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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Indeed, Talk Like Jane Austen Today

Today, the 30th October, The Jane Austen Society of North America are organising an event called “Talk Like Jane Austen Day”, in celebration of the 199th anniversary of the publishing of Sense and Sensibility.

To get you started with the fun, you can visit their website for a large list of language typical of Jane Austen’s time and of her novels and letters. Here are some more features of Jane’s English that I could think of:

  • Formal style in speech; using phrases, such as “I declare” and “I assure you” and “I daresay” to begin dialogue 
  • The auxiliary verb ‘is’ used instead of ‘has’ in present perfect sentences: e.g. “He is come home this morning”.
  • Double negative sentences, e.g. “she could not be insensible of”, “Fanny was not unamused”, “he was not without charm”
  • Common use of the word “indeed” to intensify speech
  • ‘Morning’ refers to the afternoon as well - “morning” represents the whole day before ‘evening’
  • Using the word “Town” to refer to “London”
  • Addressing the eldest sister “Miss”, e.g. “Miss Bennet” (for Jane) and the younger sisters with their first names, e.g. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet”, “Miss Mary Bennet”
  • Using the word “countenance” to refer to looks, the word “spirits” to refer to feelings and the word “air” to refer to general appearance
  • The phrase “a great deal” when referring to large quantities
  • Using the word “most” for “very”, e.g. “most insufferable woman”

To begin the day, you could entertain yourselves with Emma Thompson’s Oscar speech from 1995, where she pretended to be Jane Austen – after this, I assure you that you will indeed find yourselves in excellent spirits!


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