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The Lecture by Fredrico Zandomenghi

The Lecture by Fredrico Zandomenghi

What is it that attracts us so to 19th century speech? Why are we tickled at the formality of their lexicon and their sparse use of contractions? And more pointedly, does anyone else read 19th century literature with the Queen’s English in mind, regardless of the novel’s setting?

As a lover of words, I am intrigued by the dialog of the past. I am also amused modern ears deem the speech as formal, while during the day their own elders were having apoplectic fits to their word choices. Heavens, it was colloquial, then, my dear! –So it was, as it will forever be. Re-enactors advise the first step back into history is eliminating the contractions out of one’s vocabulary. Rather quickly the alteration sounds formal to modern ears. Another tip, is to read as much primary sources as possible to get acquainted with the terms and slang of the era. This is much more difficult to acquire, as informal terms, by nature is regional and familial. Lastly, be sure your thesaurus is well-thumbed; choosing a more pretentious sounding word, works best when conveying a person of wealth. The trouble with speaking in this manner, is it is difficult to maintain a conscious effort over one’s vernacular without sounding wooden and rehearsed or alternately becoming overly excited and slipping in 21st century idioms and euphemisms. It truly takes diligent acting until the speaker is comfortable and thus convincing.

The beauty of the written word lies in the rewrite, the synonym suggestions, and grammar check; whether someone reads with their inner affected lilt is voluntary. Personally, I enjoy words. I enjoy the nuance each option brings. I also love words for their sound which is ironic given my hearing impairment. In a humorous twist, because I prefer the less hackneyed choice I have often never heard the word spoken and if I have heard the word spoken, does not equal how it really ought to be spoken. As a result I have a tendency to mispronounce words, which is hilarious in and of itself! There was a time as a young child when my mother and I would go through the dictionary and I would sound the words out, placing the emphasis wherever I desired. It made for many laughs. For example the first time I came across the term “embezzle,” I pronounced it “imbecile.” I also adored the sound the of “vendetta.” I thought it could be a name of beautiful Italian lady. I would danced around the room, repeating the word like a broken phonograph. Needless to say, I was horrified and dismayed when my mother explained the definition.

So, word to the wise (pun not intended), if you want to appear as a well to do, intelligent 19th century individual do practice your language. If you rather not sound intelligent, well there are also words for that . . .

Some amusing words to try, definitions withheld purposely–

  1. alacrity
  2. acculturation
  3. acrimonious
  4. ameliorate
  5. assuage
  6. berate
  7. bumptious
  8. cavalier
  9. circuitous
  10. consternation
  11. corpulent
  12. deleterious
  13. dilettante
  14. dither
  15. ennui
  16. erudite
  17. foist
  18. gallivant
  19. gauche
  20. gossamer
  21. heinous
  22. hyperbole
  23. innuendo
  24. inveigh
  25. lassitude
  26. magniloquence
  27. mawkish
  28. modicum
  29. nomenclature
  30. nonplussed
  31. pernicious
  32. petulant
  33. predilection
  34. proclivity
  35. prognosticate
  36. recapitulate
  37. salutary
  38. sanctimonious
  39. sangfroid
  40. scintillating
  41. seditious
  42. slovenly
  43. soporific
  44. supplicate
  45. surreptitious
  46. torpid
  47. turgid
  48. unctuous
  49. wheedle
  50. winsome