by Marie-Louise Jensen
When I'm researching and reading old books, I love to find and note all the ways language has altered over the centuries. Writing my first Georgian book, The Girl in the Mask, I had to write down a note for myself:
1) You keep your clothes in a closet.
2) Your wardrobe is your collection of clothing
3) Skirts are the part of a man's coat below the waist
4) Ladies skirts were referred to as petticoats or 'coats
5) A dress was a gown.
There were others, but those were the frequently used ones I was concerned about getting right (I did make one mistake in Smuggler's Kiss which slipped through).
When I ask school children today what ladies in the 1700s called their dresses, they struggle to get the right answer, instead guessing robe, frock, tunic etc. The word gown has been pretty much lost.
I had fun in Runaway with a few Georgian phrases. For example, I used the expression 'sick as a cushion'. I'd come across it in Georgette Heyer novels and always found it amusing, so I put it into some dialogue. But the copy-editor queried it. When I hunted for it in the OED, I couldn't find it, but I did find 'sick as a parrot', which I thought was equally amusing, if not more so - given that parrots can be green. In the end, lovely assistant editor tracked down 'sick as a cushion', so although I kept parrot, I've notched it up as a phrase to use in future. I have quite a store of them and I always love coming across them when I'm reading too.