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Did you ever wonder what a Cabriolet was, or who Croesus was and why he was so rich, or which servant in a Regency household had the unhappy task of emptying the chamber pots?

What in the devil does ton mean?
Historical Tidbit Offered by New York Times Bestselling author,  Julia London

One reader of tremendously well-written historical novels (I am sure she was thinking of mine, although she didn't actually say that) has asked the age-old question, "What in the devil does ton mean, anyway?"

Ah yes, that strange little word that keeps popping up in historicals, and makes that stupid little jingle pop into my head every time I write it. . . two-ton Tessie, out for her evening stroll, never mind. Okay, ton. As it happens, I took a year of German in college, so I feel extremely well qualified to interpret a little French for everyone.

Ton comes from the French phrase, haute ton, which literally means high society, much like haute couture means high fashion.

Back in the early 19th century, the English liked to pretend they despised the French, but then proceeded to copy everything they did.  Including calling their own aristocratic society the haute ton, or ton for short. The English were also very good at hiding things with French words. For example, they used the word demimonde instead of the very-plain-English-no-mistaking-it MISTRESS, because it obviously didn't sound so bad in French. And they used the term d'colletage to denote the loooowwww neckline of a woman's gown, as it apparently was not so impolite to notice a striking d'colletage, but terribly uncouth to ogle a woman's cleavage.

And there you have all you could have possibly remembered from high school French if you had taken it in the first place.


 
     
 
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