Don’t Say That! Weather terms in #historical #fiction #wordplay #weather #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Ready for a few weather related words that folks in the 18th century didn’t use? Let’s look at four: downpour, seasonal, weather tight, and thunderhead. All four would seem to be natural to use, right? I thought so at least! Until I did a bit of checking. So let’s look at these terms and see when they came to be.

Who hasn’t seen and experienced a “downpour” of rain? Well, back in the 1700s, they didn’t call it that. Meaning “a pouring down; esp. a heavy, continuous fall (of rain, etc.)” didn’t enter English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), until 1811. I believe I used something along the lines of “drenching rain” instead. I’m sure readers have no problem with the meaning of either, but again, I simply want to create as authentic an experience of the 18th century as I can and still be understood by present-day readers.

What about a “seasonal” display of flowers? I’m thinking of vases containing flowers from specific times of the year appropriate to the season. So, meaning “pertaining to or characteristic of the seasons of the year, or some one of them,” the word didn’t exist until 1838. Five decades after my A More Perfect Union historical romance series of stories. So nope. But of course I could simply say “the flowers in the vases had been picked that morning, new buds of yellow daffodils and pink roses” in order to both describe the colors as well as the time of year. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Not relying upon the single word helps me to paint a clearer picture for my readers. I’ll take it!

AMPU Covers-4So in Amy’s Choice, I wanted the boat to be “weather tight.” After all, Frank and Benjamin were facing a bad storm in a skiff-like boat on their way to visit the ship’s captain. Only, the OED tells me to hold up… The first citation for “weather-tight” didn’t pop up until 1832. So much for using that phrase. I likely said something along the lines of “the boat had been prepared to face all kinds of weather.” Creating the same impression but with different verbiage.

One last term to contemplate. Surely the storm clouds built into “thunderheads,” right? Well, let’s take a closer look. The OED lists it under “thunder” as the main entry. As a combining form, it means “(a) a rounded mass of cumulus cloud seen near the horizon projecting above the general body of cloud, and portending a thunder-storm; hence thunder-headed a., having, or of the nature of, a thunder-head; (b) nonce-use, a large head, as a whale’s head.” The first citation for the term is from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which is dated 1851, and is actually referring to the whale heads on the ship. As in, “Throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right.” In 1861, L.L. Noble used the term in Icebergs: “An iceberg rises…after the figure of a thunderhead.” So am I to assume the term came from the shape of a whale head applied to the clouds? Maybe… Nonetheless, I couldn’t use it in my series, and that was the main concern at the time.

So next week I’ll look at my last class of words, color words such as ecru and multicolor. I hope you’re keeping cool and enjoying a great story! See you next week!

Betty

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Introducing the lives, loves, and dangerous times of the men and women in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series! This prequel novella takes place when Charles Town, South Carolina, is about to face the British enemy during the American Revolution.

Elizabeth's HopeCAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

Joining the revolutionary army was the honorable thing to do—but Jedediah Thomson hadn’t realized how long he’d be away from the lovely, spirited Miss Elizabeth Sullivan. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city, making it dangerous to get to her.

Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; and most of all for Jedediah, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away.

And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

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Don’t Say That! Family Ties in #historical #fiction #relations #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

I’ve been at the RWA national conference this week networking and learning more about all things related to being an author. But I didn’t want to leave you waiting for another quick round of Don’t Say That! In Evelyn’s Promise, family comes first for Evelyn. So today let’s talk about words linked to relationships: fiancé/fiancée, missis/missus, teen/teenager, and sibling.

Today we become engaged and then we introduce our “betrothed person” (the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definition) as our “fiancé” or “fiancée,” depending on whether the other person is male or female, respectively. However, neither word entered English until 1853, so my characters all become the other person’s betrothed, which has been around since 1540.

Once a woman was married, then the husband might call her “missis” or “missus” as a dialect form of “wife.” But he wouldn’t have done that until 1833. However, if “used by servants…in speaking of their mistresses; spec. used by N. American Negroes and in India and S. Africa of a white employer, and loosely of any (esp. a white) woman,” then it’s possible but still rather unlikely until 1790. My historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, is set in Charleston in 1782-83, so close but not quite…

Once the newly married couple starts their family, the children will grow up to be in their teenage years. But my characters would not call those children between thirteen and nineteen their “teen” until 1818. Interestingly, the OED cites “teen” as short for “teenager” but then states that the first recorded date for the full form isn’t until 1941. Slightly confused, I went to Dictionary.com where they say its first recording was in 1935-40, so they basically agree for teenager, but Dictionary.com also says “teen” is first recorded in 1940-45 by shortening. That makes more sense, doesn’t it? Either way, my parents wouldn’t be using the term.

Our fictional children today would call each other “siblings” or “one who is of kin to another” but more like “each of two or more children of a common parent.” The first definition originated in 1000, but fell out of usage until revived in 1903 by K. Pearson in Biometrika using the second definition above. So while technically the word existed at the time of my stories in the 18th century, the folks living then didn’t use it. So of course neither could I, thus forced to stick with sister or brother instead.

Next time I’ll talk about weather words like downpour and weather tight. I hope you’re enjoying your week! I know I will be very tired by the time I finally get home again from conference, but I’ll also be highly motivated. Until next time!

Betty

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Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, where his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathaniel to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Don’t Say That! Playing Doctor in #historical #fiction #medical #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Sometimes people become ill or have a baby in my stories so there are doctors and midwives involved. The best example is in Samantha’s Secret, where Trent is a new doctor in town and Samantha is a healer and midwife. But some of the conditions and expressions we use today wouldn’t apply to the 18th century. Take, for instance, life force, morning sickness, spasm, stressed, and peaked (as in looked peaked.

Let’s start with the essential element of humankind, the life force that sustains our being. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists it as a “special combination” under the noun Life, meaning “vital energy” which is the definition I had in mind when writing my stories. But the OED doesn’t give an origin date, so I popped over to Dictionary.com and discovered it was first recorded in 1895-1900. That’s a century after my stories take place, so nope to using that one!

In a couple of my stories a woman is having a baby. I would have thought the terms used would be fairly standard, but yet again I was surprised. I think most folks know that “morning sickness” is the “nausea occurring in the morning, one of the earlier symptoms of pregnancy.” However, did you know we didn’t start using that term until 1875, according to Dictionary.com? Nearly a century after my stories time period. Sigh.

Okay, fine. Then when the woman went into labor her insides would surely spasm, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on whether it’s used as a noun, as in “A spasm tightened her stomach” which is fine as early as 1400. But if used as a verb, as in “Her stomach spasmed,” then no. Not until 1900, at least.

So then if this is making you feel a bit “stressed” you may be happy to know that while my characters could be “distressed, afflicted” as early as 1559, they couldn’t be “experiencing physiological, emotional, or psychological stress” until 1973. Whew. What a relief for them! But then how do I explain how they were feeling? Instead of saying they felt stressed, I showed the physiological signs of that stress. A little more difficult but makes for a better story experience.

One of those signs, however, couldn’t have been that they looked “peaked,” or “sharp-featured, thin, pinched, as from illness or want; sickly-looking.” The particular colloquialism wasn’t recorded until 1835. But honestly, the image of the person evoked in that definition is far clearer than if I had merely used the word. So my readers win out in the end and that’s what is most important, right?

Next time I’ll talk about relationship words like fiancé and sibling. I hope you find a shady or air-conditioned spot to stay cool while reading a great book!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out monthly. You’ll find out about new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

SamanthsSecretCOVERIn 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal in the port city Charles Town, South Carolina.

Midwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.

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Don’t Say That! Them’s Fighting Words in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s talk about fight scenes in fiction and the words used to write them, shall we? I don’t have many scenes where people actually fight one another, it’s not my bailiwick. That said, some of the words used to describe fighting can be employed figuratively in some situations. However, I discovered that the figurative sense usually evolves sometime after the word is used literally. Let’s look at six of them: backhand, jab, sic, slug, swat, and tackle.

I wanted to say that someone hit the other with the back of their hand, i.e., backhanded the other person. The word existed as a noun and adjective as early as the 1650s, but as a verb meaning “to take a backhander” not until 1857, while the meaning I had in mind of “to hit or stroke with the back of one’s hand” not until 1935. Now, I probably simply stated the character hit the other character with the back of their hand instead of using the one word. One other definition of “backhand” is “handwriting with the letters sloped backwards.” Which has nothing to do with the meaning I needed, but I learned something new in reading the definition, so thought I’d share.

So what about a jab? A move used in boxing. Could my character take a jab at something, or someone? Literally or figuratively? Sadly, no. The verb meaning “to thrust with the end or point of something; to poke roughly; to stab” entered English in 1825-27. By the way, there are several related definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but I won’t belabor the point. For my 1782-83 stories, the word didn’t exist.

In Amy’s Choice, I hoped to have Amy sic the dogs on a threatening person, but the OED definition has more to do with the Scottish word meaning “such” than sending an attack dog after anybody. So I went over to Dictionary.com  and found the verb meaning “to attack (used especially in commanding a dog): Sic ‘em!” which is recorded as originating in 1835-45. Sigh. So much for using that word, then.

Could Frank “slug” somebody to defend Emily? He most definitely was prepared and willing to do so. In fact, he even fights a duel for her honor! I didn’t know there are four definitions of “slug” in verb form. The one I meant, “to strike (also, to drive, throw, etc.) heavily or violently; to slog” is the third definition. Unfortunately, it originated in 1862. So I guess he just punched him instead, which entered the English language in 1530. Whew.

Maybe they could be swatting a fly or swatting away somebody’s unwanted hand on their arm. Surely, they could kill a fly by swatting it. Almost but not quite. In 1615 the verb meant “to sit down, squat” but that’s not I was looking for. The “right” one, meaning “to hit with a smart slap or a violent blow; also, to dash. Now esp., to crush (a fly, etc.) with a blow” came about in 1796, 13 or so years after the stories in my A More Perfect Union series. Close but no cigar, as the saying goes.

Then let me “tackle” one last word I had originally written into one of the stories but found out upon revisions and editing I couldn’t leave in place. This verb existed since 1400 when used to mean “to furnish (a ship) with tackle; to equip with the necessary furnishings,” which is cool to know but not helpful for my story. I could have used it if they wanted “to harness (a horse) for riding or draught.” However, meaning “to grip, lay hold of, take in hand, deal with; to fasten upon, attack, encounter (a person or animal) physically” didn’t come about until 1828. The more figurative sense of “to ‘come to grips with’, to enter into a discussion or argument with; to attack; to approach or question on some subject” not until 1840. So, out of luck on that one, also.

Next time I’ll talk about medical words like spasm and stressed. Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

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Don’t Say That! Emotions in #historical #fiction #wordplay #wordorigins #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

What would any story be without describing, or showing, how the characters feel? Whether some flavor of happy or sad, in love or hating an enemy, emotions drive actions and thus propel the story through the highs and lows. Yet some ways of saying how a character feels just weren’t used in the past. Let’s look at six I came across while writing my A More Perfect Union historical romances as well as another 18th-century story about Martha Washington. They are: happy-go-lucky, ambivalent, antsy, cantankerous, edgy, and excited.

First, “happy-go-lucky” in this instance is applied to people not events. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) it was an adverb meaning “just as it may happen; as luck will have it; haphazard” as early as 1672. However, it didn’t become a noun meaning “a happy-go-lucky person” or “happy-go-lucky quality or character” until 1851 and then even later an adjective meaning “Of persons or their actions: Taking things as they happen to come; easy-going” until 1856. Sadly, I couldn’t use it to describe the personality or emotional state of my 1780s characters. I say sadly because it’s such an upbeat description and applied so well to Frank, in Emily’s Vow, at least his younger self.

Let’s look at “ambivalent” next. I was looking to describe one of my characters as not having a strong opinion between several options. I really thought ambivalent nailed it, but the OED informed me that I was off by a couple centuries. Specifically meaning “entertaining contradictory emotions (as love and hatred) towards the same person or thing; acting on or arguing for sometimes one and sometimes the other of two opposites,” “ambivalent” didn’t enter English until 1916. So I had to be creative with my word choices to show the character feeling both ways toward the situation.

All of this might make a writer a bit “antsy” when having to dig a bit deeper for the proper words to string together. However, my characters wouldn’t have ever described themselves using this term because it isn’t cited until 1838 to mean “agitated, impatient, restless; also, sexually eager.” A bit closer to my 1780s stories but not close enough.

I will admit that rarely the first citation date in the OED is a few years—within 10, say—after my stories time period, but I figure it’s close enough for my purposes. Especially if I use it in dialogue since words are created verbally long before they are put into writing and then into a dictionary of some kind. It’s rare that I found this to be the case, but I can think of a couple instances.

Next is a fun-to-say description of a person’s emotional state: “cantankerous.” I had wanted to use this word in my Martha Washington story, but her story stretched over 50 years, 1750s-1800. At the point in the story it was too early to use it. Meaning “showing an ill-natured disposition; ill-conditioned and quarrelsome, perverse, cross-grained” it entered written English in 1772. So it was fine to use in my A More Perfect Union series, but not in the early chapters of Martha’s story (which by the way, my agent is shopping around for a publisher; stay tuned!). In fact that was one of the “fun” challenges of writing, or rather revising, her story: ensuring that the word usage evolved over the decades of the story to incorporate other words and meanings of previous words. Yeah, that took some time…

What about a favorite word of today, “edgy” to mean unsettled or nervous? Well, it was a word as early as 1775, but it meant “having an edge or edges; sharp, cutting” so that wouldn’t do for what I had in mind. By 1825 it had started being applied to describe a painting, as in “having the outlines too hard.” The usage meaning “having one’s nerves on edge; irritable; testy” wasn’t in the lexicon until 1837, so again decades after my stories’ time periods.

Finally, everybody gets “excited,” right? Nowadays, sure, but not so much in the 18th century. People didn’t get excited, but electricity and magnets did as early as 1660. For people to be “stirred by strong emotion, disturbed, agitated” they’d have to wait until 1855. Well, not really, of course. I’m sure they felt excited as we think of it whether they called it that or not.

I enjoy researching the origins of words, whether for my stories or out of sheer curiosity. I’ve said it before, we use words and phrases every day that stem from obsolete technology and situations. Think “rolling down the window” in a car or “hanging up” the phone. There are many other examples out there!

Next week I’m going to “tackle” a few fighting words. Until next time!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Amy's ChoiceIn 1782, the fight for independence has become personal…

When Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

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