22 September 2011

The Art of Diction According to Jeeves and Wooster

Set in 1930s England and America, P.G. Wodehouse's 'Jeeves' stories in addition to the television series based on the former are riddled with charming, archaic English terminology and phrases. We have compiled a list of essentials with their definitions and explanations.  Feel free to slip them into every-day conversation to keep your friends on their toes.



Agog - (adj) Very eager or curious to hear or see something: "I'm all agog to see the Duchess' new hat."

Bally - (adj) bloody, damned [mild explicative]: "Get that bally dog out of the kitchen!"

To be all a twitter - (v) To be anxious or excited about something: "The Mater has been all a twitter ever since Mrs. Nelson told her the news about the Duke of Edinburgh."

To be dashed - (v) To be confounded; used interchangeably with to be damned: "Well, I'll be dashed!"

To biff  - (v) To strike or to punch: "If you don't remove your elbows from the table I shall biff you."

Blighter - (n) A fellow, especially one held in low esteem: "He's a silly blighter, isn't he?"

Blithering - (adj) Senselessly talkative, babbling; used chiefly as an intensive to express annoyance or contempt: "Mister Hooper, you are such a blithering idiot."

By Jove! - (interj) [used as a mild oath to express surprise or emphasis]

Chap - (n) A man or a boy.

Chin-chin - (interj) [used as a greeting or as a toast when drinking to someones health]

Cross-patch -(n) A bad-tempered or irritable person: "O, don't be such a cross-patch, Charles."

Dash - (adv) A mild form of damn: "That was dash cunning of you."

Dashed - (adj) A mild form of damned, derived from dash: "The dashed thing doesn't work!"

 
Dash it all! - (interj) [used to express angry or dismay; interchangeable with damn it]

Drivel - (n) Silly nonsense; "How can you say such drivel?"

Frightful - (adj) [used for emphasis, esp. of something bad]

Frightfully - (adv) Very (used for emphasis): "I'm frightfully sorry."

To get it in the neck - (v) To be punished or criticised for something: "She really gave it to me in the neck when I arrived late for dinner."

Humdrum - (adj) Lacking variety or excitement; dull: "I don't want to go to school, Mummy, maths is so humdrum."

I say! - (interj) [used to express surprise or disgruntlement; often interchangeable with O my!]

Jolly well - (adv) very much; a phrase used for emphasis or enthusiasm: "I jolly well hope so!"

Look here! - (interj) [used to express disgruntlement or agitation with a person or persons]: "Look here, you swine! What do you think you're doing?"

Milksop - (n) A weak or ineffectual person; whimp: "Don't be such a milksop, Spencer, it's only a kitten."
 
Old man - (n) [term of endearment used in informal direct address]

Old thing - (n) [term of endearment used in informal direct address]

Pipped - (adj) To get the better of; defeat.

Positively - (adv) Very (used for emphasis): "How positively lovely!"

Right-o - (interj) [used to express cheerful concurrence, assent, or understanding]

Ripping - (adj) excellent, delightful: "What a positively ripping sweater you're wearing, Bernard!"

Rot - (n) nonsense [often used interjectionally]: "What rot!"

Rummy - (adj) queer, odd: "That was a rummy sort of thing to say, don't you suppose?"

To talk through one's hat - To talk nonsense; especially on a subject that one professes to be knowledgeable about but in fact is ignorant of: "He's never really met Lady Astor, he's just talking through his hat."

That's not cricket - (interj) [used to express dismay at an instance of unfair or ungentlemanly conduct or proceedings]: "Mater, Helen has taken the whole sugar dish and refuses to share. It just isn't cricket!"

Tight as an owl - (adj) drunk


Toodle-pip - (interj) good-bye, so long

What ho! - (interj) [exclamatory greeting, like saying what's up]

What? - (interj) [used as a tag question, often to solicit agreement]: "Evelyn Waugh must be the greatest author of the century, what?"

What’s-it - (n) a gadget or other thing for which the speaker does not know or has forgotten the name

With knobs on - (adv/adj) Extremely; in a similar way, but taken to an extreme: "The same to you with knobs on!"

4 comments:

  1. Love this post! And there are several sayings here that are very familiar to me and even find there way into my own American speech from time to time. I suppose that might be attributable my grandmother, whose family came from the U.K. to the United States. Pretty nifty, what?

    Best Regards,

    Ulrich von B.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post, although for me the idioms are not that archaic!

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  3. Sink me, frightfully good posting old man. I'm scarpers for now. Chin-chin... Richard

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  4. A frightfully entertaining read. I damn well need another fix, what what. Where/when could I get one? Any good books / resources to recommend?
    Much obliged old boy.

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