from Mia Marlowe

Mia MarloweSlang serves a useful anthropological purpose. It creates a sense of belonging to a unique group, one whose lexicon is mystifying to the uninitiated. In my case, that covers any hip hop song. I am clueless about popular culture. But I do know a thing or two about how the “cool kids” talked during the first part of the 19th century. If you’re a regular historical romance reader, you probably know a few of the more common ones. Here are a few that took me by surprise.:

Jug-bitten: tipsy

Done to a cow’s thumb: exhausted

Friday-faced: a sad expression. (This one seems counterintuitive since in our culture it’s always TGIF! But during the Regency, there was a tradition of Friday abstinence.)

Faradiddle: a petty lie

Cheeseparing: miserly

An Ape Leader: a spinster or old maid. (This charming sobriquet refers to an obscure proverb that damns those who don’t procreate to leading apes in hell. Shakespeare used it in Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew.)

Crim. Con: Short for criminal conversation, a coy reference to adultery.

Smelling of April and May: being madly in love

Bran-faced: freckled

A rattle: someone who talks too much

The trick to using slang in a historical is making sure the meaning is easy to guess at based on the context of how the term is used. Sometimes, the meaning has been so lost in time, the word has become a mere linguistic anomaly, interesting, but unusable.

How about guessing at what some of the following might mean?

Gullgropers: a) a bird catcher b) a money lender c) a whoremonger

To pull caps with someone: a) to argue b) to have a tooth pulled c) to fit for a new bonnet

Kick over the traces: a) to have a horse runaway with one b) a Scottish dance c)behave in a headstrong manner

I’ll post the correct answers in a couple days. In the meantime, have you run into any Regency slang that puzzles you? Perhaps we can put our heads together to figure it out. I’d love to hear what Regency cant or slang has caught your ear. Be sure to leave your guesses for the three slang terms!


Look for Mia’s newest release, Stroke of Genius!

Stroke of Genius (final) @ 300 low resCAN AN ARTISTIC GENIUS…

Crispin Hawke, a brilliant sculptor, is revered by the ton.  His works are celebrated in every fashionable parlor, and tales of his fiery bed skills whispered behind every fashionable fan.


Grace Makepeace is determined to wed a titled lord, but her Bostonian bluntness leaves much to be desired among the well-heeled London crowd. So to gain their acceptance, she commissions the incomparable Crispin Hawke to sculpt her hands—and asks for love lessons on the side.


Crispin agrees to school Grace in flirting and the delights of the flesh. But when she catches the eye of a marquess, he realizes he’s done his job a little too well. And suddenly he knows Grace is the one masterpiece he cannot bear to be parted from.


Read an excerpt!

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12 thoughts on “Say What? Regency Cant

  1. Laurie G says:

    My first thoughts were:

    Gullgropers: b) a money lender

    To pull caps with someone: a) to argue

    Kick over the traces: c)behave in a headstrong manner

    1. Martha Eddy says:

      I’m with you Laurie G

  2. Shana Shana says:

    I’ll play–and I won’t even look them up. 😀
    gullgropers–a) money lender (no idea)
    Pull caps…–a) argue
    Kick over traces–c) headstrong (think I used this in a book, so if I get it wrong, that’s bad) 😳

  3. Maria P says:

    Here are my guesses:
    Gullgropers: a whoremonger
    To pull caps with someone: to argue
    Kick over the traces: to behave in a headstrong manner

  4. catslady says:

    Never heard of any of those lol. My guesses: Whoremonger, Argue, and headstrong.

  5. A. moneylender
    B. To argue
    C. Runaway horse
    I do love it when I come across certain Regency-isms that make me laugh out loud.

  6. Sandy Kenny says:

    I love this! The best I could do, however, is guess.
    1. whoremonger
    2. to argue

    1. Sandy Kenny says:

      3. to behave in a headstrong manner..

      My silly keyboard keeps acting wonky, so that’s why the 2nd reply…

  7. Barbara Elness says:

    My guesses are:
    Gullgropers: b) a money lender
    To pull caps with someone: a) to argue
    Kick over the traces: c) behave in a headstrong manner

    I can’t think of any Regency slang that I couldn’t figure out from the context of the story, but it’s always fun to learn new phrases.

  8. Mel says:

    Interesting! We still use the expression “kicking over the traces” in Australia.

  9. Mia Marlowe Mia Marlowe says:

    I’m enjoying the guesses. Still waiting for someone to post a bit of slang they’ve encountered in a book that they don’t understand so we can all help decipher it.

  10. Jakki L. says:

    Oh, I love learning new Regency slang! Here are my guesses:
    Whoremonger, argue, headstrong manner.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

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