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

You wouldn’t think there’d be any confusion if I used words like “anyone” or “worthwhile” and you’d be right. But the rub comes when I refer back to my goal of providing the most authentic story experience I can. Words that are compounds today were not in centuries past. In fact, I’m reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, which is a rather humorous look at provincial life in the mid-1800s, written in 1871. Throughout, I’ve noticed that “any one” is two words, just as an example.

So in order for me to give you, my readers, the closest thing I can to how my characters in 1782-83 would have thought, I try my dearndest to even spell the words as close to how they were spelled then as I can, and still make the reading clear and easy to follow.

Today I’m going to talk about a few of these that surprised me and note when they became compounded, just to share a bit about how these words have evolved over time from their use. Specifically, let’s look at “anyone,” “anyway,” worthwhile,” “nonetheless,” “normalcy,” and “prominent.” All words that are fairly commonly used today, right?

Let’s start with “anyone,” since I’ve already mentioned it. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), used to mean “any single or individual” was first recording in 1449, but wasn’t used as a compound in writing until 1958. Five hundred years before we smashed those two together into one word. Of course, we still use them as separate words, but not to mean “any single or individual.”

Okay, so “anyway” is up next. The OED cites it in 1570 to mean “in any way or manner, anyhow” but doesn’t show it as a compound until 1842. Decades after my stories are set. When used to mean “however the case may be; in any case; anyhow” it didn’t appear until 1859, but as a compound in that case. So once “any way” became on word, it stayed that way but developed other meanings.

Do you think all this worry about spellings is “worthwhile”? I hope so! As two separate words, “worth while” is listed in the OED as first recorded in 1842, and “worth-while” meaning either the noun “the quality of being, or that which is, worth while” in 1867, or the adjective meaning “that is worth while; of sufficient value or importance” not until 1884. So no matter how I sliced it, I couldn’t use the compounded form.

“Nonetheless,” I kept trying other words to use to tell my stories the best I can. This word first appeared as three separate words, as in “none the less” (I’m translating the Old English) in c900 as a phrase. Used as an adverbial phrase, Dickens used it in 1847 in his book Dombey as three words, but the first citation of the compound isn’t until 1930.

What about returning to some sense of “normalcy” now? Meaning “normality” or what is usual to an individual or entity the word first entered written language in 1857. Now this is not a compounded word, but a variant on “normality” or “normalist” which was cited as chiefly used in the U.S.

One final but “prominent” example of a word that has changed meaning over time. I wanted to use it to mean that Emily’s father was a “prominent” member of society. No such luck. It was a word in the 1780s but it meant either “jutting or standing out above or beyond the adjacent surface; projecting, protuberant” when it was first recorded in 1545, or “standing out so as to strike the eye; conspicuous” in 1759. Both literal, physical uses of the term. But the figurative sense of “standing out so as to strike the attention or notice; conspicuous; distinguished above others” didn’t come about until 1849. Sigh. So Captain Sullivan became an important man in the town instead.

So next time you read an historical fiction story, you’ll have a better appreciation for the language choices your favorite authors had to make. But one important note: not all authors spend the time and energy to research the words origin and evolution, but they still tell a great story! Please don’t be upset if you spot a few errant words here and there. After all, we don’t actually in the time period of the story. Our stories are meant for present day readers and must entertain as well as strive to be true to the time depicted.

Next time I’ll look at some everyday phrases that may surprise you as to their origins.

Have you ever spotted anachronisms in stories you’ve read? How did it make you feel? How important is it to your enjoyment what words are used to tell the story?

Betty

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Elizabeth's HopeThe fight for independence has become personal… 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; but mostly for Jedediah Thomson, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city and sent him to fight. 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! #Cooking terms in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Today’s group of anachronistic terms represent a subject near and dear to my heart: cooking! I love to try new recipes and bake new goodies. Food is a universal need and a pleasure as well. Tastes and textures and aromas all combine to make a unique experience. So imagine my surprise when some of my favorite concepts, like making something “from scratch” or the figurative use of something “sizzling” couldn’t be included in my 18th-century romances. Sigh. What’s an author to do? Be creative, of course. But let’s take a look at a handful of the words I had to avoid.

Let’s start with “from scratch,” which according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), seems to be based on sporting terms as in “the starting-point in a handicap of a competitor who receives no odds” but then figuratively means “from a position of no advantage, knowledge, influence, etc., from nothing.” Thus to be “made from scratch” means to start from basic ingredients, right? That’s my take, anyway! Okay, so given the available definitions, the first appearance in the OED is in 1876 where a bicyclist “won…three races from scratch.” So obviously, if even the sporting lingo is dating from the late 19th century, I couldn’t use it in my 1782-83 stories. But let’s double-check that at www.Dictionary.com, where they do list the idiom of “from scratch” to mean “from the very beginning or starting point” but they don’t list a date of origin for the idiom. So I guess it was safest to steer clear of “made from scratch” in my stories even though from my present-day perspective it means not using mixes and packaged foods, so therefore implies an older method of cooking. Be that as it may, I still couldn’t use it in my story.

Okay, fine. How about having eyes that brimmed with tears? (Note there are three definitions for the verb brim: #1 from the 15th century, means “of swine: to be ‘in heat’, rut, copulate; #2 from the 13th c means “to be fertile, develop fruit, to breed”) But I’m looking to use the figurative sense of the 3rd verb definition from the 17th century (1611 to be exact) which means “to fill (a goblet, etc.) to the brim.” Unfortunately, the figurative usage didn’t enter written language until at least 1844, decades after my stories take place. So again, I had to be creative and describe the tears standing in her eyes using other words.

So let’s stick with the exact meaning of the noun “cookware.” Can there be cookware hanging around the cooking fire? Or perhaps resting on a nearby buffet waiting to be used? Um, short answer? Nope. The OED doesn’t even list it in their database, so I popped over to the online dictionary where it cheerfully informed me that the word didn’t exist until 1950. Really? It seems rather counter-intuitive to me that nobody thought of that word until just a decade or so before I was born.

All right, then. I wanted to have desire sizzle through his veins. Surely stuff sizzled in the 1780s. And that’s true, there was sizzling occurring in the 1600s and 1700s, but not the figurative sense until the mid-1800s. I guess folks were far more literal in the earlier centuries. What fun was that?

So if I couldn’t use sizzle, what about “simmer”? You know, the idea of the beginnings of desire and perhaps even love that is bubbling just below the surface? This one proved to be close but the definition and examples cited gave me pause as to whether or not to use it. When meaning “of feelings, tendencies, etc.: to be in a state of gentle activity; to be on the verge of becoming active or breaking out” which is dated as 1764 might suit my intended meaning, I think the 1840 definition of “of persons, etc.: to be in a state of suppressed excitement or agitation” comes closer to my intent. Which just means I needed a different word to express the emotion my character was feeling.

The nuances and subtleties of language always amaze me. Recently I delved into the fine distinctions between “clinch” and “clench” when meaning embracing or gripping. I believe they are nearly but not quite interchangeable depending on the situation being described in the story. And that’s a present-day example! When thinking about concepts and the words used to describe them from previous centuries, the mentality of the people using them also needs to be considered if we can figure it out. From reading and understanding works from those distant times, we at least can see a glimmer of the ways in which people perceived the world around them.

I hope you enjoyed my cooking terminology sleuthing! Next time I’ll look at some generic, everyday words like “anyone.” Until next time, I hope you find a great book to read in the shade!

Betty

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Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to fend for herself in an independent America, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-Revolutionary-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son. Militiaman Nathaniel Williams finds his heart ensnared by the smart, beautiful widow, forcing him to make the hardest decision of his life.

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

Let’s talk about some broad words related to the environment or setting of my 18th-century stories. And I do mean broad because the terms are “atmosphere,” “landscape,” “surroundings,” “low-lying,” and “shoreline.” Pretty broad, wouldn’t you say?

I’ll begin with “atmosphere,” which according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), existed from the 17th century as a word but not in the figurative sense I wanted to use. Nope. It literally meant “the spheroidal gaseous envelope surrounding any of the heavenly bodies.” The actual air and gases. The figurative sense, the one I wanted to use, meaning “surrounding mental or moral element, environment. Also, prevailing psychological climate; pervading tone or mood; characteristic mental or moral environment; fascinating or beguiling associations or effects” didn’t enter English until 1797. Close but, um, no. So I couldn’t say the “atmosphere in the room was tense” but could have said something like “the air crackled with tension” I suppose. At this point, it’s been several years since I first thought to use that word and I don’t remember what I ended up writing instead.

Another surprise was “landscape.” This is another word that existed but in a precise definition related to a painting. The OED says it’s “a picture representing natural inland scenery, as distinguished from a sea picture, a portrait, etc.” In the early 1700s, it could also mean, “A view or prospect of natural inland scenery, such as can be taken in at a glance from one point of view; a piece of country scenery.” But there couldn’t be any landscaping around the house, the usage I recall wanting to employ, until 1886. That’s when it appears in a book on geology to mean “a tract of land with its distinguishing characteristics and features, esp. considered as a product of modifying or shaping processes and agents (usually natural).” And in fact, the use of “landscape” as a verb, didn’t actually become valid until 1927! So I think I probably simply described the setting as having flowering trees or bushes around the foundation and left it at that.

So what about “surroundings”? As in, “she stopped to investigate her surroundings.” Originally, back in the 1400s, a surrounding meant “overflowing, inundation,” according to the OED. By 1775 it also meant “the fact of being around or encompassing.” But the usage I had in mind, “that which surrounds,” and the plural form of “surroundings” to mean “those things which surround a person or thing, or in the midst of which he or it (habitually) is; things around (collectively); environment” didn’t become a thing until 1861. So perhaps when I write a Civil War era story I can use this word.

Okay, so since my A More Perfect Union series is set in and around Charleston, South Carolina, I wanted to describe the “low-lying” areas. Ahem. Not so fast. The OED is rather fuzzy as to when this word came into being, citing it’s usage in 1691 in the following passage: “The low-lying of the Head-springs of..this River.” So that’s the river lying low, not the land in general. So I went over to Dictionary.com which pinpoints the origin as 1855-60, meaning “lying near sea level or the ground surface.” So no-go for my Charleston stories. Sigh. That just means I have to be more creative with my word choices, right?

Finally, I wanted the guys to have to confront the “shoreline,” but yet again I was thwarted. The OED defines “shore-line” as “the line where shore and water meet” and cite a passage from 1852 as “The shore-line along the edge of the hilly ridges.” The Dictionary.com site claims the origin dates from 1850-55. So rather than argue, with myself or anyone else, I chose to use a different description. Keep it simple, right?

I will say yet again that all my sleuthing as to the origins of words has taught me a bit about the evolution of the English language in general. I believe it’s also made me a better writer because I can employ a wider variety of vocabulary to paint a clearer picture for my readers.

Next time I’ll look at some cooking-related words. Happy reading!

Betty

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SamanthsSecretCOVERMidwife 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! Military Lingo in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic #military

Today I’m going to talk about words related to military operations for which I had to find alternatives for my stories. First, let me wish everyone in the USA a happy and meaningful Memorial Day! I come from and married into a military family. My dad served in WWII in the U.S. Army on Guadalcanal and my brothers and oldest sister all served in various military branches. My husband’s side included officers who served in the army back to WWI and up to the present day. Trust me when I say I appreciate our armed forces and everyone who serves/served, including their spouses and families. Thank you all!

Having been surrounded by military terms for the majority of my life, I was surprised at how many “common” words didn’t exist in English until after the 18th century. I’ll dig into a few of the following since I came across so many in writing my American Revolution era stories: camp followers, camp site, checkpoint, commandeered, communiques, flagpole, footlocker, gunfire, home front, martial law, mess hall, ports of call, saboteur, seagoing, and spoiling for action.

So let’s start with the first one since it really did floor me. I mean, what else would you call someone who follows an army during war? George Washington wrote in his letters about the women who followed the army, providing services like washing and mending clothes in exchange for food and shelter. But they were not actually referred to as “camp-followers” until 1810, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)., and that was in “The proceedings of the General Court Martial, on the trial of Edward Poole, camp follower.” They weren’t even referring to the women and children trailing after the army as I intended, so what’s up with that? So be it, right?

Another one that caught me off guard was “checkpoint.” The OED lists it as a submeaning of “check” as in “(b) a place (entrance, turnstile, barrier, etc.) where the movement of traffic, pedestrians, etc., is checked; a control-point; check-post = check-point.” But there’s no date associated with its usage, so I went to Dictionary.com and they gave the year it was first recorded as 1935-40. Way, way, way after my 1782-3 stories, wouldn’t you say? So I just used something similar to “the sentry stopped them to check their pass” instead of “they were stopped at the checkpoint.” I think usage changes to make the statements more concise and thus take less time to say. Which is why we have such a high frequency of acronyms and text-speak today. Do you agree with me?

“Flagpole” also surprised me. I mean, what else do you call the pole you hang the flag on? While the OED calls “flag-pole” a combining form without a origin date, again I found at Dictionary.com that it was first recorded in 1880-85. A century after my story time. Sigh. But they also suggested a synonym, “flagstaff” which the OED confirms I could use since it was first used in English in 1613 as “flag-staffe” and in 1790 as “flag-staff.” At least I had a similar word to add to my collection, right?

I know, I know. I’m being rather picky about word choices. But again, if the concept behind the word wasn’t common then my characters wouldn’t be thinking about them in those terms. I want my characters to be as real and true to the time period as the historical facts I weave through my tales. Seriously, I think doing so adds to the flavor of the times in my stories to give them the ring of authenticity I’m striving for.

Next time I’ll talk about generic setting words. Happy reading!

Betty

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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! Light and #Lighting in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

How many times have you seen or read about the man with a long taper lighting the street lamps in some work of fiction? In my humble experience, it’s an uncountable number. The image is just part of the stage setting to suggest times gone by. So I was rather surprised to find that “streetlamp” was anachronistic to my 1780s series.

The usage of street lamp is documented in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 1799, so it’s not too much later. Specifically it’s found in C.B. Brown’s Arthur Mervyn in a line which includes “by gleams from a street lamp.”

I could use street light, but not street lamp. Note that the OED defines a street-light as a window onto a street, but also as a street lamp.

What about inside? I wanted a candle to serve as a “night-light” but found I couldn’t do that either. The term existed, mind you, but it referred to ambient light at nighttime. But not when used in conjunction with a candle as “a light which burns or shines during the night” (1839) or as “a small thick candle, or other contrivance, constructed to burn dimly for a long period, and used by night, especially in sick-rooms” (1851).

So I thought I’d change the wording and just refer to the candleholder with its candle burning through the night. But hold up a minute. While the term again existed, the OED says it refers to “One who holds a candle” not an object. The candelabrum or “ornamental branched candlestick holding a number of candles; a chandelier” didn’t appear until 1815. However, “candlestick” is far older, dating from the 1st century, so that was a viable option for my stories.

I stumbled upon this word in relation to another usage. I had a character who did something “out of reflex” but found out that I couldn’t use that word in that way in the 18th century. It was common for this word to mean reflect and reflection but not an instinctual or physical reaction to a stimuli. Or as the OED defines it:

Phys. a. reflex action, involuntary action of a muscle, gland, or other organ, caused by the excitation of a sensory nerve being transmitted to a nerve-centre, and then ‘reflected’ along an efferent nerve to the organ in question”

1833 Proc. Royal Soc. III. 210 He [Dr. M. Hall] distinguishes muscular actions into three kinds: thirdly, those resulting from the reflex action above described…

So of course I had to revise my sentence to use a different word for my purpose. But I also learned something about why a reflex is called one: because it reflects the action similar to light on a mirror. Interesting little factoid, eh?

Finally, I found semidarkness, meaning partial darkness, to be a surprise. The OED doesn’t include it but at Dictionary.com they cite it as first being recorded in 1840-50. I suppose they simply said partial darkness prior to the mid-19th century? Or “as darkness approached” or some such phrasing?

Isn’t it intriguing and amazing to think about how words and phrases have come to pass? How they’ve changed and adapted to suit our needs as those needs also evolve?

Next time I’ll talk about what I think of as “military” words. 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!

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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Don’t Say That! Evolution of Spelling in #historical #fiction #wordplay #vocabularly #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Did you know that usage of words evolves over time? Not necessarily the letters used but how they are joined together? Compound words today are often evolved from two separate words, then maybe joined by a hyphen, before becoming one continuous string of letters. Let’s take a look at a few to give you an example.

Before I do that, though, let me just say that while the precise spelling of a word—or rather whether a word includes a hyphen or a space—may vary, the meaning is still clear to a modern reader. I know that without any doubt. The only reason I prefer to explore the “current usage” at the time of my stories is to add another layer of realism to the fiction. Since I write in close third person point of view, I try very hard to think like my character. Wouldn’t he or she then envision the spelling of the word using a hyphen, or making it two separate words entirely? Again, while a modern reader wouldn’t notice, I’m striving to create a semblance of the past within a story written today.

So, one of my favorite discoveries was that the word Thoroughbred did not exist in the 1780s, the time of my A More Perfect Union historical romance series. But one of my sources declared that two thoroughbred horses arrived by ship in December 1782 in Charleston. Since I knew the word hadn’t come to be yet, I needed to see for myself how the secondary source knew they were Thoroughbreds. Thankfully, the secondary source cited the primary source newspaper article. So when I made a second research trip to Charleston (love that city!), I went to the Historical Society and asked to see the newspaper article. I cannot tell you just how anxious I was to see that few inches of newspaper column, either! It took what seemed ages before the librarian came back with the paper and I quickly skimmed the text until I came upon the fact that “two thorough bred horses” had indeed arrived in South Carolina.

A closer look at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows that “thorough-bred” meaning “thoroughly educated or accomplished” has been around at least since 1701. The OED also says that “of a horse” to mean “a race-horse whose pedigree for a given number of generations is recorded in the studbook” didn’t begin until 1796, and then hyphenated as “Thorough-bred.” As I said, I’ve seen the term used with regard to horses as two separate words, lower cased. So there is some doubt as to the exact lineage of the word, including whether to hyphenate it or not. Indeed, the OED definition shows the term hyphenated until the 1880s. Thus it becomes more of a stylistic choice than a matter of correct or incorrect usage. (Something I’ve found to be true of commas quite often, but that’s a debate for another day!)

English Water Spaniel-1
English Water Spaniel

Okay, so I wanted to have a dog in one story. I love dogs, so why shouldn’t my characters, right? Besides, Samantha needed a friend… So I thought about a rather generic description of a terrier dog as a “black-and-tan” but found out in short order that the adjectival phrase didn’t come into use until 1850. There are other definitions in the OED (an alcoholic drink and an armed forces unit), but all dated later, some with hyphens and some as individual words. Why couldn’t I use the colors as I wanted to? I suppose I could have, but then wondered whether it would be outside of the realm of possibilities for my characters. Now, I could have gone round and round debating whether or not I should use it despite what the OED implied, and finally decided to come up with a different dog! It was easier. So I did some research and discovered the English Water Spaniel, a breed now extinct or at least assimilated into other spaniel breeds. From my perspective, it’s a double win. I found a historically accurate pup for Samantha and I learned something about how dog breeds have changed over the centuries.

“Good night” is another interesting term, since the OED cites Chaucer in 1374 as having used it in his Troylus. Note he used it as two separate words, but the OED cites many examples of hyphenated usage. From what I can glean, two words is generally used when wishing someone to have a “good night” but people will say their “good-nights” before going to taking their leave of others. A little mixed usage never confused anyone, right? Looks like another stylistic choice to be made.

I can think of more recent examples of how people change the spelling of words over time. Electronic mail used to be “Email” or “E-mail.” Now I see it frequently as “email.” Same sort of thing happened to being “on-line” or “online.” Can you think of any other recent examples of word evolution?

I’ll let you all ponder word evolution until next week!

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!

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Elizabeth's HopeThe fight for independence has become personal… 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; but mostly for Jedediah Thomson, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city and sent him to fight. 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! “Highlighting” Word Choices in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s talk about words like “accentuate” or “underscore” that evolved from typesetting, or at least that’s my shorthand way of grouping these words together for my purposes.

I enjoy the sound of “accentuate” – meaning emphasize – and really wanted to use it in my 18th-century historicals, but alas it was not to be. Sure, it existed as a word but not to mean what I meant. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) told me I had to wait until the mid-19th century to use it that way:

1. To pronounce, or distinguish with an accent.

1731 Bailey, Accentuate: to pronounce in reading or speaking according to the accent.    1827 Hare Guesses at Truth II. 212 They [the French] never accentuate their words or their feelings: all is in the same key; a cap is charmant, so is Raphael’s Transfiguration.    1880 Paper & Printing Trades Journ. xxx. 7 You will find that he accentuates his words‥quite naturally.

  1. To mark with the written accent.

1846 T. Wright Ess. on Mid. Ages I. i. 9 The [Anglo-Saxon] scribes not only omitted accents, but they often accentuated words wrongly.

  1. fig. To mark strongly, emphasize.

1865 Lecky Rationalism I. 371 To accentuate strongly the antagonism by which human nature is convulsed.    1875 Hamerton Intellect. Life vii. v. 254 His marriage would strongly accentuate the amateur character of his position.

Okay, fine. How about “stressed”? You know, “she stressed how important his next words would be…” Well, no. That’s even later in the 19th century!

1. Distressed, afflicted. Also absol. Obs.

1559 J. Aylmer Harborowe B 3 b, With a certain choise and judgement to giue passage and safetie to the stressed.    1590 Spenser F.Q. ii. x. 37 Stird with pitty of the stressed plight Of this sad realme.    c 1590 J. Stewart Poems (S.T.S.) II. 88 The stressit knycht all stupefact did stand.    1632 Lithgow Trav. vii. 328 Stress’d Saylers.

2. Marked with a stress, emphasized.

1885 Meredith Diana i, The stressed repetition of calculated brevity while a fiery scandal was abroad concerning the lady.    1913 A. C. Clark Prose Rhythm in English 18 Rhythm in poetry depends upon the recurrence of longs and shorts, or stressed and unstressed syllables, in a regular order.

So, then what if I used “underscore”? Would that work? Hardly… The figurative sense of “emphasize” is even later than “stressed” in entry to English written language. And if you look closely at the figurative 1891 usage its really reflecting the act of putting a line under the words moreso than the true figurative sense of emphasize, which isn’t reflected in the OED until 1939. So to be safe, I chose to not use it in my 18th-century historicals.

Verb. a. trans. To draw a score or line beneath; to underline.

1771 Luckombe Hist. Print. 249 [They] either underscore the word, or make some other token, which may inform the Compositor of the Author’s intention.    1838 Lytton Alice xi. v, The notice to Howard, with the name of Vargrave underscored, was still on the panels.    1874 Blackie Self-Cult. 35 Underscore these distinctly with pen or pencil.

b. fig. To point up, to emphasize, to reinforce; = underline v.2 1 b.

1891 W. S. Gilbert Rosencrantz & G. iii, He who doth so mark, label, and underscore his antic speeches.  1939 Sun (Baltimore) 17 Apr. 8/2 A look at the gold statistics underscores the fears which are so often expressed on this score.

A couple of other words surprised me that I had wanted to use but found couldn’t without being anachronistic. Typeset and typesetter, for example. These show up in the OED but without a date of origin, so I bounced over to Dictionary.com and looked them up. “Typesetter” didn’t become a thing until 1825-1835, and “typesetting” was first recorded in 1855. Mind blown that it took that long for those seemingly basic words to enter English.

One last one that surprised me. “Showcase.” I admit I do not remember specifically how I wanted to use this word, whether as an actual case for displaying stuff or the figurative sense, but it didn’t much matter once I checked it in the OED. No form or usage of it entered English until 1835. This is a good example of one of the kinds of words I’ll talk more about next time, since it’s original usage included a hyphen, as in “show-case” or even “show~case”.

Until next week when I’ll talk more about how two words slowly evolve into one! Happy reading!

Betty

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Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to fend for herself in an independent America, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-Revolutionary-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son. Militiaman Nathaniel Williams finds his heart ensnared by the smart, beautiful widow, forcing him to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Don’t Say That! Make-Believe and other theatrics in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s play some make-believe, shall we? Oh, but wait! I really wanted to have one of my characters in my A More Perfect Union pretend or make-believe something was true when it was not. But the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  told me I couldn’t. Really?

  1. Pretence

1811 L. M. Hawkins C’tess & Gertr. (1812) IV. 62, I was drest like Minerva,‥and then the little ones came and worshipped me: ’twas all make-believe, you see.    1811 Morn. Chron. 9 Apr., Her mourning is all make-believe, She’s gay as any linnet.    1818 Lamb Three Friends, Not that she did really grieve It was only make-believe.

So if I couldn’t even have my character make-believe, what other theatrical limitations did I stumble upon? You may be surprised by some of them! I’ll start with one that really gave me pause: backdrop. This to be used as in the sky provided a stunning backdrop to the view of the lake, so something like that. This term comes directly from the theatre as a synonym of backcloth. But note the date associated with it in the OED:

2. Theatr. The painted cloth hung across the back of the stage as the principal part of the scenery. Also transf. and fig.

1886 Cornh. Mag. Oct. 435 They gazed awestruck at the backcloth and the flies.    1926 Spectator 10 July 44/2 Thirty acres or so for a stage and the whole firmament of heaven for a back-cloth. …

Note also that it wasn’t used figuratively until 1926 to mean something behind not an actual cloth used for setting.  So I thought about using “background” instead. On first glance, the OED tells me that it was used in the theatre in 1672 as stage direction and as a part of the stage, essentially. But…when I looked more closely, it wasn’t used in the figurative sense until 1799 or 1824, depending on whether Elvira is being given stage direction or not.

1.a. The ground or surface lying at the back of or behind the chief objects of contemplation, which occupy the foreground. (Formerly, the part of the stage in a theatre remote from the audience.)

1672 Wycherley Love in Wood iii. ii, Ranger retires to the background.    1799 Sheridan Pizarro i. i. (1883) 182 Elvira walks about pensively in the background.    1824 Miss Mitford Village Ser. i. (1863) 109 The low cottage in the back-ground.

Another phrase I enjoy saying is “disappearing act” but unfortunately that didn’t hit the books until 1913 and “façade” in the figurative sense of pretending to be something you’re not, having a false face/front, didn’t until 1845. Again I was left to use a broader set of descriptors or change what I said about the character and his motives or actions.

Which all combines to make writing historical fiction both a challenge and a wordsmithing exercise. I love word games, so I’m up for the challenge!

Next week I’ll look into the “typesetting” related words I had to avoid. Think about what those might be in the meantime!

Betty

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SamanthsSecretCOVERMidwife 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! Hike Her Skirt and other activities in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Some concepts you’d think had been around forever. But I was surprised when I learned that a woman didn’t “hike” her skirt in the 18th century. I mean, it’s in so much fiction that I made the assumption it was authentic to the time. Only I was dead wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but in this word sleuthing I came upon that reality more than once, let me tell you!

Let’s start with the fact that the earliest recorded use of the word “hike” in my OED to mean “walk or march vigorously or laboriously” or “to walk for pleasure” is in 1809. So my A More Perfect Union historical romances set in the 1780s couldn’t use that word to even mean to go out into nature and take a long walk. The part about pulling up clothing? Not so fast! Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  has to say:

b. intr. To work upwards out of place. Const. up.

c 1873 Schele de Vere MS. Notes 488 (D.A.E.), What makes y[ou]r dress hike up so?    1890 Amer. Dialect Notes I. 61 The curtain hikes or hikes up.    1902 G. H. Lorimer Lett. Merchant ix. 119 We boys who couldn’t walk across the floor without feeling that our pants had hiked up till they showed our feet to the knee,‥didn’t like him.    1948 Sat. Even. Post 4 Dec. 127/2 When I sit down, it hikes up.

1873! That’s nearly a century after my stories. Hearty sigh. So instead of the one word, I had to use something like “she grabbed her skirt to lift it up out of her way as she climbed the stairs.” I guess there’s a reason we get around to using “hike” as shorthand! Like when you raise a price, it gets hiked up, so do the pant legs and skirts. But not until late 19th century. So.

Other words related to activities and games I had to find replacements for include acrobatic (b1861), catapulted (as a verb, b1848), cartwheeled (as a verb, b1864), cavort (b1794), and swat (b1796). A couple others I want to talk more about, but you can see here why checking most every word I write (at least until I became more familiar with which ones I needed to avoid!) became important. Unless we’re talking the articles (i.e., the, a, an). Those didn’t change from the earliest times as far as I can tell.

Let’s look a bit more closely at two other words that we use today without a blink of an eye but weren’t used in the same way in the 1700s.

First up, “scan.” As a verb meaning to look over quickly, like scanning the crowd or the sky. A synonym is “skim” which became my replacement word after I dug into scan a bit more to find out when in time I could use it as a verb. The OED:

6. a. To look at searchingly, examine with the eyes.

1798 S. Lee Canterb. T., Young Lady’s T. ii. 251 His wild‥eyes now scanned heaven impatiently.    1810 Scott Lady of L. ii. xxi, While Roderick scann’d, For her dear form, his mother’s band.    1840 Dickens Barn. Rudge ii, ‘Humph’, he said, when he had scanned his features, ‘I don’t know you’. …

b. To search (literature, a text, a list, etc.) quickly or systematically for particular information or features.

1926 Rec. Geol. Surv. India LIX. 202 On scanning this table it will be observed that the pyrope molecule is present in quantity‥only in one garnet.    1950 Amer. Documentation I. 81 The rapid selector employs an optical-electronic system for scanning a reel of motion picture film on which are entered both abstracts and corresponding index entries. …

So at the earliest, the story had to take place in 1798 for scan to not be anachronistic for my characters. So instead, I used “perused” or “skimmed” or “let his gaze drift over the crowd” or some such descriptive passage.

The other word I want to point out is “handshake.” As a noun, it first appeared in 1873:

a. A shake of the hand: cf. hand-shaking.

1873 Tristram Moab xviii. 344, I gave him a hearty hand⁓shake.    1878 Browning Poets Croisic 130 Let me return your handshake!

But then as a verb, it’s even later:

[Back-formation from hand-shaking.]

intr. To shake hands. So ˈhandˌshaker.

1898 H. James Two Magics 8 We handshook and ‘candlestuck’, as somebody said, and went to bed.    1905 Westm. Gaz. 2 Nov. 12/1 As the line moves forward each hand-shaker is steadily pushed along.    1928 Daily Express 28 Aug. 8/3 Hearty handshakers. …

So my character couldn’t accept another’s handshake until almost the 20th century. They could, of course, shake hands, clasp hands, etc. Sigh. Are you seeing a trend? I do! People came up with ways to shorten the phrasing to save time and space. Think how we use acronyms/initialisms and emojis today. All to say more in less space. We’re continuing an historical language evolution, my friends.

I was surprised also by the number of words I think of as “theatrical” that were anachronistic for the 1700s. I’ll talk more about those next week. Until then!

Betty

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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! Clip-Clop and Horses in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

I love horses, and one of the reasons I enjoy writing historical fiction is because of the horses used for transportation and friendship. I started riding horses as a kid myself, my oldest brother taking me on my first trail ride when in middle school. I’ve read just about every horse book I could get my hands on, Misty of Chincoteague and Black Beauty my two all-time favorites! When I think of horseback riding, I think of brushing down the horse, then putting the appropriate tack on, and mounting up. All typical terminology for the sport.

So imagine my surprise when I was checking words for Emily’s Vow and realized I couldn’t even use “clip-clop” in my story. Then I found out I couldn’t use Thoroughbred, either. Plus a couple more. So I had to improvise. I had to rise to meet the word choice challenge!

First, let’s talk about the breed Thoroughbred. I mean, I know the line reached back to three stallions from the 17th-18th centuries, and thus the breed name must reach back just as far. Not so. Here’s what the OED has to say:

2. Of a horse: Of pure breed or stock; spec. applied to a race-horse whose pedigree for a given number of generations is recorded in the studbook. Also of a dog, bull, etc.

1796 J. Lawrence Treat. Horses iv. 166 Thorough-bred hacks are the most docile and quiet, and the least liable to shy.    1825 N. H. Smith Breeding for Turf 5 The pedigree of Eclipse affords a singular illustration of the descent of our thorough-bred horses from pure Eastern blood.    1840–70 D. P. Blaine Encycl. Rur. Sports §930 The term thorough-bred, as relating to a horse‥is neither critically nor conventionally definite.    1856 Farmer’s Mag. Jan. 29 There are some men who prefer the cross-bred animal—the best I believe to be between the Hampshire Down and Cotswold; but‥I must give a decided preference to the thorough-bred.    1887 Sir R. H. Roberts In the Shires i. 18 Mounted upon a thoroughbred‥bay mare.

Remember that my A More Perfect Union historical romance series is set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution, so late 1770s to 1783. So the line of horses that would ultimately become known as Thoroughbreds were not called that during the time period of my story. So what were they called? A good question without a simple answer. Trust me, I wish it had been a simple answer!

One of my historical references mentioned that a pair of “thoroughbreds” was on a ship from England that landed at Charleston immediately after the fighting ended there in 1782. But the use of the word in that context was by a modern-day historian so didn’t answer my question. On one of my research trips to that wonderful city (if you ever have chance to go, I highly recommend it!) I went to the Historical Society and looked up the specific newspaper reference mentioned in my secondary source. There I found that while they didn’t use “Thoroughbred,” they did use “thorough bred” horses at the time of my stories. That was close enough to present-day lingo that my readers would know exactly what kind of horses I meant, and yet stay true to the time period.

As for clip-clop, let’s take a minute to think about this rather onomatopoeic word. Clip, clop, clip, clop. Isn’t that the sound of a horse walking on a hard surface? We all can hear that, right? Or is it just me? But apparently that’s a relatively recent addition to the OED:

Clip-a-clap, clip-clop

Imitations of sounds of alternating rhythm.

1863 M. Howitt F. Bremer’s Greece II. xvii. 169 Thy slippers make a clip-a-clap.    1884 Anstey Giant’s Robe xxxix, From the streets below came up the constant roll of wheels and clip-clop of hoofs from passing broughams.

Hence {clip-clop} v. intr., (esp. of hoofs) to make such a sound; occas. trans.

1927 H. V. Morton In Search of England iii. 57 The fishermen clip-clopped over the stones in thigh boots.    Ibid. v. 93 The donkeys‥clip-clop up the cobbles.    1947 K. Cameron Sound & Documentary Film i. 10 The characteristic sound of hooves of dray horses clip-clopping along the cobbled street.    1948 D. Welch Voice through Cloud (1950) xxii. 179 [Matron] clip-clopped away, complaining to herself.    1963 R. H. Morrieson Scarecrow (1964) i. 2 In our little town a horse would clip-clop along‥the main street at noonday.    1978 N.Y. Times 30 Mar. c16/2 Slamming a‥door, clipclopping coconut shells and shuffling shoes.

So there I was stuck for several minutes trying to think how to describe the sound of the hooves on the cobblestones in Charleston. The ring of hooves on stone? Or a thudding sound? Both possible. Ultimately, I decided my readers were savvy people who could imagine for themselves the sound of a horse’s hooves walking on a hard surface and left out mentioning it specifically. (You are all that smart, right? Of course you are!)

Other words I wanted to use but the OED dissuaded me from include “tack” to mean the apparatus used to ride a horse (saddle, bridle, etc.); “hoofbeat” which the OED doesn’t list separately but that the online dictionary says was first recorded in 1840-50. And finally in Samantha’s Secret, I wanted to describe the horses as being “ribby” from lack of feed and fodder, but nope. The OED squashed any hope of using that word in any sense in my 18th-century story:

1. Full of ribs; having prominent ribs. Also fig., suggestive of or resembling ribs.

1849 Florist 50 Yellow [dahlia], tipped with white; constant, but ribby.    1851 H. Melville Moby Dick II. xv. 129 In bony, ribby regions of the earth.    1924 C. E. Montague Right Place ix. 122 All sorts of ribby ridges and intercostal hollows dropping down from that spine to the water-line on each side.    1934 T. Wood Cobbers viii. 101 The homesteads, iron roofed and set about with ribby water-butts.    1970 Daily Tel. 7 May 17/1 The fortunes of Courtaulds were founded in Victorian times on black crêpe,‥a ribby material widows and mourners wore.    1977 ‘H. Osborne’ White Poppy xv. 118 The horses‥were miserable creatures, ribby and pathetic.

2. slang. Dirty, shabby; seedy, run-down; unpleasant, nasty.

1936 J. Curtis Gilt Kid 33 Nearby was a little café.‥ Ribby kind of a gaff, but I might as well go in.    1976 P. Alexander Death of Thin-Skinned Animal xx. 207 She lived at the ribby end of Maida Vale.    1977 M. Russell Dial Death i. iv. 28 ‘How are—things?’ ‘Ribby’.

So, I just had to state outright that the ribs showed on the horses, rather than using it as an adjective. Some would argue that avoiding adjectives and adverbs is a good thing, but it also adds more words to the sentence. Sometimes it’s cleaner to employ a helpful descriptor.

All in all, with each rabbit hole of word sleuthing I’ve gone down, I’ve learned a little more about how technology and perception have changed over time. We’ve just dipped our toes, so to speak, into this topic with more fun to come.

Next time I’ll look at a few playground types of activities we take for granted today that couldn’t happen several centuries ago.

Betty

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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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