A foot(note) in the past

A foot(note) in the past

Not for the first time my Wordsmith’s World is seeing me going back in time – and on a journey inspired by my choice of reading.

Or rather HRM’s choice, as I am currently reading our current Book Group selection which is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, set in the 1800s and often dubbed "the first feminist novel".

Aside from finding myself a new fictional heroine in the titular tenant Helen Huntingdon, I have also been discovering a number of word and phrases thanks to the footnotes section of the book.

Every few pages I am turning to the glossary at the back to discover a new term from ‘never cared a stiver’ (a coin of low value) to ‘snooking’ (between sneaking and snooping) to possibly my favourite ‘boobies and bedlamites’ (fools and lunatics).

Even though many of the old phrases make sense in the context of the full sentence, allowing the reader to get the gist, I’ve nonetheless found the footnotes very helpful – especially as I love discovering new – or in this case old - words.

A recent Mental Floss tweet entitled ‘25 Smart Words You Should Be Using But Aren’t’ was pure click-bait for me.

And how timely – for one of the words was decemnovenarian which means outdated. Deriving from the Latin for the number 19 it literally means ‘characteristic of the 19th century’ – the perfect word to describe those terms and phrases in the footnotes of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which was first published in 1848.

You could in fact say the book’s footnotes have helped make me smarter by providing me with much-needed éclaircissement – an ‘enlightening explanation’ dating back even further to the 1600s.

But that’s another chapter in time – and words - altogether…