Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Language

Got a question/comment about the creative process of writing? Post it here!
annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Sun November 3rd, 2013, 6:16 am

Another point to consider if using words from another language to add atmosphere to a historical novel is the need to be familiar with that language or else have the work vetted by someone who is. I remember wall-banging a book set in Renaissance France that was liberally sprinkled with French words and phrases so incorrect it would have been laughable if it hadn't been so darned annoying.
Last edited by annis on Sun November 3rd, 2013, 6:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Post by EC2 » Sun November 3rd, 2013, 12:19 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Writers seem to forget that a story is for the reader, not the characters. That's why oral storytelling keeps me anchored in that very important fact: try telling a story where the audience walks away![/quote]

Your coment MLE and Rosemary Sutcliff's wise words hit the nail on the head for me. That work you gave us the link to Rowan, is an interesting experiment, but I think will only find a minute, niche market. I hope he's got the right idioms and dialect for Hereward's area of England at the time!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5668
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper & "A Christmas Railway Mystery" by Edward Marston
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Mon November 4th, 2013, 7:39 pm

I'm enjoying A Great and Terrible Beauty, but some of the language....would a Victorian headmistress have referred to someone as "your new room-mate"? Or on joining the school, say (admittedly with a touch of sarcasm) that she was joining "the Spence family" (Spence is the name of the school).?
Currently reading "The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper & "A Christmas Railway Mystery" by Edward Marston

User avatar
wendy
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 592
Joined: September 2010
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Contact:

Post by wendy » Thu May 1st, 2014, 1:25 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""]I'm enjoying A Great and Terrible Beauty, but some of the language....would a Victorian headmistress have referred to someone as "your new room-mate"? Or on joining the school, say (admittedly with a touch of sarcasm) that she was joining "the Spence family" (Spence is the name of the school).?[/quote]

This is an interesting issue and something HF writers struggle with all the time. To answer your immediate question, the word "room-mate" has been around since 1770 (according to Merriam-Webster) and joining "the Spence family" does not seem an inappropriate statement. However, the fact that it jars you as a reader is an unfortunate problem! This particular book was published by Random House so will have been thoroughly screened for inappropriate modern language by one of the editorial staff (the major advantage of not self-publishing).

My own pirate book was criticized for using the word "ditty bag" which an ill-informed reviewer claims was a term not used until c 1860. She presumably checked Merriam-Webster, who based their assumption on the first written evidence appearing in Admiral Smith's book of 1867. However, I had carried out a much more extensive search, finally coming across an article by Louie Bartos (Master Sail-maker) who traces the origin back to the Oxford English Dictionary's reference to the similarly-used word "dight," common in general speech since at least 1580. So even M-W doesn't always get things right!

As readers we demand the language stay as authentic as possible. As writers we try our best to accommodate.

Perhaps the other writers out there can explain how they approach this tricky issue?
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
http://www.wendyperriman.com
http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

User avatar
Lisa
Bibliophile
Posts: 1153
Joined: August 2012
Favourite HF book: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
Preferred HF: Any time period/location. Timeslip, usually prefer female POV. Also love Gothic melodrama.
Location: Northeast Scotland

Post by Lisa » Thu May 1st, 2014, 1:42 pm

[quote="Madeleine"]I'm enjoying A Great and Terrible Beauty, but some of the language....would a Victorian headmistress have referred to someone as "your new room-mate"? Or on joining the school, say (admittedly with a touch of sarcasm) that she was joining "the Spence family" (Spence is the name of the school).?[/quote]

"Room-mate" would jar me as a reader in this case because nowadays, I believe it's a predominantly American term (just checked and the book is set in England). Or we don't hear it much north of the border at least :p

CelticBlood64
Newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: January 2019
Currently reading: Just finished Chickenhawk, by Robert Mason
Interest in HF: My brother had a book with a striking cover about the battle of Agincourt. At that stage I couldn't read, however, just the visual image grabbed me. From then on, the imagery, manners, violence, wilder society in the natural sense, the heraldry, savagery, of the middle ages, has fascinated me
Favourite HF book: Two, Norah Lofts, The Suffolk trilogy, and, Time of the Unicorn, Barbara Jeffris
Preferred HF: Celtic history, any period.
Location: Australia

Re: Language

Post by CelticBlood64 » Thu January 31st, 2019, 9:44 am

That is what I do, largely. Why depict ancient events with a modern viewpoint and language. Seems to me to defeat the purpose. You are an inhabitant of the time ... that is what you are aiming for ... to become that time and place.

Post Reply

Return to “The Craft of Writing”