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Seeing ‘Sewords’

The average undergraduate doesn’t talk a lot about “victuals” or “habiliments.” But for students contributing to the Seward Family Digital Archive, those are the kinds of words they encounter. To bridge the gap between the centuries, computer science major Demeara Torres ’18 has devised a database, called “Sewords,” that defines terms from the period that participants find in the letters.

“I treasure the eccentricity of this being a value-added vocabulary of 19- and 20-year-olds at the U of R,” says Thomas Slaughter, the principal investigator for the project and Arthur R. Miller Professor of History.

Torres has collected about 300 words as of this spring and is continuing to add more, with input from other team members. Although the feature won’t be part of the April launch of the project’s website, eventually readers will be able to hover their cursor over a word in the letters and see its 19th-century meanings pop up.

A Seword Sampler

Accoutrements: 1) dress; equipage; furniture for the body; appropriately military dress and arms; equipage for military service; 2) in common usage, an old or unusual dress

Collops: 1) a small slice of meat; a piece of flesh

Economy: 1) primarily the management, regulation, and government of a family or the concerns of a household; 2) the management of pecuniary concerns or the expenditure of money

Inculpate: 1) to blame; to accuse

Kneepan: 1) the round bone on the fore part of the knee (kneecap)

Lethean: 1) inducing forgetfulness or oblivion

Neuralgia: 1) a disease, the chief symptom of which is acute pain that seems to be seated in a nerve

—Kathleen McGarvey