Denise Day Spencer

February 22, 2007

Victorian lingo

Filed under: Random ramblings — denisedayspencer @ 9:19 pm

I love to read. Michael has his Shakespeare and I have my Dickens. But I have a confession. As much as I love Dickens, I’m just now reading Oliver Twist. I’ve read, among other works, The Old Curiosity Shop, Our Mutual Friend and even Bleak House. But somehow I’ve never met Oliver until now.

I’m enjoying it, of course, but every time I start a new novel by Charles, I have to get used to his manner of speaking all over again. Sometimes before I fully get into it, I make a blunder or two. Take the following quote, for instance. Oliver’s master, Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker, is talking with his wife about how the boy might be more useful:

“It’s only about young Twist, my dear,” said Mr. Sowerberry. “A very good-looking boy, that, my dear.”

“He need be, for he eats enough,” observed the lady.

“There’s an expression of melancholy on his face, my dear,” resumed Mr. Sowerberry, “which is very interesting. He would make a delightful mute, my love.”

“Oh, no!” I thought in horror. “Not that! They’re going to cut out his tongue!” Dickens may be the master of pitiful, but he’s not that macabre. What was this? Dickens goes Mel Gibson? Oliver Twist does Titus Andronicus?

Wait a minute. “Mute” can mean, among other things, “a professional attendant or mourner at a funeral.” Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker. Oh…..O.K….

Whew! For a minute there I was worried about my beloved author. Turns out I just needed to get down with that old Victorian lingo.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Denise on Victorian lingo. […]

    Pingback by The Barth’s Head Tavern » Blog Archive » — February 22, 2007 @ 9:33 pm | Reply


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