It seems to have become fashionable in Jane Austen Fan Fiction Fanon, particularly at but leaking elsewhere, in the past year to use the word “frippery” to mean adornment or decoration or baubles. Every time I see it seems like it is an out of place word trying to cosplay at faux Regency or worse feels like cat’s claws scratching down a blackboard. I did look it up at the Austen Thesaurus once – (which seems to be down) – and it was only used once in all Jane Austen’s writing.

I just did a word search of P&P, Persuasion, and Lady Susan and frippery or fripperies were not used at all in any of the digital versions that I have. Perhaps in Emma or Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey? So, who knows the context and which book, in Austen context conveys so very much as her humor could be dry and cutting.

Our friends at The Online Etymology Dictionary state:

frippery (n.)

1560s, “old clothes, cast-off garments,” from French friperie “old clothes, an old clothes shop,” from Old French freperie, feuperie “old rags, rubbish, old clothes” (13c.), from frepe, feupe “fringe; rags, old clothes,” from Late Latin faluppa “chip, splinter, straw, fiber.” The notion is of “things worn down, clothes rubbed to rags.” The ironic meaning “finery” (but with overtones of tawdriness) dates from 1630s.

So, if in the 1630s the word was used to mean finery in an ironic fashion with overtones of tawdriness, then do any of us know where and what context Jane Austen used the word in Canon less than two hundred years later? Then why is the word being trotted out now rather than using a variety of other words.

One of the odd things about participating in a world wide fandom for a set of books written over two hundred years ago is word usage. It becomes its own little whirlpool that has layers of Regency vs. Modern usage, British vs American vs Commonwealth vs ESL usage, book canon vs. any number of screen adaptations, etc.