Friday, September 5, 2014

The Dictionary Project!

The Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties is a resource Tine Hreno is designing to make access to Victorian colloquialisms easier for writers of historical fiction, and lovers of Victorian culture. Easier means that the Dictionary will be organized in such a way that readers can quickly find the right word. Importantly, easier also means that the Dictionary will be accessible to anyone who wants to use it by keeping the cost below a dollar.

Hreno is a media relations specialist turned Victorian fiction author, who first thought of the idea for the dictionary when she realized that Victorians, people we think of as the morally righteous founders of industrial society, frequently used the word ‘fuck.’ However, in hindsight, it is also the natural progression of her two blogs: The Lexicon of Cultural Folly, and Writers in London in the 1890s.

Currently, the release date is dependent on funding, but we will keep you posted on that! In the mean time, check out the new blog and discover some Victorian slang!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


pseud-e-pi-graph-a (sd-pgr-f)

noun pl.
1. Spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.
Many old religious texts, outside of any particular religion's canon, are just pseudepigraphia. In secular, literary texts, scholars usually just apply the prefix "pseudo" to describe the text, as with all of the early twentieth-century pseudo-Oscar Wilde homosexual porn that Robert Ross fought so hard to get off the market.

2. A body of texts written between 200 b.c. and a.d. 200 and spuriously ascribed to various prophets and kings of Hebrew Scriptures.
When Derek's friend claimed to have never heard of any pseudepigrapha, Derek asked if she had ever heard of the bible.

Synonyms: apocryphal, pseudological.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


smithereens (smi-thə-ˈrēnz)

1. fragments or splintered bits.

Noel and Teddy’s discussion about railway safety had Mary picturing us all smashed to smithereens in a train accident.

Synonyms: atoms, bits, crumbs, dabs, dashes, drops, flyspecks, grains, granules, iotas, mites, modicums, particles, pittances, scraps, shreds, smidgens, specks, touches, traces.

* Of course, the singular form of smithereens would be smithereen, but that's not a very useful word. You are welcome to try, but, as of today, no one has answered the question: how can you use smithereen in a sentence.

** According to one source:
Smithereens is an Irish word. It derives from, or is possibly the source of, the modern Irish 'smidirín', which means 'small fragments'. There is a town near Baltimore, close to the south-west coast of Ireland, called Skibbereen. The name means 'little boat harbour' and it is tempting to imagine sailing ships arriving there from the wild Atlantic by being 'blown to Skibbereen'. The more recent 'Troubles' also bring up images of property/people being dynamited and 'blown to Skibbereen' from all over Ireland. There's no record of any such phrase however, and the similarity between the words Skibbereen and smithereens seems to be no more than co-incidence.
Another enticing notion as to the source of smithereens is that it refers to the shards of metal formed when iron is forged and hammered in a smithy. Again, there's nothing but wishful thinking to support that idea. The actual origin is more prosaic. 'Smiodar' means fragments in Irish. 'Een' is a commonplace diminutive ending, as in colleen (girl), i.e. Caile(country woman) + een. Similarly, smiodar + een lead us to smithereen. As with many words that are inherited from other languages, it took some time for the English spelling to become stable. Both 'smiddereens' and 'shivereens' are recorded in the mid 19th century.
The notion of things being 'broken/smashed/blown to smithereens' dates from at least the turn of the 19th century. Francis Plowden, in The History of Ireland, 1801, records a threat made against a Mr. Pounden by a group of Orangemen: "If you don't be off directly, by the ghost of William, our deliverer, and by the orange we wear, we will break your carriage in smithereens, and hough your cattle and burn your house."
['Hough' is a variant of 'hock' - to disable by cutting the tendons]
Smithereens is one of those unusual nouns that, like suds and secateurs, never venture out by themselves - the word is always plural.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


ty-ro-man-cy (tie-row-man-see)

1. An old form of divination based on interpretations from cheese. Unfortunately, the method does not appear to have been recorded.
Tyromancy always reassures us that the future is gouda. 

Synonyms: beware of munsters, harzer days ahead, palmita reading, havarti dreams come true. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


mag-nil-o-quent (mæɡˈnɪləkwənt/)

1. Of a person: lofty, ambitious, or pompous in expression; grandiloquent. Hence of utterances, compositions, etc. Also (occas.): boastful.
The Lexicon of Cultural Folly contains many magniloquent words, like bombastic, ideopathic, and pulchritudinous, but also some of a more humble and playful nature, like doohickey, gadzooks, and funambulist

Synonyms: boastful, bombastic, flowery, grandiloquent, pompous, turgid.

Saturday, February 16, 2013



1. A question or inquiry which requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Twenty Questions is a game of percontations; a percontation point, however, is punctuation used for irony.

Synonyms: backwards question mark.

Friday, February 8, 2013


effete (ɛˈfiːt)

1. impotent.
In effete attempts to prove their virility, so many set out to lure a woman to bed, when the real adventure is loving her.

Synonyms: barren, crippled, dud, enervated, enfeebled, feeble, forceless, frail, gutless, helpless, inadequate, incapable, incapacitated, incompetent, ineffective, ineffectual, inept, infecund, infirm, nerveless, paper tiger, paralyzed, powerless, prostrate, sterile, unfruitful, unproductive, weak.
2. Of material substances: That has lost its special quality or virtue; exhausted, worn out.
To the bitter, be that through a lack of love or exhaustion by society's gross tendency toward commercialization, the valentine has grown effete.

Synonyms: crapulous, decadent, epicurean, gluttonous, gourmandizing, greedy, hedonistic, immoderate, lush, parsimonious, sybaritic.

3. Figuratively of persons in an intellectual sense, of systems, etc.: That has exhausted its vigour and energy; incapable of efficient action. Also, of persons: weak, ineffectual; degenerate.
And just when the appeal of punny valentines cards seemed effete, we have dictators!

Synonym: bankrupt, burn out , conk out, cripple, debilitate, disable, do in, drain, draw, enervate, enfeeble, fag, fatigue, frazzle, impoverish, overdo, overexert, overextend, overfatigue,overtire, overwork, peter out, poop, poop out, prostrate, run ragged, sap, suck dry, tucker,use up, weaken, wear down, weary.