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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Jargon of Jane | guest post from Amy D'Orazio

Amy D'Orazio joins us today with a very non-cheugy post about jargon and slang in Jane Austen's day. Take it away, Amy!

Recently I was driving with my two daughters, both of whom are card-carrying members of Generation Z (born 1997-2012). In the course of our conversation I (somewhat proudly) referred to someone I did not like as being “cheugy” (pronounced choo-gee). I was not 100% sure what cheugy meant actually, but I knew it was hip and young, and thus felt for sure that it made me look hip and young to say it. Hey, mom knows the culture, right? 

All my pretensions to coolness came to a screeching halt almost immediately. In their younger teen years, they might have been embarrassed or rolled their eyes are me. Instead, they looked at me and then each other with these soft, indulgent sort of looks. 
Daughter 1: Mom just said cheugy
Daughter 2: I know, its so cute
Daughter 1: She probably has no idea what it means

This is where I interrupted to protest hotly that yes, I knew exactly what it meant.

Daughter 2: What do you think it means then?
Me: Wellllll…you know its like…um 
Daughter 1: She has no clue. Aww Mom!
Daughter 2: Cheugy is over now. Once it hits the moms, we’re done

As it turns out cheugy is a word popularized on TikTok and it means you’re outdated, untrendy, and/or trying too hard. So by saying cheugy, I was being the very essence of cheugy… I guess? 

So what does any of this have to do with Austen? Well, it brings me to one of my favorite things to do when I am writing a new story, and that is sprinkle about some fun, hopefully authentic, regency-era slang. 

Interestingly most of what we consider “regency” slang is, in truth, derived from the works of Georgette Heyer (all of which were published between 1921-1974). Words like light-skirt, land a facer, ape-drunk, and dicked in the nob are certainly fun phrases but they do not appear to be in use during the regency era. (Some say that Georgette Heyer purposely inserted her own words and regency inaccuracies into her stories so she’d know if other authors were trying to copy her…I don’t know enough about Heyer to say if thats true or not!)

So what to do for true regency authenticity? Two great resources are below; of them the 1811 dictionary of the vulgar tongue is generally free in kindle format or you can download a PDF through google books (Legally! Its in the public domain!) 

I have both of these books and refer to them often as I am writing

Another great resource is the Google Ngram viewer (. It will tell you when something was first in use and also give you a link to the book where it was used. So for example I checked out “bang up to the mark” which is often credited to Georgette Heyer BUT… I learned its actually not as it was used in an 1810 volume of the Sporting Magazine, evidently to describe the prizes for a race.

So what are some of my favorite, regency slang phrases that I’ve found during my digging? My list is below… I haven’t been able to work them all into my books just yet, but I am trying! 

Bang up to the mark! — wonderful, just the thing
Cock-a-whoop — elated or really excited about something
Friday faced — really miserable about something. This came about because Friday was historically a day of abstinence
Gollumpus — a large clumsy boy or man
Gold Finder — a person whose job it was to go around emptying out necessary houses. AKA Tom Turd Finder
Hang an arse — to hesitate
Hocks — dirty feet
Milk the pigeon — to attempt the impossible
The Masters Thingumbob — the testicles
Pisses more than he drinks — brags without cause
Foreman of the jury - someone who talks about themselves too much
Nip cheese — miser 
Tweaguey— peevish
Mushrooms — “new money” or a family that has risen suddenly to prominence

Stupid: Mutton-headed, pudding-headed, addle-pated, gudgeon, nick ninny, sap skull, pig widgeon

Amy D’Orazio is the author of seven Austenesque novels or novellas and has contributed short stories to four anthologies. You can find them at https://www.amazon.com/author/amydorazio. So Material a Change will be released in October 2021. You can preorder it here:

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. I have Stephen Hart's Cant, but didn't realize there was a free source, too. Thanks, Amy!

    LOL, you were so brave trying to be hip. I get laughs when I even come within twenty years of hip.

    I enjoy delving into old slang so your list is quite fun. Thanks!

    1. My kids have told me “hip” is old fashioned too

  2. Ha! I must be way off trend because I’ve never even heard of “cheugy”.

  3. Enjoyed the slang. Looking forward to reading new story.

  4. I am definitely a cheug as I had to look up the word! But I've seen that same reaction as your kids gave you from my own when a few years ago, I asked them to post a picture of us on Facebook and tag me. They acted as if I was 2 years old and that was the cutest thing they'd ever heard me say.

    Anyway - great article and I'm looking forward to seeing some of those phrases in a future book! I'm keeping the list so I won't have to look them up!

  5. Oh my gosh your favorite slang phrases are solid gold. :D "Tweaguey" may be my new favorite word ever. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Seeing 'ape drunk' on your NO List, Amy, has me feeling tweaguey! Now I'm Friday faced and off to milk the pigeon. ;)

  7. I guess this shows just how cheugy I am as I've never heard this word and although I am aware of Tik Tok, I've never used it either. I also have two Generation Z'ers so I'll have to ask them about it. I didn't do very well with your Regency list either, only being aware of some of the terms for stupid. I guess that's appropriate as I feel kind of pudding-headed not knowing these cool, hip terms:)

  8. My daughter delights in telling me that my speech is old fashioned. Nothing like a daughter to make you feel old, eh, no wonder Mrs Bennet had nerves!

    I knew some of the phrases on your list from Georgette Heyer, who I think did a good job of using something in context to make it quite clear what it meant Cock a whoop is something I have heard people say in real life too, older people though!


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