Should These Seven Victorian Words Make a Comeback in 2023?

Do you read Victorian historical fiction? Or even Edwardian or Regency? If you have, whether it’s romance or more adventurous, I’m certain you’ve seen the word “woolgathering.” It’s a fun word, granted, but I swear it’s one of the only words my fellow histfic writers seem to use the most. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity. How many other historically accurate words are we missing out on? Several years ago I did a similar blog post (My Top Ten Victorian Slang Words), and thankfully “woolgathering” didn’t make the cut. As I still love historical fiction two years later, here are ten Victorian words that, I think, should make a comeback in 2023!

Clandestine – “And so their clandestine activities were found out, with neither party free from ridicule by their friends and families.” We don’t really hear the word “clandestine” all that much, do we? Perhaps only in novels, or from a newscast where some writer decided to get fancy with a report. At least this is one of the words from the Victorian era whose definition remained the same. From Merriam Webster: “The word often substitutes for secret and covert, and it is commonly applied to actions that involve secrecy maintained for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose.”

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Yes!

Plebeian – “How very plebeian of you.” Not only is this a weird word to spell – all those vowels – but at first I thought it was in reference to acting. It didn’t take me long to realize I’d been confusing it with thespian, a term often used to describe John Wilkes Booth’s actor father (and, of course, other actors of the age). Plebeian was often used to refer to folks as “common, crude or coarse in manner or style.”

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Yes!

MUTTON SHUNTER – Oof…imagine going up to a family friend, whose spouse is a police officer, and asking how their “mutton shunter’s job is going.” I doubt you’ll get a great response! Police officers have had many, MANY names over the years, but this one takes the cake. Actually, even though I find it a bit funny for historical reasons, I don’t think this should be brought back in 2023. “This phrase was slang for police officers during Victorian times. It was used then like ‘pig’ is used today.” Yeah…no…don’t think this one should make a comeback!

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Absolutely not!

Soiree – Now soiree is a fun one. Formally used by London’s elite during the Victorian era, I do remember hearing this word used in American Western tv shows. It’s basically a fancy party. Merriam Webster explains it better: “In English, soiree means “a fancy evening affair.’ The word comes directly from French and was formed from the word soir, meaning ‘evening’ or ‘night.’ The French make a subtle distinction between soir, which refers explicitly to the time of day following sunset, and soirée, which refers to some duration of time, usually translated as ‘evening.'” Well that’s fun! I never knew it pertained specifically to an evening party. You learn something new every day!

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Yes, please!

DADDLES – “Get yer daddles out of yer pockets!” According to 50+ Victorian Slang Terms over on YourDictionary, “This slang refers to the most important tool of any writer’s trade — their hands.”

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Maybe? It’s kind of funny.

MAFFICKING – “I dinna want ye maffickin’ wi’ those fools.” The only thing that comes to mind when I think about this word is all the folks who bar hop down on Pittsburgh’s South Side. They definitely be mafficking every single night! Don’t ask where the Scottish accent came from. According to YourDictionary: When people took to the streets and exhibited rowdy behavior, this was referred to as mafficking. A post-win parade for either the Steelers or the Philadelphia Eagles also comes to mind!

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Absolutely

UP THE POLE – “You are entirely up the pole!” Another phrase you don’t hear often; maybe among the older crowd. Not sure what modern phrase could equal this one. This one, however, is quite literally what it means: “This phrase is the Victorian equivalent of saying that a person is “falling down drunk.” The person is so drunk that they have to hold on to a pole to stay upright.”

Should this word make a comeback in 2023? Yes…in the right context, of course!

Honorable Mentions from my old post: arfarfan’arf, batty-fang, bricky, butter upon bacon, doing the bear, gas-pipes, mad as hops, parish pick-axe, shake a flannin, skilamalink. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure how accurate some of these truly are!

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.
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