It probably does not help that I have been reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy over the last several weeks—a great novel, but hardly an antidote to wordiness.
Besides the constant goal of looking for places to cut content, my main goal in the second pass was to beef up my 19th century vocabulary. To check on the legitimacy of expressions I had my characters use and to insert some new ones where needed.
This was done with the help of some good online sources and also with my own personal compilation of colourful words and phrases from Tom Sawyer. The vast majority of these words and expressions were familiar, if quaint, but a few gems came as total surprises.
Here are a few of my favourites, most of which have made their way into the book:
Cock robin (a soft easy fellow)
Off one’s chump (crazy)
The cat’s uncle (one who grins without reason)
Fancy Dan (flashy dude)
Bunch of fives (fist)
Like enough (probably)
Month of Sundays (long period)
Damaging revealments (scandalous secrets)
Hornswoggle (to cheat)
Fimble-famble (lame excuse)
Risibility (sense of humour)
Vittles (human food)
And my two very favourites: cold coffee (misfortune)
and… pixilated (bewildered)
I keep seeing Festus from the television series Gunsmoke, limping into the jailhouse and crying out: “Golly, Marshal! That high-toned fancy Dan’s gonna be the ruination of us all!” or words to that effect.
If YOU have some favourite 19th century colloquialisms I may have missed, please pass them on!
I'd be much obliged.