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Historical Dialogue

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Bostonduchess
Scribbler
Currently reading: The Duchess
Interest in HF: Growing up in historic New England town, close to Boston and sea coast
Favorite HF book: The Physick Book of Deliverence Dane
Preferred HF: Eighteenth century, fantasy
Location: Portsmouth, Nh

Historical Dialogue

Postby Bostonduchess » Tue February 14th, 2017, 2:29 pm

What do you all prefer reading in an HF novel? Accurate dialogue pertinent to the era of the piece, or modern dialogue? I've read books with both and they serve their purposes. I think I prefer antiquated dialogue myself because I feel modern dialogue takes me right out of the period.

What are your thoughts???

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Misfit » Tue February 14th, 2017, 10:49 pm

I don't mind period dialog, but I've seen some go way over the top and can't understand what characters are saying. The forsoothly stuff is annoying.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 14th, 2017, 11:55 pm

The question can only be applied to a very narrow slice of time and location. Most of the globe doesn't speak English, and most of history, English wasn't understandable in the current sense.

So unless the novel is set in the last 100 years in England, America, Canada or Australia, it has to be translated so that a modern reader will understand not just the words, but the meanings attached. I don't mind a few odd or foreign words that apply to the time/place so long as the context is very clear and it gives flavor. But Dorothy Dunnett's novels, for instance, go way over the top in this area. Had they been less well-plotted, all the period/foreign terms would have gotten them wallbanged. And they were frustrating enough as it was.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 14th, 2017, 11:57 pm

Now Clavell's Shogun. on the other hand, is a stellar example of introducing unknown words in context. I read it not knowing a shred of Japanese, and throughout the story there were no phrases or dialog used that was not perfectly clear in the context of the story.
my facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/emilylaurencotton are public, generally things I find amusing.
my passions: fair trade, ending slavery, and justice.
"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." Will Rogers
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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Margaret » Sun March 5th, 2017, 7:12 am

I'm pretty tolerant of a wide range of styles. As Emily points out, once you go back more than a century or so, a novelist's asking a lot of a reader (and of him/herself) by making the language too faithful to the actual language of the time. Ever tried to read Chaucer in the original Middle English? It can be done, by a patient reader with a facility for languages, but it's a slow process, and some of the words really do require a glossary. I rather like the slangy English Ruth Downie and Lindsay Davis use in their Ancient Roman detective mysteries - it feels more authentic to me, actually, because I think the characters would have been using a slangy sort of Latin. But I also like the very authentic Regency slang in Georgette Heyer's novels, even though I don't always understand what it means.
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Mythica
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Currently reading: Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell
Preferred HF: European and American (mostly pre-20th century)
Location: Colorado
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Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Mythica » Sun March 5th, 2017, 7:15 pm

MLE (Emily Cotton) wrote:The question can only be applied to a very narrow slice of time and location. Most of the globe doesn't speak English, and most of history, English wasn't understandable in the current sense.

So unless the novel is set in the last 100 years in England, America, Canada or Australia, it has to be translated so that a modern reader will understand not just the words, but the meanings attached. I don't mind a few odd or foreign words that apply to the time/place so long as the context is very clear and it gives flavor. But Dorothy Dunnett's novels, for instance, go way over the top in this area. Had they been less well-plotted, all the period/foreign terms would have gotten them wallbanged. And they were frustrating enough as it was.


These were my thoughts too, although I'd say you could go back a little further than 100 years and English would still be legible to the modern reader. 100 years ago was only 1917, and English was still pretty much the same in the 19th century too. There would certainly be some outdated words and phrases but you'd probably be able to surmise what they mean based on the context. People still read Jane Austen without translations, right? It's not like the middle ages with Old English which is a completely different language. Even Shakespeare is difficult to understand without help/editors notes.

I generally just don't want to see any obviously modern words or phrases. As long as there's nothing that sticks out as modern and pulls me out of the story, I'm usually good with it.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun March 5th, 2017, 8:56 pm

Mythica wrote:
These were my thoughts too, although I'd say you could go back a little further than 100 years and English would still be legible to the modern reader. 100 years ago was only 1917, and English was still pretty much the same in the 19th century too. There would certainly be some outdated words and phrases but you'd probably be able to surmise what they mean based on the context. People still read Jane Austen without translations, right? It's not like the middle ages with Old English which is a completely different language. Even Shakespeare is difficult to understand without help/editors notes.

I generally just don't want to see any obviously modern words or phrases. As long as there's nothing that sticks out as modern and pulls me out of the story, I'm usually good with it.

You're right, 100 years is too narrow. I do renaissance re-enacting and my guild had to change our copy of King Henry's 'Great Bible' that we have as a display piece for some pages of John Wycliffe's version from the late 1300's, because patrons didn't find the 'King James' English 'historical feeling' enough. And although the spelling for wycliffe was all over the map, and the word choices odd, it was still understandable.
my facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/emilylaurencotton are public, generally things I find amusing.
my passions: fair trade, ending slavery, and justice.
"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." Will Rogers
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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Madeleine » Tue March 14th, 2017, 2:01 pm

One of my current reads has it's historical section in the 1860s, and often mentions the hallway, and one of the characters said she wanted "to speak with you". Annoyed me! :x
Currently reading "The Hanging Tree" by Ben Aaronovitch

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby SGM » Tue March 14th, 2017, 10:39 pm

MLE (Emily Cotton) wrote: It's not like the middle ages with Old English which is a completely different language. Even Shakespeare is difficult to understand without help/editors notes.

I generally just don't want to see any obviously modern words or phrases. As long as there's nothing that sticks out as modern and pulls me out of the story, I'm usually good with it.


I wish someone had told my A' Level Board that Middle English is a completely different language and then I wouldn't have had to read Troilus and Cryseyde! (At least one Chaucer text was compulsory in my day--I don't know if it still is). Actually Middle English is managable with some work, Old English is a different matter. However, having recently been involved in dicyphering some Elizabethan documents, even though the real difficulty is the handwriting and abbreviations, all the words are recognizable but the meanings of the phrases definitely is not and I am talking about documents at the highest level. The clarity of English we get today didn't start until the end of the seventeenth century with Defoe. Heyer was heavily influenced by the cant Dickens used for some of his characters, even if this came from a period slightly later than the setting for her 'Regency' novels. The King James version was hugely influential in the development of the language we speak today and many of our modern terms come from it (David Crystal is very vocal on that) which is possibly why some might not find it historical enough -- but it depends on which period of history you wish to reflect.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Madeleine » Wed March 15th, 2017, 9:52 am

We did Chaucer in my day - the Knight's Tale - and once I got into the rhythm of the language, and got used to it, I actually really enjoyed it. Not sure what I'd make of it now though!

And the book I've just finished also kept using "gotten"..... :x in Victorian England!
Currently reading "The Hanging Tree" by Ben Aaronovitch


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