleavage visible. In reality, d├ęcolletage is referring to the fabric neckline of the gown itself, but is only applied to a gown that is very low cut so that the shoulders and upper breasts are exposed.

Chatelaine -A set of useful items hung at the waist with a decorative chain. Commonly associated with the housekeeper who kept the keys to the Manor on her person at all times. A chatelaine was also worn by fashionable ladies and would secure a watch, sewing or writing implements, small coin purses, keys, scissors, etc.

Harridan - A bad-tempered, disreputable old woman. Probably from the French word haridelle meaning a worn-out horse. I used this word to describe Lady Catherine de Bourgh! Fits, don’t you think?

Inexpressibles – This one cracks me up! We would say ‘pants’ but that term was considered vulgar! So instead, this was the general, polite word for all the various types of male garments worn over the lower half of their bodies.

Accoutrements - The additional accessories, paraphernalia, and trimmings that are not a main part of the garment. For the Regency man and woman the accoutrements were as important as the suit or gown. Hats, gloves, walking sticks, pocket watches, jewelry, scarves, and so on.

Halcyon – It means calm, tranquil, happy, carefree, and prosperous. What is interesting is the origin: The fourteen days of calm weather at the winter solstice when a mythical bird, identified with the kingfisher, was said to breed in a nest floating on calm seas. Identified in mythology with Halcyone, daughter of Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, who when widowed upon her husband, Ceyx the king of Thessaly, drowning at sea, threw herself into the sea and became a kingfisher, flying to be with her husband. OK, you have to admit that is cool!

Braggadocio –Vain, swaggering, pretentious bragging attitude or person. After Braggadocchio, the boastful character in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590)

Insipid and Vapid – I love both of these words! They sound exactly like they mean, that is to be without any distinctive or interesting qualities, dull and bland, no liveliness of spirit or zest for life.

Urbane – I love this word because it perfectly describes Mr. Darcy to me. Having the polish, elegance, sophistication, and suave refinement that comes from wide social experience. Oh yeah, that’s my hero!

Well, I could go on indefinitely, but I shan’t! I hope you have enjoyed my mini-English lesson. I have an extensive glossary of Regency places and terms on my website if this essay piqued your interest for more. And I hope you will dash over to my website to read about my sequel to Pride & Prejudice: The Darcy Saga by Sharon Lathan at http://www.darcysaga.net/ The first two novels are already available to purchase! And I promise you will learn some new words to dazzle your friends. Share with us some of your favorite words, especially if they are unusual.

About the Author

Sharon Lathan is a native Californian currently residing amid corn, cotton, and cows in the sunny city of Hanford. She divides her time as homemaker nurturing a husband and two children, plus the cat, dog, and fish; while also working as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. Somewhere in there she finds time to write! Sharon Lathan can be found on her website/blog at: http://www.darcysaga.net/, on Facebook as “Sharon Lathan, “ on Twitter as “@SharonLathan,” and on the Casablanca Authors’ blog at: http://casablancaauthors.blogspot.com/

We have a fantastic prize to giveaway to celebrate Sharon's latest release. One lucky reader will win one copy of the first two books in The Darcy Saga - Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Loving Mr. Darcy! Just comment and tell us some of your favorite words of past or present and you're entered to win!

Sorry, this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Happy Reading!


  1. I loved this mini English lesson. I had heard that men's pants were called "unmentionables", but I like Inexpressible too :) I think one of my favorite past words are "hoyden" and the term of endearment "sweeting" those are two of my favs.

    Haven't read any of the Darcy Saga, but would love to win them and try them out. I love Jane Austen and only have read a few books that were based on her original works. These look to be really really good.

    Congrats on the release of Loving Mr. Darcy looks to be a huge success!

  2. I love your love for words! I love the word deaconing, which is the practice of putting the best fruits on the top, such as in a display or elegant arrangement for a meal.
    Also love correscate (not sure on spelling) which is to glitter or give off a sparkle. Hmm, makes me think about Twilight. ;-)

  3. Ooh ooh OOH, Michele! Awesome words! I have never heard of "deaconing" - fabulous! I could have used that one a number of times, especially in my Christmas sequences. Thanks! "Coruscate" is an excellent word. That one I do know, but can't recollect if I have ever used it.

  4. I loved the vocabulary lesson! I've always defended my reading of romance novels by telling people that it expanded my vocabulary (completely true!) and that the historicals improved my knowledge of history (most actually do!). One of my favorite words ever is actually a German word, Pfadfinderin. Literally translated it means "Path Finder," but is actually the word used to refer to a Girl Scout. :) As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts (and as a holder of a BA in German), I think I am more partial to the word than others.


  5. My first post seems to have been eaten up by the cyberspace gremlins. Let me try again!

    First, thank you Cheeky Girl for hosting me today. It is an honor to appear on your blog and I appreciate the opportunity to share my novels with your readers.

    Hi booklover! Great to "see" you here. Good luck in the drawing. I love the word hoyden! Not sure if I have used that one or not, but I should. I am already seeing a paragraph forming in my brain - now I just have to put it in somewhere! The saga is full of endearments - to the dismay of some - but I love them! I have used both sweeting and sweetling. Great terms, especially for children. Hope you enjoy my novels when you do read them. :)

    OK, I shall try to post this again......

  6. Wow, Angel, THAT one is obscure! But great! Hmm.... Not sure how I could use that.... German, pathfinder, scout.... its coming to me....

    Thanks for dropping in. You are so right about reading as a learning experience. I won't get up on my soapbox, but reading anything in literature is THE best way to learn words and sentence structure and spelling and history and so on. Heck, I was happy even when my kids read comic books! Anything to get them interested in the written word.

  7. I'm so excited to have Sharon here today and I love her topic. I'm a sucker for certain words and some I've always wondered about when reading historicals!

  8. This is so much fun! I do something similar on my Plaidy blog, called Wordy Wednesday:) I find that words 'of the time' are so important to keeping the reader interested and in tune with the period and genre. Excellent post- thanks.
    I'd love to be entered for this giveaway:)
    You've got a terrific blog.

  9. We used unmentionables for men's and women's underwear where I grew up. I enjoyed this post, and found myself wondering whether American and English thesauruses might have different words in them.

    sdeeth at msn dot com

  10. Wow this is a cool contest..hmm..words that I like?

    I like knickers ;D I use that word too and it makes a lot of people laugh.

    Also I'm reading When Christ and his Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman she uses a lot of old English there, and I noticed the characters always say: "For Certes" which is like saying: "for sure" or "for certain" I thought that was interesting and will probably pick that up just because I like the sound of it. :)

    I'll never let go of using Knickers though har har.

    Pls enter me into this contest! would love a chance to read these books!

    sensitivemuse at gmail dot com

  11. Inexpressibles - what a hoot. I always laugh when I read about women "getting the vapors" (to faint because of bad air or being over emotional).
    Thanks for the wonderful giveaway...I would be absolutely thrilled if I won these two books.


    My verification word is freake - as in I will FREAKE out if I win this giveaway! LOL

  12. Thanks for clarifying 'decolletage' which I thought meant amount of cleavage showing, and not the fabric neckline.

    I enjoy vocabulary and always have a dictionary beside me when reading especially when I read medievel novels. Now talk about the different parts of clothing worn during that time. It makes my head spin.

    Your blog is amazing, and I spent a considerable time in the Photo Gallery. You have quite an extensive collection, such inspiration. I like the ones of Pemberley and Matthew MacFadyen.

    armiefox at yahoo dot com

  13. "Wordy Wednesday" - I like that! I tried to have my Vocabulary Rocks! on a regular basis, but it got tough to keep at it with all the other stuff going on in my life. But it is fun, so I think I may be inspired to reinstate it as a bi-monthy perhaps. You all are giving me great words to chose from!

    It is a balance, Ms. Lucy, between inserting historical words, or even unique words, and keeping the story easy to read. I don't want to turn people away with a novel that is too difficult to wade through.

    Sheila, you may be right about the different thesauruses. I use several online ones and have never paid much attention to their country of origin. I have accessed some places, such as the Oxford dictionary, when I am really on a hunt mode for something. That gets quite interesting!

    Knickers is great! I'll have to look that up for time placement. I have never seen it in any Regency glossaries. Again, throwing in odd words or phrases, such as "for certes" is great if you are careful. Not only can they be overused and misused, but if they are too bizarre or obscure the reader will have no idea what you are saying.

  14. Hello again Neas! Nice seeing you here! Yes, "inexpressibles" is so funny. I love the wonderful dichotomy of the Regency: Women wear dresses that show way too much flesh and the guys are in tight breeches that leave little to the imaginations, yet they won't say "pants"! LOL

    Very wise to have a dictionary handy, Armenia. I always have as well. I have to know what a word means when I come across it.

    Thanks for mentioning my Portrait Gallery. I am quite proud of it. All the photos that complement the novels are ones I have found in the midst of my research. I really think it helps to get a picture of what is happening in the novel. And, yes, all the ones of Matthew are quite divine. :)

  15. I am amazed at all of these words. I am not so up on vocabulary of the olden times or today. :) Some of them made me laugh right out loud. I don't have any fancy vocabulary words, being the mother of 4 kids, 3 of which are boys, normally my vocab consists of "Quit fighting!" "Get outside" or "Knock it off!" I don't know if that really counts as my favorite or anything unique, but it is said constantly in this crazy house!

  16. One word that comes to mind is desiccate (lacking vitality or spirit; lifeless). I remember it but never use it! I always have to have my iPhone to google high fallutin words in historical romances!


  17. I love the old word Chatelaine.

  18. Okay, I'm late, but I have to say I love these words--Halcyon's my favorite because I'd never think to use it but it would be so perfect!

    I use "vapid" and "insipid" ALL THE TIME, and my friends who don't read Regency novels (or really any novels) usually look at me and say, "What are you saying?"

    Favorite modern words? Muggle. Snark. Craptastic. Plebian. Peon. Luddite.

  19. Hi all! Some really great words! I love "plebeian" - I have used that a time or two. Halcyon is one of those words that fits the mood so perfectly. I really love it. Thanks for the modern words, MsHellion! Craptastic is fantastic! LOL!!