Historical glossary

It’s been pointed out to me that I tend to use a lot of Elizabethan vocabulary in my novels without translating it – I try not to, honestly, but it just slips in.


This is the place to redress that problem. What words would you like me to explain?


I’ll also cough to it when I’ve made something up… [“cough to it” – confess/admit something. Modern thieves’ slang.]


dag – a 16th century pistol which can be wheel lock or matchlock, but usually has a large heavy ball on the end of the grip to balance the weight of the barrel and also provide you with something to hit people with when it’s been fired/misfired;

hobby – small surefooted Northumbrian pony, very good-doers and extremely tough but not very fast;

4 thoughts on “Historical glossary

  1. Don’t people know what reading for context means? My real question is, are these hobby horses what kids’ rocking horses are based on? Only the Internet knows for sure?

  2. Some of the people asking are non-English speakers, to be fair. And yes, I think this probably is where a kid’s hobby horse got its name – though it’s not a rocking horse, it’s a horse’s head on a broomstick. You put it between your legs and gallop around the garden while making loud whinneying noises. Or at least I did when I was seven…

  3. Ah yes the glossary in a Tudor period novel, the must have bit where one politely explains that Tudor/Elizabethan enlgish actually is differrent from modern/American english and why. ‘Sigh’
    As for Hobby Horses, if I recall a right nothern border horsemen were often called hobilars, which I suspect refers to their size and type of horse. In the Tudor period the ‘Hobby Horse’ came out for festivals usually in May at both the court and parish levels at least from the early 1500s. Though I can’t be certain this may a case of the horse type name being transfered to the mock horse due to size and maybe temperment. Regards Gregory House

  4. Hi – I’ve just caught up with this comment, many apologies for the delay.

    I didn’t want to do a glossary for the Carey books because I tried (and possibly failed) to make sure that all the authentic words I used were comprehensible by context. However I have had a number of requests for explanations and “hobby” was one of them. The ‘obby ‘oss still comes out for Mayday festivals in Cornwall and you can find some very scary ones being “teased” as they dance down the street. I suspect the “hobby” horse name was transferred to the child’s plaything via the festival one because hobbies were notoriously small and tough and a tall man’s legs might brush the ground on both sides.

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