In today’s exploration of modern expressions that were used in the Regency Era, I’m only looking at one in particular. The idiom, “adding insult to injury,” which means making a bad situation worse, has a long history. It is, in fact, one of the oldest expressions that we still use today. So, let’s take a look:

Add insult to injury — This phrase dates back to Ancient Greece in Aesop’s Fables (Aesop lived between 620 and 560 BCE). In the tale of The Bald Man and the Fly, fly bit the head of a bald man, who hurts himself when trying to swat itThe fly jeers, “You want to avenge an insect’s sting with death; what will you do to yourself, who have added insult to injury?”

The expression first appears in English in 1748 in Edward Moore’s sentimental comedy, The Foundling:

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The expression was regularly in print from the 1770’s forward, a particular favorite for politicians. As for the Regency Era, people used the expression abundantly. My favorite example is from the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, Vol. 6 (1817). (I included a screenshot of the title page because I found it rather delightful.)

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In a serial story called, “Motherless Mary,” respectable Mr. Morley tries to reason with the betrayed Mary, who is wronged in life and expects no love:

Morley perused [the letter] with evident rage and indignation; then, tearing it to pieces exclaimed, “Detestable malice! vile artifice! “Mary,” he continued, taking her hand, “I can now explain all this; listen to me with composure, and you will find that, if I have injured you, it has been unintentionally. That I love you, Mary, I will not deny–” “Stop, sir,” cried Mary, hastily, “your expressions give me more terror than satisfaction; this is no time for trifling, it is adding insult to injury.”

Thus, I declare this expressions quite safe to use in any Regency context.


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