In the back of my Harper Collins E-book version of North and South, there’s an appendix called “Classic Literature: Words and Phrases, adapted from the Collins English Dictionary.” Skimming through, I noted that there were a number of words that have modern meanings quite different from the definition listed. Some of these have confused me in the past when I’ve come across them in novels, so I thought I’d share a few with you.
The following text is from “Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South, Harper Press Collins Classics, London 2012.”
Artificially ADJ artfully or cleverly
bait VERB to stop on a journey to take refreshment, “They stopped to bait the horse…”
basin NOUN a cup without a handle “who is drinking his tea out of a basin” (this one could be a bit confusing – someone is moon-shining in the tub?)
by hand PHRASE a common expression meaning that baby had been fed either using a spoon or a bottle rather than by breast-feeding “she had brought me up ‘by hand’
canvas VERB to discuss
chopped VERB to come suddenly or accidentally “if I had chopped upon them”
coil NOUN noise, fuss, of disturbance
complacency, complaisance NOUN eagerness/desire to please others
fob NOUN a small pocket in which a watch is kept (so not a key chain that unlocks your carriage?)
haggler NOUN someone who travels from place to place selling small goods and items
interview NOUN meeting
lapse NOUN flow “stealing with silent lapse to join the brook”
lottery tickets NOUN a popular card game
treadmill NOUN a device for hard labour or punishment in prison (That one hasn’t really changed except they aren’t just in prisons anymore)
nice ADJ discriminating. Able to make good judgments or choices.
noggin NOUN a small mug or a wooden cup
physic NOUN medicine
pox NOUN sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis (Ah! So was “a pox upon thee!” a curse of syphilis? That’s way more hardcore than a curse of chicken pox)
sensible ADJ to be aware or conscious of something
supper NOUN a light meal taken late in the evening. The main meal was dinner which was eaten at four or five in the afternoon.
trump NOUN a good, reliable person who can be trusted (Hmm, I can think of a modern counter-example of a Trump…)
vamp VERB to walk or tramp to somewhere (not involving Sookie Stackhouse)