Both of us have always set our stories in contemporary times – as with Quantum Leap, we’ve kept everything within our own lifetimes. But with our Christmas installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrest, we are traveling all the way back to the winter of 1788 to visit the Frost Fair on the Thames. And, oh, what a chunk of research we’ve bitten off.
We began by researching 1788 Christmas traditions and discovered the Frost Fair. We absolutely had to write about that, so we dug and dug. And dug some more. Then we researched how the landed gentry celebrated Christmas and that required an even bigger shovel.
Finally, we thought we were ready to write. We got about a sentence into the story – and realized we didn’t know what little children called their parents in those days. We found out. Then we needed to know what married couples called each other – oh, what a can of worms that opened.
Our story is set in one of England’s coldest winters and we realized we needed to find out how people kept their hands warm at the fair. The answer is muffs. Men women, and children had gloves and muffs. We mention this only because every time we write anything about people slipping their hands into muffs, we crack up… And now, we’ll carry on.
The questions stop us every other sentence. Besides muffs… What did gentry wear in the cold before there was Gore-Tex? How did women pee in those dresses? Did they wear underwear? (NO! But they did put their hands in their muffs!)
But to the point, the first time a character used a profanity, we found ourselves researching once more – and, because we’re writers, we want to tell you all about archaic English profanity today. Here are our favorite 13 words, used in sentences, as presented on the November 13 episode of Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!
13 – Our 13th favorite Archaic English slang term is Gotch-Gutted, which means pot-bellied. Used in a sentence, it might sound something like this: “That Gotch-gutted son of a bitch stole my powdered wig!”
12 – Bacon-Fed, which means fat and greasy! A lot like gotch-gutted. “That pusillanimous powder-headed bacon-fed magistrate spilled goose grease all over my breeches and doesn’t give a fig.”
11 – Public Ledger, which was a common term for a prostitute. “Pass me the public ledger, James, I need to make a deposit!”
10 – Scald which meant venereal disease. “God’s Teeth, James, I do believe I’ve been scalded by the public ledger!”
9 – our 9th favorite slang term is related to scald. It’s Sauce, another term for VD. “I got the sauce from James, who picked it up from the public ledger who soiled my fantastic powdered wig!”
8 – Captain Grand, which refers to a haughty, blustering man. “He thinks he’s Captain Grand,” Master Sulu whispered to the Scotsman as James Tiberius Kirk strutted into the room.
7 – Saddle the Wrong Horse. This term meant you had blamed the wrong person for something. “When my powdered wig was stolen, I saddled the wrong horse when I blamed the public ledger.”
6 – Wamble; an unhappy tummy. As in “Watching the public ledger soil the beadle’s powdered wig made my stomach a bit wambly.”
5 – Married to Brown Bess. This referred to someone who was enlisted in the army. “I’d totally marry Brown Bess if they’d let me wear my powdered wig on the battlefield.”
4 – Squirrel Hunting, which meant looking to buy a working lady’s favors. “I left the pub to go squirrel hunting and could only afford one with a ragged gray tail.”
3 – is a term that means to make much ado about nothing. In those days, they called this making a Great Harvest of Little Corn. “When I found my powdered wig on the mannequin head where I left it, I realized I’d made great harvest of little corn and owed the public ledger an apology.
2 – Flay the Fox; to vomit. “I was so excited I flayed the fox into my powdered wig!”
1 – Our number 1 favorite term refers to someone who can’t keep a secret. “By God’s Toes, James, why did you tell my mother I once watched her bathe? I Cannot Trust Your Ass With a Fart!”
Getting your research right is always important, no matter what century your story is set in. In The Ghosts of Ravencrest, in addition to contemporary times, we will be visiting various eras in Old England and covering America from the 1800s on. In coming Writing with T&A blogs, we’ll cover more about researching the past, including everything from clothing, taboos, manners to how to insert real historical figures (like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Marie Antoinette) and events into your work. We hope you’ll join us.
Be sure to check out tonight’s podcast at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! where we interviewed horror author, Michael Aronovitz.