Do You Speak Pansy?

Image of woman in gown and shawl holding an open bookIsabella Alden sometimes used terms or phrases that were common at the time, but have since gone out of use . . . and today’s readers may not have a clue what she means.

On this blog you can now easily find posts that explain some of those words and phrases. Under the Categories list on the right you’ll  see a new category for Pansy’s Dictionary. Follow the link to read blog posts that define peculiar words in Isabella’s books. Here are some of the terms we’ve already defined:

Have you come across a word or phrase in Isabella’s books that stumped you? Share it using the comment section below and we’ll define the term in future posts. You’ll be speaking fluent Pansy in no time!

4 thoughts on “Do You Speak Pansy?

  1. I’ve learned a lot about the time in which Pansy lived by reading your posts. They really help put some context around her stories. The word that stumped me was “jockey.” Pansy used it throughout her book Jessie Wells. I assumed a jockey was a hat but, like Flossie’s pongee coat, I wonder what made this particular hat so distinctive?

    1. You’re right, Merry Chris. Throughout the book, Isabella Alden simply said, “jockey” when she referred to Jessie’s hat. We’ll see if we can find some examples that illustrate the style of a jockey hat, and post them soon.

  2. In What They Couldn’t, the Cameron’s open a boarding house to make ends meet. I always understood that a boarding house was a place one lived in a room or set of rooms then ate at a common table. The pre-runner of our modern apartments, so to speak. However I seem to glean from the text they had opened a restaurant. What are the differences?

    1. Good question, Verlie! The Cameron’s boarding house was a hybrid of our modern concepts of hotels and restaurants. As you said, boarding houses in Isabella’s time rented out rooms or suites of rooms. Residents could eat at a common table or, if the dining room was large enough, at small tables arranged around the room; but they all typically ate their meals family-style. In some cases, residents could have meals in their rooms, if the boarding house had sufficient kitchen help and if someone on the staff was available to serve the meal (Isabella’s “Ester Ried” books show the diversity of arrangements in different boarding houses). But in addition to feeding boarders, many boarding houses allowed people who were not residents to purchase meals. This practice was still in place in the early 20th Century. During The Great Depression my grandmother took in boarders to help make ends meet; and she also served dinners to men who worked at a nearby factory, who paid her each evening on their way home for a good, hot meal … with dessert! —Jenny

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