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Your guide to Talk Like Jane Austen Day

Grace Ellis • May 12, 2015 at 6:28 PM

In honor of the 199th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” Saturday has been declared “Talk Like Jane Austen Day.” To fully prepare you for your foray into the world of early 19th century language, we outline some of the finer details of Austenspeak.

There is a fine art in crafting a romance novel, and no one was better at it than Jane Austen, whose riveting narratives have captivated audiences for nearly 200 years. Partially because of her overwhelming awesomeness and partially because her first novel “Sense and Sensibility” is almost two centuries old, Talk Like Jane Austen Day is now an official holiday.

On Oct. 30, Austen geeks and fans of British accents will revel in the delight of speaking like Austen’s characters, but should you choose to join in the merriment, you’ll want to arm yourself with some fundamental knowledge of how to speak properly. Here’s a rundown of the basics.

The vocabulary: Perhaps the most important part of Austenspeak is your shift in word choices.  You would be surprised to find how many words and phrases were not a part of common vernacular in Austen’s time. There is a good, simple dictionary here, but if you’re interested in historical accuracy, you’ll have to read (or re-read) the novels.

In addition to vocabulary, watch your use of contractions, meaning: don’t use them at all. You can’t say “Didn’t you go to that rockin’ party last night?” when “Did not you attend the dance evening last?” is clearly more appropriate. Clearly.

Some other examples of Austenspeak:

    * “I own that Edward is prettyish, but Jacob is the more agreeable youth.”

    * “I fear that Justin Bieber has given me a terrific headache. You ought not have played the music quite so loudly, my dear.”

    * “One may only imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering the ‘Golden Girls’ marathon on Lifetime this morning.”

The mannerisms: Speak slowly and think about what you’re saying. “Um,” “like” and “ya know” were not only unacceptable; they simply did not exist. Articulation and enunciation were actually important, as was keeping a moderate, even tone. It was simply uncouth speak in any other manner.

The accent: Austen was from southern England, so you get major bonus points if you can accurately put on a posh British accent (and even more bonus points if you localize it to Hampshire, England, where Jane spent most of her life). The easiest way to practice Briticisms is to watch films with high-class British characters or anything on BBC. It’s easy as pie, love!

Naturally, there are other ways to honor Austen as well. There are approximately one million film adaptations of her books, including the recent-ish Keira Knightly version of “Pride and Prejudice” (although true Austen fans know that Colin Firth is the definitive Mr. Darcy). “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a really remarkable adaptation that you’d probably like, so you could always pick that up at the library.

If nothing else, actually read one of Austen’s books. Often duplicated but never replicated, nothing beats her original novels, and you won’t regret reading them. Just be warned: if you read one, you may become addicted and feel a strong compulsion to read the rest of her work.

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