History Hoydens

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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

27 September 2006

Etymology: Lummox


1825, East Anglian slang, perhaps from dumb ox influenced by lumbering; or from E. Anglian dialectal form of lummock "move heavily or clumsily," of uncertain origin. (from the ONLINE ETYMOLGY DICTIONARY where I am the proud sponsor of “riffraff”)

Etymology. Something I never worried about back when I first starting writing, now it’s something I obsess about . . . ever since a kindly judge in a writing contest pointed out to me that one of my favorite words, lummox, wasn’t period for my Georgian setting.

Ack! Curse you. It’s such a perfect word! I could use clod (1690) or oaf (1610), but they don’t conjure up the same image for me. There’s just something about this word (which I first encountered in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Star Beast as a child) that attracts me.

Do you have words like that? Words you are frustrated at having to leave out of a story, or that you use anyway, knowing that somewhere, someone is gritting their teeth and muttering Not Period!?

16 Comments:

Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Well, I was dismayed when I learned that breeches were not just another word for trousers. I love the word breeches. Breeches, breeches. It just sounds so perfectly period, and to me "trousers" sounds so. . . prissy. I hate it when my hero has to wear trousers. And pantaloons. . . *shudder* Never. I always picture pantalets.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

See, I love pantaloons, but I write Georgian settings and my guys are in breeches. LOL! And lace. Horrors!

9:40 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Different strokes, I guess! *grin* Now I don't mind the lace on a big sexy man. Isn't that odd? I think we have a whole other discussion for another day!

9:48 AM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Yes, sometimes I wish I'd never purcahsed the OED. Savvy is one of my favorites that I can't use. There are so many "perfect" words that I want to use only to discover they are not period. "Diplomat" was a recent one. Sometimes, if it's close, i.e. 10-20 years, I'll cheat and use it anyway. :)

9:57 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Yes, sometimes I wish I'd never purchased the OED.

Ain't that the truth. I swear mine lurks menacingly from its corner.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Regarding anachronisms. . . I had a hard time in my last historical manuscript when I wanted the heroine to "replay" something in her head. I didn't even catch it at first, and it took me a while to work around it. I think I just rewrote the whole sentence, because i couldn't find an appropriate word. I can't wait to start getting emails from readers when I don't catch something. It should be funny.

Oh, and in SCOTSMAN, the hero makes a joke about going to hell in a handbasket. I didn't research it until recently and it was quite a mess. I changed it to hell in a handcart, but there is disagreement about when and where the saying came to be. Needless to say, I went with the side that supported my writing. *grin* Write me all you want. I like the joke.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Hoyt said...

bizarre. I had to take this word out of a scene because my beta readers agreed it "sounded too modern" for the 18th century, even though it isn't--the OED places it in the mid 1600's. Sigh.

Ooo! And lace, Kalen, very sexy on a man--as are red-heeled shoes! ;o)

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Susan Wilbanks said...

See, I'm fine with trousers, but the words pantaloons and breeches both make me giggle.

In my 1809-set WIP, I had my hero think, "that was the ticket." A CP pointed out that it sounded very modern. Blushing, since I pride myself on avoiding anachronisms, I agreed. Anyway, googling turns up a citation from 1834, much earlier than I would've guessed, but not early enough that I feel comfortable about using it. I guess I'll just replace it with something generic.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Slightly confused about the reference to tickets.
Do you mean the phrase -- that's the ticket or tickets in general. Because, for example, the British Museum issued tickets in 1759 after a lengthy application process for people wishing to view the exhibits at the museum.
FWIW

5:59 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

"Snob" doesn't have its contemporary meaning, according to the OED, until 1911 (though Thackeray used something like it as early as 1848). Which puts one at a serious disadvantage when writing a Regency. Yes, I know there's "high in the instep," but I suffer from not knowing a short, nasty term for a concept use so regularly.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Susan Wilbanks said...

Michelle--

Yes, it's the phrase, "that's the ticket," rather than just the noun "ticket." My character is mulling over a minor problem, comes up with a solution, and thinks, "I'll do X--that's the ticket."

9:03 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Pam, how about pompous ass? LOL

Seriously, I suppose you could use "prig" if that worked. Slightly different connotation.

And "bizzare" does sound totally modern to me! I hate that! I have a friend who had the same problem with "technology".

9:04 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

high stickler?

I had no idea that "snob" in the Georgian period means almost the direct opposite of what it's come to mean today:

1781, "a shoemaker, a shoemaker's apprentice," of unknown origin. It came to be used in Cambridge University slang c.1796 for "townsman, local merchant," and by 1831 it was being used for "person of the ordinary or lower classes."

I love this stuff!

10:58 AM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Well, Tonda, if it was an East Anglian slang word "discovered" in 1825 I bet it was around for a long, long time before it actually got into print. It sounds like the result of some eccentric clergyman's hobby--collecting quaint local sayings. On the other hand unless your character comes from East Anglia he might not know it!
To me the word "trousers" has some comic potential (as in Wallace & Grommitt and ferret-down-trousers jokes) altho it's not nearly as hilarious as pantaloons. And since I was raised in England, pants = underpants.

But I did manage to once use the sentence "Fetch me my trousers!" as a hook at the end of a chapter. If I'd had to use the word pantaloons, the hero would have had to add "and my squirting flower and big shoes."

And Hoydens, it's good to see you up and running--I didn't think you'd start until Oct. 1.

12:27 PM  
Blogger wil said...

To second what Janet said, I usually allow for a healthy margin of error regarding first-appearance dates.

Your novel's set in the 1780s and "lummox" appears in written sources (presumably) by 1825. I'd argue that maybe, just maybe, lummox was in limited use in the 1780s, but didn't make a written appearance till 1825.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Clearly it's likely that words were in use before they appeared in print, but it's just as likely that the writer invented the word.

I guess cause I come from a reenactor background I'm obsessed with documentation (the rule for the groups I'm part of is 3 examples, from at least 2 different sources/artists; so you can see why I'm anal about this stuff).

I just can’t backslide on stuff . . . it feels wrong.

1:05 PM  

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