Hiya, Christina here. And I am super excited about this month’s topic. Historical words. Why? Because I love words, and I love history.
Besides, without words there would be no communication, without communication what would we have?
As a historical writer I have to take care the words I use.
Let’s look at this rough draft of my current Work In Progress (WIP), The Chronicles of Janie Mason.
“Yo, Dudette, you’s busted.” He cocked his ball cap to the side. His gaze shifted to the ink blotching her papers before piercing her with ice blue eyes. His right upper lip curled. So did her toes, right along with the roller coaster flipping around in her stomach. This dude was hawt to the bling, bling. Too bad he was four o four, like some wannabe gangsta.
So, it’s obvious I need to brush up on my modern slang, but clearly this is a story set in 2012, because is sure wouldn’t work in 1856 unless you are shooting for some sort of slapstick comedy steampunk.
Let’s look at the original piece.
“I hope that is not a habit, Miss Mason?” He lifted his felt hat from his head and laid it on the crude countertop. His gaze shifted to her work table before piercing her with his cornflower blue eyes once again. His right upper lip curled. So did her toes, right along with the waves tossing in her stomach. Why did God have to make a man with such abominable character so very handsome?
That’s more like it. At least for 1856.
When I write, I just write. When I come across a word, I often leave myself a simple comment: check. Let’s take abominable. When I wrote this piece I was uncertain of the origination date of the word. So, I left a little check beside it. When I start revisions I can do a quick check, usually on dictionary.com, to see what kind of information I can find on it.
1325-75; Middle English (a time period during middle ages) dictionary.com
Now, what if I used the word grody instead of abominable?
1960-65; Americanism (American 19th century) dictionary.com
Wouldn’t work, would it?
The four o four wouldn’t either. Although I love the term. It seems to come from our technological age, 404. Yeah, you’ve seen it. Whenever you open an Internet page that’s not working. Well, according to Modern Slang, it means somebody isn’t where they mentally should be. Love it!
For your reference, or maybe not 😉 the following is how the History of the English Language is broken down. If you’re curious about the history of our English language the link above is a good, short run-down.
Old English (450-1100 AD)
Middle English (1100-1500 AD)
Modern English (1500-1800 AD)
Late Modern English (1800- present day)
I, however, will also be sharing a word or two outside of our English language, because y’know that’s how I roll. 😉 Besides, I write historicals set in Old Testament times, so why not, right?
Over the next month we will sharing some words, their history etc. I cannot wait to see what Betty and Jennifer come up with.
Have you ever thought much about the words you write? Have you ever come across a word you could not use because it was either too historical or too modern? What is one of your favorite words to use in your vocabulary?
Mine? Discombobulate-1825-35 Americanism