Precision in Language Choices

readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore: July 2010

readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore: July 2010

Precision in Language Choices

Choosing the precise word or phrase remains a challenge for all authors, whether they write professionally or for their own pleasure. The majority of those who make a living from writing have knowledge of words they never use in their creations. I write novels based in the Regency Period (1811-1820). Contemporary words/phrases such as Google, 3D, iPhone, and mouse are replaced by acquiesce, obeisance, imprudence, and forbearance. From this quick example, one can easily observe that the number of words of which a person uses in his writing falls short of the number of which he is familiar. Add to that fact, how quickly the English language changes, and an author/poet will find it difficult to keep up with the flexibility of the language. Yet, some basics persist. It is the writer’s responsibility to use the best word(s) for a particular situation. Instead of choosing a word, it is important to choose the word that expresses the exact meaning he intends. (For the examples below, I give credit to my college journalism professor. These examples remain in my spiral notebook even after all these years.)

That particular professor is known to send off detailed emails to authors to point out usage errors. His influence had me recently sending a quick message to the local news station which reported that two planes nearly collided (one in take off and one in landing). The news anchor called the incident a “near miss.” My email reminded the news group that a “near miss” means one hit something. A “near hit” means someone avoided the impact. 

Affect, Effect
Affect is a verb meaning to influence.
Effect is a noun meaning result.

Influence, Impact (two words often associated with affect/effect)
Influence refers to the ability to cause desired effects.
Impact means to strike or to collide; to wedge in.

Acute, Chronic
Acute indicates intenseness; that something has become immediately critical.
Chronic means recurring or continuing over a considerable time.

Adapt, Adopt, Adept
Adapt means to adjust to a changing situation.                                                                          Adopt means to accept something as one’s own.                                                                    Adept means having skills.

Adverse, Averse
Adverse means unfavorable.
Averse means having a distaste for something.

Aggravate, Annoy, Irritate
Aggravate means to make worse or more troublesome. It is used to refer to things.
Annoy means to make angry, usually through repetition. Use it to refer to people.
Irritate means to provoke to impatience or anger.

Agree To, Agree With
Agree to is used to refer to things.
Agree with is used to refer to people.

Character, Reputation
Character is the sum of a person’s behavior and his moral standards.
Reputation is other people’s perception of the person.

Each Other, One Another
Each other is used when two people, places or things are involved.
One another is used for three or more.

Cynic, Skeptic
Cynic refers to a person who doubts or denies the goodness of human nature and does so in a sarcastic manner.
Skeptic refers to a person who has a doubting, questioning attitude. He wants evidence to prove his ideas.

Allusion, Delusion, Illusion
Allusion is an indirect mention.
Delusion is to believe in something even when evidence shows otherwise.
Illusion is a false or misleading idea or image.

Expect, Anticipate
Expect is used when no preparation is made.
Anticipate is used when preparation has been made for something that will occur.

Smell, Odor, Aroma
Smell is a neutral word depending on the surrounding words.
Odor refers to something unpleasant.
Aroma refers to something pleasant.

Eager, Anxious
Eager shows impatient desire.
Anxious indicates worry or concern.

Appraise, Apprise
Appraise means to determine the value.
Apprise means to notify or inform.

Cement, Concrete
Cement is the powder used as an adhesive ingredient in concrete. (Note! Cement is not a verb.)

Doctor is a title, not a profession. It should be used generically. Use physician, minister, professor, etc., for more specific descriptions.

Pretense, Pretext
Pretense refers to a false appearance or action used purposely for deception.
Pretext is a false or fabricated reason, developed to hide the truth.

Because, Since
Most writers make no distinction in use between these two words. However, there are certain differences that should be addressed.
Because is used to indicate a cause or a reason.
Since refers to time, meaning between then and now.

To be fair, English is full of such traps. After all, I can deposit my paycheck in a bank, I can sit on the riverbank to fish, or I can bank a basketball off the backboard. English is a language where one’s nose runs and his feet smell. It possesses a deceptively complex structure, but it is well worth knowing English’s subtleties.

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Primogenture and the 19th Century Entail

Chatsworth_BridgeAs it had been for centuries, a man’s status in 19th Century British Society rested in the land he held. Land was a symbol of wealth and social rank. Therefore, the need to pass one’s “wealth” to future generations increased with the amount of land owned. Land was “influence,” as well as affluence. To ensure one’s descendants received what had been incurred, a system known as primogeniture was put in place. Primogeniture meant that all the land in each generation’s possession was left to the eldest son in the family rather than being divided equally among off the offspring. Secondly, an entail assured that said “eldest son” could not mortgage or divide or sell said inheritance. It was to be held for his eldest son, etc., etc., etc.

Primogenture developed during Norman times. The concept was by leaving the land to the eldest son, the estate would remain intact for future generations. It would also be economically capable of supporting a military force, which could assist the king. By the 19th Century, the King/Queen had other means to field a military presence, and social status became the basis of the practice. Customarily, primogenture was part of a gentleman’s will or deeds of settlement. This practice remained intact until 1925, when it was changed by law.

The entail prevented a wastrel from selling off the family estate to pay his debts. Do you recall Sir Walter Eliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. “There was only a small part of his estate that Sir Walter could dispose of; but had every acre been alienable, it would have made no difference. He had condescended to mortgage as far as he had the power, but he would never condescend to sell. No; he would never disgrace his name so far. The Kellynch estate should be transmitted whole and entire, as he had received it.” An entail was defined by a deed of settlement (or) a strict settlement. The heir normally received the land for his use ONLY in his lifetime. His rights ceased to exist upon his death.

Originally, many attempted to entail their properties until the end of the world, so to speak. However, the law would not permit “infinity” to stand. In practice, an entailed property only remained so until the grandson of the land owner making the settlement became of age at 21 years. Then, the heir could sell or give away the property. So, theoretically, the entail only held the land through the first and second generation of land owners. However, a little coercion often secured the land for future generations.

Most land owners (and their sons) held no other financial employment. If the property owner’s son wished to keep his “allowance,” he agreed to sign a new deed of settlement, which would assure the property remained in the family for another two generations, etc., etc. However, what if no males were born to inherit? A family line could end if a female remained single or even if she married. Single females had no children to inherit, and through married females, the property passed to someone outside the family.

Such a “disaster” was part of the plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

“‘Oh! my dear,’ cried his wife, ‘I cannot bear to hear that mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the world that your estate should be entailed away from your own children; and I am sure if I had been you, I should have tried long ago to do something or other about it.’ Jane and Elizabeth attempted to explain to her the nature of an entail. They had often attempted it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason; and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.”

Phoebe Nichols as Elizabeth Elliot

Phoebe Nichols as Elizabeth Elliot

The females, however, often found another means of “retaining” the property. Propriety permitted cousins to marry. A girl could remain in her childhood home when no males were available to inherit by marrying the “heir presumptive.” It was Elizabeth Eliot’s hope in Austen’s Persuasion to marry William Walter Eliot, Esq., her father’s heir. “She had, while a very young girl, as soon as she had known him to be, in the event of her having no brother, the future baronet, meant to marry him.”

And Mrs. Bennet wishes Elizabeth to marry the odious Mr. Collins in order to save Longbourn. In his proposal, Mr. Collins explains why he assumes one of the Bennet sisters would accept him.

Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Benent

Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Benent

“Thus much for my general intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views were directed to Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I assure you there are many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to chuse a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place—which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. ”

Primogenture also created the concept of second and third sons searching for an heiress to marry so they might establish their own properties. It also sent marriage mad mothers into fits. There were only a limited number of eldest sons for daughters to land. Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice says “Younger sons cannot marry where they like.” The real irony of this madness was the eldest son also inherited the debt from the previous generation. Even being the heir was not an path to “easy street.”

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Daniel Mendoza, Boxing Champion of England

Daniel Mendoza was the first Jewish prize fighter to become Champion of England (1792 to 1795). He stood but 5’7”, but Mendoza was a scrapper. Weighing in a 11.5 stone (160 pounds), he was billed as “Mendoza the Jew.” Mendoza was the only middleweight boxer to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

It was Mendoza who brought changes to boxing. Before he became popular, men simply stood still and slugged it out. Mendoza introduced the idea of “defense.” Many criticized Mendoza’s tactics, but soon all boxers were using the techniques. He opened his own boxing academy in 1789, which was known as the Mendoza School or the Jewish School. Mendoza also published The Art of Boxing, a book that described his techniques.

Mendoza’s first win came over an opponent known as Harry the Coalheaver, whom he beat in 40 rounds. In a 1787 professional fight, Mendoza won both the bout and the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later George IV). Mendoza was the first Jew to have an audience with England’s King George III, which both elevated the Jew in London’s population, as well as a vicious tide of anti-Semitism.

From 29 March 1787 edition of The Times, we see a bit of the secrecy behind the English sport of boxing. Generally, only a few knew of the site for a match until the last moment. Prize fights were against the law. Most of the clergy and many of the middle class thought the bare knuckles bouts brutal.

That being said, the brutality did not keep the throngs from enjoying the matches. “The boxing match between Martin the Bath Butcher, and Mendoza the Jew, which has been the subject of every blackguard’s conversation for some days, was put a stop to on Tuesday, by the prudent and praise-worthy interference of the civil poser. The parties met on Ealing Common, attended by a great concourse of people (among whom was the Prince – whether accidental or otherwise, we know not – we may, however, reasonably suppose the former – and some other personages of note) when a Justice of the Peace, and a posse comitatus, assisted by a party of the Light Dragoons, made their appearance, and prevented the decision of the combat. In justice to the high personage, whose name we are sorry to mention on this occasion, he was the first to shew respect to the civil authority, by retiring with his party, as soon as the Magistrate made his appearance. The riot act was read, and the mob, in number perhaps ten thousand, dispersed quietly.” (Champion of England

The fight was rescheduled for Barnet Racegroun on 17 April. The crowd numbered some 5000. Mendoza easily defeated Martin in 30 minutes. He won a prize of £500 from the Prince.

In 1788, 1789, and 1790, Mendoza fought storied matches against Richard Humphries, Mendoza’s mentor. He lost the first bout in 29 rounds, but managed to win the other two in 52 and 15 rounds, respectively. The 1789 match was the first time spectators were charged an entry payment to a sporting event. The fights were hyped by a series of combative letters in the press between Humphries and Mendoza.

Mendoza laid claim to the English Championship when Benjamin Brain retired in 1791, but Bill Warr challenged Mendoza’s claim. The two met in Croydon in May 1792. Mendoza’s claim to the title prevailed in 23 rounds. The two met again in 1794. Mendoza dispensed with Warr in a little over a quarter hour.

In 1795, Mendoza fought “Gentleman” John Jackson for the championship at Hornchurch in Essex. Jackson was five years younger, 4 inches taller, and 3 stone (42 pounds) heavier. Jackson won in nine rounds. Reportedly, Jackson caught Mendoza long hair, holding Mendoza in place where Jackson could pummel him into submission in ten minutes. Jackson used the win to propel him into Society. Jackson’s Rooms opened at 13 Bond Street, along with the Fives Court off Jermyn Street, where public sparring took place.

Born in Aldgate in July 1764, Mendoza, a descendant of Spanish Marranos (Jews coerced into conversion to Christianity) who lived in London for nearly a century, became such a popular figure in England that songs were written about him, and his name appeared in scripts of numerous plays. His personal appearances would fill theaters, portraits of him and his fights were popular subjects for artists, and commemorative medals were struck in his honor.

At age 13, he was apprenticed to a glasscutter, but he fought with the employer’s son and was forced from the position. Later, he apprenticed to a Jewish greengrocer and still later to a tea dealer. His fortune rested in his fists.

In his 72 years, Mendoza made and spent a fortune. His memoirs were finally published in 1818. After his glory days, he spent time as a pub owner, teaching boxing, and even was hired by the theatre manager John Philip Kemble in an attempt to suppress the Old Price Riots; the resulting poor publicity probably cost Mendoza much of his popular support, as he was seen to be fighting on the side of the privileged. He even spent time in King’s Bench prison for his debts.

Mendoza made his last public appearance as a boxer in 1820 at Banstead Downs in a grudge match against Tom Owen; he was defeated after 12 rounds. He died on 3 September 1836. By then, the thrill of the boxing ring had waned. Mendoza left his family of 11 children in poverty. One of Mendoza’s descendants, Rufus Daniel Issacs, became Lord Chief Justice and 1st Marquess of Reading.

Excellent Resources on Daniel Mendoza (many used to write this piece):

International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

Jewish Quarterly (Includes specifics of each fight and wonderful primary sources)

Hertfordshire 1731-1800 as Recorded in the Gentleman’s Magazine (by Arthur Jones) has an account of the fight with Martin the Bath Butcher.

Wikipedia  (good overview)

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Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

I am all about finding how words came into usage. How about you? 

Crug is a Welsh word meaning hillock, cairn or barrow. Crug Hywel (called the Table Mountain in English) is a flat-topped hill at the southern edge of the Black Mountains in southeast Wales. (Wikipedia

A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English (page 122) says a Crow-eater is a lazy person who does not work but “picks” at what he can find to get by. A croweater comes from the early settlers in South Australia who allegedly ate the breast meat of crows, parrots and cockatoos when there was a shortage of red meat. The term croweater entered the lexicon in the late 1800s.

The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang tells us that a cup-and-saucer player is “a player in a comedy by T. W. Robertson (d. 18710, a pioneer of ‘slick’ yet natural and workmanlike society-dram: theatrical, ca 1866-90.”

Thomas William Robertson (9 January 1829 – 3 February 1871), usually known professionally as T. W. Robertson, was an English dramatist and innovative stage director best known for a series of realistic or naturalistic plays produced in London in the 1860s that broke new ground and inspired playwrights such as W.S. Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw. (Wikipedia)

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathon Green (page 357) tells us that a Croaker’s Chovey is a late 19th Century word for an apothecary/pharmacy. Croakus was a mid 19th Century – 1920s word for a doctor; a quack.

Green goes on to give us Crock, defining it as a word used in the late 19th Century to early 1900s to mean “an old or broken-down horse; 2. [late 19th C-1920s] a bicycle; 3. [late 19th Century +] a broken down or physically debilitated person or thing. 4. [1900s] an invalid, a hypochondriac. 5. [1910s+] a broken down or mechanically unreliable car, airplane or any other vehicle [SE “crack,” to break (down); all often with pfx “old”; note medical jargon “crock,” a patient whose complaints far outweigh the seriousness of their illness]. tells us that Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place means to be firm and resolute. It comes to us from Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Lady Macbeth says, “We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” also gives us Shilly-Shally to mean to dither and be undecided, a reduplicated word meaning “Shall I, or shall I not?” The phrases origin comes to us from William Congreve’s The Way of the World (1700). “I don’t stand shill I, shall I, then; if I say’t, I’ll do’t.” The article goes on to bring notice to Sir Richard Steele’s The Tender Husband, or the Accomplish’d Fools, A Comedy (1703). “I’m for marrying her at once – Why should I shatnd shilly-shally, like a Country Bumpkin?” 

Heng-pan-nail is a 20th Century word to indicate “unpressed clothes; thus a general term of abuse; ready-made clothes, rather than individually tailored garments” [SE “hang upon a nail” in one’s house of shop] Jonathon Green’s Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, page 708. [Google Books

Chinese Kangxi blue and white porcelain Chinese blue and white miniature vase, Kangxi (1662-1722), decorated with panels of Long Elizas and flowering branches, height: 3 5/8in. 9.2cm.

Chinese Kangxi blue and white porcelain
Chinese blue and white miniature vase, Kangxi (1662-1722), decorated with panels of Long Elizas and flowering branches, height: 3 5/8in. 9.2cm.

John Stephen Farmer and William Ernest Henley (pages 272-273) define Long Eliza as “the trade term for certain blue and white vases ornamented with figures of tall thin china women, is a name derived undoubtedly from the German or Dutch. [Our] sailors and traders called certain Chinese vases, from the figures which distinguished them, lange Lischen (tall Lizzies), and the English sailors and traders promptly translated this into long Elizas. [Google Books

Farmer and Henley also give us Prick-the-Garter in their A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English (page 353) to mean “the manner in which countrymen are deceived by gamblers, at a game called Pricking in the Belt, or the old Nob: this is a leathern strap folded up double, and then laid upon a table: if the person who plays with a bodkin pricks into the loop of the belt, he wins; if otherwise, he loses; however, by slipping one end of the strap, the sharper can win with pleasure (Goldsmith): also Pitch the nob, Prick the belt (or loop), and Fast and loose. World Wide Words says, “But for centuries it formed the basis of a gambling game that was a staple in fairgrounds, racecourses and markets all over Europe, frequently using a leather strap or belt to make the loops. In Britain, from the eighteenth century onwards, it was often called pin and girdle or prick the garter, but it had been known in medieval times and afterwards as fast and loose, using fast in its sense of ‘fixed; immovable.’ The expression to play fast and loose became an idiom sometime before 1557, the date of its first citation in OED2. It was an obvious progression from the name of the game to a sense of ‘inconsistent; variable’ and from there to mean ‘trifle with another’s affections.'”

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Mansfield Park 2007

Mansfield Park 2007 (BBC mini-series)

Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
Douglas Hodge ….. Sir Thomas Bertram
Maggie O’Neill ….. Mrs. Norris
Billie Piper ….. Fanny Price
Blake Ritson ….. Edmund Bertram
James D”Arcy ….. Tom Bertram
Michelle Ryan ….. Maria Bertram
Rory Kinnear ….. Mr. Rushworth
Catherine Steadman …… Julia Bertram
Hayley Atwell ….. Mary Crawford
Joseph Beattie ….. Henry Crawford
Jemma Redgrave ….. Lady Bertram Masterpiece Theatre: Mansfield Park: Billie Piper ... Masterpiece Theatre: Mansfield Park: Billie Piper …

Unlike the Miramax (Rozema) production I discussed last week, this adaptation of Austen’s Mansfield Park emphasizes the societal depiction of Austen’s time. Even the opening scene is staged quite differently. In the 1999 film version, the young Fanny is portrayed as intelligence and possessing of resolve, where in this production the child Fanny is well dressed in a red cloak and hat. She is shy and only speaks when spoken to. Her home life is displays a sense of “disorder” and “distracted parenting,” rather than poverty. (See my previous posts on Mansfield Park 1983 and Mansfield Park 1999.)

When Sir Thomas announces Fanny’s second-class status to his family it is done in private. Fanny does not hear Sir Thomas’s disparagements. Sir Thomas’s apprehension that either of his sons might take a liking to Fanny is more out of not thinking Fanny worthy of his offsprings.

The interior sets draw the viewer’s attention to the period decor. Many of the scenes are shot outdoors with the characters strolling through gardens and rustic pathways. The novel gives the impression that Mansfield Park is a modern manor house. “Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen’s seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished–pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself–with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter.” Newby Hall, Skelton on Ure, North Yorkshire, was used for Mansfield Park in the mini-series.

Unlike the 1999 version of the story, this one keeps William Price as an important character in the story. As we all may remember, Henry Crawford’s assistance in getting William a commission for military service brings Fanny many moments of introspection after Crawford’s proposal to her. In the 1999 film, Fanny is heard in voiceover reading letters to her sister. In this mini-series, Fanny’s voiceover is directed to William. In her letters, she summarizing many of the events at Mansfield Park. William also plays an important role in the ball given by Sir Thomas in honor of William and Fanny.

It also portrays Henry Crawford in a less than kindly light than does the Miramax film. Crawford “plays” with Fanny, seducing her to fall in love with him. This is more in character to the Austen novel than the 1999 film, where Crawford appears to fall in love with Fanny. Mrs. Norris is seen as too ingratiating in her relations with Sir Thomas’s family. Like the novel, Lady Bertram is seen as disengaged from her family. She cares more for her pugs than her children.

As in the novel, Sir Thomas chastises Tom Bertram for Tom’s excessive expenditures. Tom’s inconsideration has forced Sir Thomas to sell a benefice meant for Edmund. Tom accepts the fault, but he does nothing to change his ways other than to “hope” he will have better luck at the gaming tables and the horse races.

Costumes for Regency Bad Girls in Jane Austen Movies  Mansfield Park (2007), Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell)

Costumes for Regency Bad Girls in Jane Austen Movies
Mansfield Park (2007), Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell)

In this adaptation, Fanny’s costumes are plain and “useful.” She wears white or pastel colors. Mary Crawford’s character wears pastel colors also, but her costumes are elaborately elegant. Neither Fanny, Mary, or the Bertram sisters show much décolletage.

The scenes where the group perform the play, this mini-series stays close to Austen’s novel. Fanny is reluctant to participate in the play and is more reluctant to serve as the “partner” to both Mary and Edmund when the pair are learning their lines. Fanny must witness Edmund’s “courtship” of Mary Crawford.

The ball scene shows how Fanny enjoys the dance with Edmund best. She dances first with Henry Crawford, after Sir Thomas demands that she lead off the ball. The dance with Henry is slow and stately. Next, she dances with her brother William to a lively jig. The dance with Edmund is formal, but we see them clasping hands and enjoying each other’s company. After the ball, Sir Thomas orders her to bed, as if he had extended his benevolence long enough.

 Mansfield Park (2007) | Costume drama reviews

Mansfield Park (2007) | Costume drama reviews

In both the novel and this mini-series, Fanny is in Portsmouth when she learns of Maria and Henry’s flight. She also learns of Tom’s illness, and Fanny wishes to be of service to those at Mansfield Park. Edmund comes to Portsmouth and escorts Fanny and Susan to Mansfield Park. Fanny learns from Edmund his change of heart toward Mary Crawford. A flashback is used where Edmund calls on Mary in London. Mary is angry at her brothers and Maria’s escape, not because of adultery, but because they caused rumors, which affect her also. Mary claims that if Fanny accepted Henry then none of this would happen. Mary develops a plan to “re-introduce” Maria and Henry to society if they marry.

Fanny’s voiceover to William in a letter advances the film’s ending. She tells the viewer that Rushworth receives his divorce, Julia and Yates elope and marry, and Mrs. Norris is to set up a home for Maria. Then we see Fanny’s wedding day as Fanny continues to tell William that she and Edmund will live in the parsonage for Dr. Grant has departed the neighborhood. The ending scene is Edmund and Fanny together with Pug on the parsonage’s grounds.

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Winners of “His Irish Eve” Giveaway from Regina Jeffers

His Irish EvejpgI am pleased to announce the winners of an eBook copy of “His Irish Eve. ” Hopefully, all listed below received a prize notice from Kindle by now. Enjoy the book. Later this week, I will be releasing a new title and hosting another round of giveaways so come back for more fun. 

winners_areThe winners are…


Lindsay Downs



Lois Losh 

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Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome: A Plot Point

My upcoming release, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, uses Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as part of the plot line, but as my book is set in the Regency period (1811-1820) in England, when no such distinction was made for the disease, it was important to treat the disorder’s presence in the main character’s life with a large dose of research. There are references to what we now term “PTSD” in the Bible (story of Job comes to mind), the writings of the Greek historian Herotodus (i.e., his description of the Spartan leader Leonidas – the guy from 300), the Mahabharata, Homer’s description of Ajax’s madness, and Shakespeare’s descriptions (via Lady Percy) of Harry Percy’s nightmares and delusions, as well as the accounts of Macbeth. Samuel Pepys’s diary holds references to the trauma many experienced after the Great Fire of London. Charles Dickens wrote of the “weakness” he experienced after a train wreck which killed 10 people and injured nearly 50. [See Yesterday’s Post on the Mention of PTSD in Early Literature]

Over the years, PTSD was known as nostalgia, homesickness, ester root, neurasthenia, hysteria, compensation sickness, railway spine, shell shock, combat exhaustion, soldier’s heart, irritable heart, stress response syndrome, etc. In my story, I use the word “melancholia” for research into the disorder did not occur until well after the Regency period. Needless to say, the many wars of the late 1700s and early 1800s (American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Napoleonic Wars) in England brought this issue to a head. [For more on the many terms used for PTSD, see “From Irritable Heart to “Shellshock”: How Post-Traumatic Stress Became a Disease,” by Charlie Jane Anders, 4 April 2012.]   

Da Costa http://jeffline. archives/exhibits/ notable_alumni/ jacob_mendes_dacosta. html

Da Costa http://jeffline.

During the American Civil Wart, the study of “soldier’s heart” fell into the lap of Jacob Mendez Da Costa, who took up the study of the condition and advanced what we now know of the disease. Da Costa was a well-trained and observant clinician. He held the reputation of an excellent clinical teacher and served as Chairman of Medicine at the Jefferson Medical College (now Thomas Jefferson University) for 19 years, as well as president of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1884 and again in 1895; Da Costa was one of the original members of the Association of American Physicians and its president in 1897. 

In the years of the Civil War, Da Costa served as assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and at Turner’s Lane Hospital, Philadelphia. As such, he studied a type of cardiac malady (neurocirculatory asthenia) plaguing soldiers. He described the disorder in his 1871 paper “On Irritable Heart: A Clinical Study of a Form of Functional Cardiac Disorder and Its Consequences,” a landmark study in clinical medicine. The malady was soon to be known as Da Costa’s syndrome – an anxiety disorder combining effort fatigue, left-sided chest pains, breathlessness, dyspnea, a sighing respiration, palpitations, and sweating.

In the mid-20th Century, the syndrome was thought to be a form of neurosis. It is now classified as a “somatoform autonomic dysfunction.” Earl de Grey presented four reports on British soldiers with these symptoms between 1864 and 1868. He attributed the symptoms to the heavy equipment being carried by the soldiers in knapsacks strapped to their chests. Earl de Grey asserted that the constriction of the knapsack affected the heart’s ability to function. Henry Harthorme described the Civil War soldiers who suffered with similar symptoms as being exhausted and poorly nourished. The soldier’s heart complaints were assigned as lack of sleep and bad food. In 1870, Arthur Bowen Myers of the Coldstream Guards (the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army) regarded the accouterments as the source of neurocirculatory asthenia and cardiovascular neurosis.

“J. M. Da Costa’s study of 300 soldiers reported similar findings in 1871 and added that the condition often developed and persisted after a bout of fever or diarrhea. He also noted that the pulse was always greatly and rapidly influenced by position, such as stooping or reclining. A typical case involved a man who was on active duty for several months or more and contracted an annoying bout of diarrhea or fever, and then, after a short stay in the hospital, returned to active service. The soldier soon found that he could not keep up with his comrades in the exertions of a soldier’s life as because he would become out of breath, and would get dizzy, and have palpitations and pains in his chest, yet upon examination some time later he appeared generally healthy. In 1876 surgeon Arthur Davy attributed the symptoms to military drill where ‘over-expanding the chest, caused dilatation of the heart, and so induced irritability.’” [Wikipedia]

Releasing late May 2015

Releasing late May 2015

Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until “urgency” rears its head. Darcy receives a note of exigency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness. 

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family. 

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name marked with shame. 

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