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

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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! 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

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

Let’s talk about those colloquialisms we all rely on in everyday conversation. Phrases we don’t necessarily know where they come from, what they actually mean, or how on earth anyone came up with them. I have five of them in mind to discuss today: “butterflies in my stomach,” “by-your-leave,” “get on my nerves,” “up-and-coming,” and “worth his salt.” Ready?

I’ll take them in order, starting with the idea of butterflies in someone’s stomach. I think we all know this is supposed to evoke the sense of a fluttering kind of disturbance one feels inside when nervous, anxious, or extremely curious perhaps. It’s often associated with falling in love, experiencing that initial attraction to someone else. I really love this phrase! However, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) won’t let me use it in my 1780s stories because the first citation of its use is in 1982. Again, that just means I had to be more creative with how I described my character’s reaction to her guy. Not a bad thing at all to be forced to invent something fresh and new rather than rely on pat phrases. But still, I really had wanted to use it! Sigh.

So now, “by-your-leave,” we’ll talk about that phrase. This phrase literally is “asking of permission” or “an expression of apology for not having asked permission.” It even has its own entry in the OED, which a lot of these phrases do not; they’re sub-definitions of another noun (the “butterflies” phrase was found under “butterfly,” for example). Here again, the first citation isn’t until 1914, so I couldn’t use that phrase even though it would likely be easily understood as to my meaning. Again, I’m a contemporary author telling a story about a previous era but using concepts and phrasing as close to what an actual person would use to create the most authentic reading experience I can. Given that I didn’t live in that day and age centuries ago, that is.

Now some of you may be thinking all of this “gets on your nerves,” and trust me, it can! But that phrase also didn’t become a “thing” until 1903 to mean “to (begin to) affect one with irritation, impatience, fear, or the like.” Now the word “nerve” (the main entry in the OED) has been in existence far longer, as in 1538, but not with this particular usage. So of course then I resorted to using “irritated” or “annoyed” instead. Easy enough to switch up to make the story move alone and yet be true to the times.

The next “up-and-coming” phrase has been around since 1889 to mean “active, alert, wide-awake, energetic” but I wanted the definition of “promising, making progress, beginning to achieve success” which didn’t enter the written language until 1926. Note that this phrase also has its own entry, which tells me it’s been used widely, despite being chiefly an Americanism.

Finally, any author “worth his salt” will recognize that understanding the evolution of the use and meaning of words and phrases is important. In this case, the definition I intended was that of “efficient or capable.” The OED includes this under the main noun entry of “salt” and notes that it is “usually with expressed or implied negative.” Either way, the first citation is 1830 in Marryat’s King’s Own with “The captain…is not worth his salt.”

I was curious how this phrase came to be, so I checked in Morris’ Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. Apparently, the Romans used to pay their soldiers partly in salt. Later, the salt was changed to be a monetary allowance in order buy their own salt, which is where the word salarium or “of salt” came from. Both “salt” and “salary” share the same Latin root, sal, meaning “salt.” Today, of course, this is known as a “salary.”

I hope you’re enjoying these little forays into the usage and the changing of the meanings associated with words and phrases. I totally admit to being a word geek! I love word games and playing with ways to say something mundane in a new way.

What common phrases do you use without understanding the origin? Can you name some? There are many associated with the advent and advances in technology—“hang up the phone” or “roll down the window” in a car being the first two to come to mind. I’m happy to help discover the inspiration for it if I can! Until next time!

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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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! 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

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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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!

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

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

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

Have you ever felt mesmerized by something or someone? Isn’t it an intriguing word to say, one that rolls right off the tongue? I know that was my go-to word when I drafted Emily’s Vow years ago. And yet, it’s not one that should be used in any historical fiction set in a time period prior to the early 1800s. I so wanted to use it but I also want to use words and concepts that my characters would use. Bear with me while I work through this little word choice puzzle. The result not only is enlightening but also makes my stories richer with a variety of vocabulary. Ready? Let’s dive in…

First you need to realize that “mesmerism” is, according to the OED:

The doctrine or system, popularized by Mesmer, according to which a hypnotic state, usually accompanied by insensibility to pain and muscular rigidity, can be induced by an influence (at first known as ‘animal magnetism’) exercised by an operator over the will and nervous system of the patient. b. The process or practice of inducing such hypnotic state; the state so induced. c. The influence supposed to operate. Cf. animal magnetism

Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer was an Austrian physician, born in 1734 and died in 1815. He lived in Vienna, Austria, in the mid-18th century. His belief in Animal Magnetism, otherwise known as Mesmerism, became the basis for the eventual development of what we call Hypnosis.

Here’s the tricky part about whether the concept behind a word can be used in my story or not. While Dr. Mesmer lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the verb “mesmerize” did not enter the written English language until 1829, again according to the OED:

trans. a. To subject (a person) to the influence of mesmerism. Also transf. and fig., to fascinate, spellbind.

1829 R. Chenevix in Lond. Med. & Phys. Jrnl. VI. 222, I mesmerised the patient through the door.    1863 A. E. Challice Heroes, etc. Time Louis XVI, II. 77 Dr. Mesmer found it impossible to mesmerize Dr. Franklin.

transf.    1862 H. Aïdé Carr of Carrl. I. 137 Carr would almost have forgotten her existence, had it not been for those eyes which mesmerised him every now and then, in spite of himself.

Since my usage of “mesmerize” would be the figurative sense of fascinate, not the literal,  I couldn’t have my 1780s character be saying or even thinking in such a mindset. Dang it! So I had to come up with alternatives. The OED suggests “fascinate” or “spellbind.” Fascinate entered the English language in the 16th century, so that one is fine. However, spellbind didn’t arrive until 1808, so I couldn’t use that one. “Enthrall” is another possibility, since it also shows in the historical record in the 17th century, 1656 to be exact.

See what I mean about having a variety of words to choose from? Depending on the underlying motifs and themes, enthrall (with its root “thrall” meaning “slave” or “slavery”) may be more appropriate than to spellbind or fascinate (given their relation to witchcraft and magic).

So with just a little word sleuthing, I can hint at other aspects of the plot and character development by literally putting the best word on the page. My go-to word, the one that first popped into my mind when I was drafting the story, didn’t exactly convey the meaning behind the concept I had in mind. Digging a bit deeper gave me better ideas for writing the best story in my power.

Next week I’m going to talk about my surprise when it came to describing horses in the 18th century. Who knew it could be so tricky?

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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