Thursday, 5 May 2016

6 words that make you sound like Jane Austen

If you ever fancy trying your hand at writing an Austenesque story or dialogue, or if you just enjoy using historical language in your every day speech, it can help to have a few key words and phrases in your back pocket, to give it an authentic flair. These are just a very few that I like, to get you started, vocabulary that has fallen out of use, or at least have changed in their use since the early 1800s. I referred to "a want of evidence" in a legal submission recently, and thought it made me sound very distinguished. Let me know how you get on with using them, or if you have a particular love of your own antiquated colloquialisms.

Haste - meaning quick speed, or rapidity as it were. You can tell someone to hurry by saying, "make haste!" Or you can do something hastily, often to your regret. Or you can be hasty. It is a terrific word, and very efficient, for in one syllable there is so much mood and subtlety, I feel.

Alacrity - meaning enthusiasm and haste (see above). This word is quite common in Jane Austen's writing, and we NEVER see it any more. I have only ever seen it as a noun, though if anyone knows its adjectival form, please do share!

Vast - meaning very, very large. It can be used simply to describe a physical thing, such as the most common example of a vast ocean. You can also speak of there being a vast deal of something, which is very Jane-Austen in my opinion. And you can use it as an intensifier, such as being vastly disappointed in the shocking want of cake.

Directly - meaning immediately. We still use this word, of course, but not quite in the same sense. Think of Mr. Bingley saying, "I shall speak with the solicitor directly." You can also use it to replace the phrase, "as soon as," as in, "I shall ask him directly he comes here." This sounds very awkward to our modern ears, but that is what makes it authentic.

Parched - meaning thirsty. Actually, in some places they still use this word, like Newfoundland, for example, which actually has the oldest form of English currently spoken in our modern world - at least according to Trivial Pursuit, or some board game I once played that had that as a question. It's some hot today, byes! I'm right parched.

Want - meaning lack. I wrote a whole post on this word, so I was not going to include it, but decided to at the last minute because, being quite a common word, it comes up a lot and, in my opinion, makes a vast deal of difference to the sound of writing. If you don't have any tea, for example, you can speak of a want of tea. It doesn't necessarily mean you want some tea, though. If you don't have tea, and you want some, you can say that you want for tea. See how exciting this little word is? So much style, I feel.

So make haste, and come with alacrity to my vast offering of tea, directly I call you, for I see you are parched and want refreshment!

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