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A couple of months ago, when we enjoyed words from Jane Austen's Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, we promised to revisit with two more Austen themes in the near future. This week we'll enjoy a second sampling of Ms. Austen.

sportive – playful; frolicsome
(archaic: amorous or wanton); also, relating to or interested in sports
    Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother.
    – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch 61 [comma after 'sportive' is in the original]

    ... our hero is a painter in oils, who is obsessed with real-life murders of the past, and that he is blessed with a sportive young mistress and cursed with a bossy, gynaecological surgeon of a wife.
    – Theater review by Charles Spencer, The Telegraph, Nov. 20, 2004
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Let's catch up, with extra words over the next days.

nuncheon – a drink or snack taken between meals, esp. in the afternoon
[Wouldn't this word be useful, at least as useful as brunch? But it has fallen by the wayside.]
    "Yes,--I left London this morning at eight o'clock, and the only ten minutes I have spent out of my chaise since that time procured me a nuncheon at Marlborough."
    Sense and Sensibility, ch. 44
dissentient – dissenting, especially the majority's view (noun: a dissenter).
(also: refusing to attend services of the Church of England).
A synonym is recusant. Question: is there any difference between dissentient and dissident?
    Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit.
    Emma ch. II

    Andy Robinson believed in [Henry] Paul's abilities, as his predecessor, Sir Clive Woodward, manifestly did not. There were dissentient voices. Two commentators who had played the game at the highest level ... thought that Paul was not the man for England and that Robinson would do better to stick to the known virtues of Will Greenwood.
    – Alan Watkins (apparently speaking of rugby football), The Independent, Nov. 30, 2004
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valetudinarian – a sickly or weak person, esp. one constantly and morbidly concerned with his health
[Curiously, the word's root seems to mean precisely the opposite: valere – to be strong or well]
    The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time. – Emma, ch. 1

    He [Charles Congreve] ... now lives in London, quite as a valetudinarian, afraid to go into any house but his own. ... He is quite unsocial; his conversation is quite monosyllabical. ... Don't grow like Congreve, nor let me grow like him.
    – Samuel Johnson, quoted in James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

    we wooed peace as a valetudinarian woos health, by brooding over it till we became really became ill.
    – Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers, A Presumption of Death: A New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery

    the story opens at an auction in a derelict opera house in Paris in 1919, where a valetudinarian gentleman in a wheelchair surveys the scene with a look of infinite melancholy. – Anthony Quinn, The Independent, Dec. 10, 2004, panning the movie The Phantom of the Opera
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behindhand – 1. late; behind schedule; particularly, in arrears on a debt. 2. backward, in respect to what is seasonable or appropriate. (wordcrafter note: in other words, out of style). 3. being in an inferior position

Among the dictionaries I find only MW Collegiate having the last definition; The Economist provides a recent illustration, noted below. Ms. Austen seems to use the word in a sense slightly different from #2 above, to mean "not up on the latest news."
    "I know how highly you think of Jane Fairfax," said Emma. "Yes," he replied, "any body may know how highly I think of her." "And yet," said Emma -- she hurried on--"And yet, perhaps, you may hardly be aware yourself how highly it is. The extent of your admiration may take you by surprize some day or other." Mr. Knightley was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick leather gaiters, and either the exertion of getting them together, or some other cause, brought the colour into his face, as he answered, "Oh! are you there?--But you are miserably behindhand. Mr. Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago."
    Emma, vol. II ch. XV

    Comparisons with neighbouring Turkey are instructive, painfully so to Iranians who look beyond their own borders. Before Iran's revolution, Turkey was behindhand on practically every count—foreign direct investment, income per head, GDP growth. Now the reverse is true.
    Iran: Still failing, still defiant, The Economist, Dec. 9, 2004
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Two words today. Our first is a rare word: you'll often find it in Patrick O'Brian's nautical novels, but most other modern usage is in what appear to be historical romance novels. But isn't it a useful word deserving wider use – as in our third quotation?

missish – like a miss; prim; affected; sentimental
    "Indeed, I should not like to have the name of a take-it-and-drop it, shilly-shallying, missish 'son of a bitch' at the Navy Board," he said with a smile.
    – Patrick O'Brian, Post Captain

    "But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"
    – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 57

    I have a hobby. I make soap. I can’t think of a more appropriate hobby for a vegetarian who sometimes reels at the smell of cooking meat than one which, as Step One, lists, "Render suet into tallow." This is a missish way of saying, "Boil a big vat of beef fat on your stove for so long that your home reeks like a turn of the century British tannery and the stench of it has even the dog retching and the neighbors, who live three kilometers away and raise hogs, sniffing the air and wondering if someone has been burning garbage in the woods again."
    – Rebecca Winke, Slow Travel, March, 2004
postilion – one who, in lieu of a coachman, guides a coach by riding the leading nearside horse of a team or pair
    "He meant I believe," replied Jane, "to go to Epsom, the place where they last changed horses, see the postilion and try if anything could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham."
    – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 47
    [Note: some editions have a comma after 'meant'; some don't.]

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There's a very nice restaurant near to us called The Postilion. It's a play on the owner's name, Dietmar Post.

He's a Mercedes enthusiast and usually nobody in any other make of vehicle is allowed to park in the prime spot outside the front door. However, he always makes an exception for us if we arrive in the Rolls-Royce, since he feels it adds a measure of class!

Richard English
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