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Historical Dialogue

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Mythica
Bibliophile
Preferred HF: European and American (mostly pre-20th century)
Location: Colorado
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Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Mythica » Wed March 15th, 2017, 3:24 pm

Madeleine wrote: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


According to dictionary.com, "hallway" dates to around the 1870s, so 1860s isn't that far off. However, it does say it's decidedly an American word and I don't know where this novel is set.

I never really considered the phrase "to speak with you" might be modern though?

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Madeleine » Thu March 16th, 2017, 9:56 am

Interesting about "hallway", the book is set in Whitby (as in Dracula fame) and the author is English.

Maybe "speak with you" has been around in the US for a long time, but it's only recently that it seems to have made it's way into UK dialogue, it's always been "speak to you" or "have a word with you".
Currently reading "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby SGM » Sat March 18th, 2017, 1:55 pm

Madeleine wrote: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!

Actually, quite a lot of the British academic texts I have read from the 19th Century use 'gotten' quite frequently. I think we Brits lost the use of it in the 20th century. I know it grates and immediately reveals the nationality of the writer because I don't think it gets used because it is old but because it is in normal usage where that writer comes from.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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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) » Sat March 18th, 2017, 4:25 pm

Curious about 'gotten'. It's quite common in Shakespeare and the KJV--and in American usage. I had no idea it wasn't used in the UK any more.
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RLStevenson
Newbie
Currently reading: The Last of the Mohicans
Interest in HF: Ancient history initially sparked my interest in historical fiction. I've been recreationally studying ancient histories since grade school - this led to my passion for archaeology. So, naturally, I turned to historical fiction. While I don't mind a good historical romance (I love Jane Austin), adventures are my favorite.
Favorite HF book: The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses
Preferred HF: I love books set in almost all historical time periods, but ancient (before the common era), medieval, and 19th century are my favorites.
Location: California

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby RLStevenson » Sat March 18th, 2017, 6:40 pm

MLE (Emily Cotton) wrote:
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.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fxy6ZaMOq8
I thought this video was relevant about how far back you could go and still understand English. Personally, I love period dialogue. Even if it isn't necessarily accurate (for example, 16/17th century dialogue in a book set in the Early Middle Ages), it really sets a mood. One of my favorite authors, Robert Louis Stevenson, uses dialogue to great effect in setting a mood and giving characters personality. Treasure Island and The Black Arrow are two great examples. The dialogue is still understandable but really immerses you in the time period.

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby SGM » Wed March 22nd, 2017, 6:18 am

Hmm, as mentioned once you get to Defoe everything is plain sailing. He was one of the earliest examples of a new clarity in written English. With regard to Shakespeare, as someone put it to me a while ago, we are brought up (in the UK, at least) bi-lingual (in English and Shakespeare). But try reading Jonson's Bartholomew Fair and you might find it a lot more difficult. Also try reading letters written at the beginning of the seventeenth century and although you will recognise all the words, you might find it a lot less easy understanding the intent. This is particularly the case of documents not produced for publication and if you have to work with these, it is a fairly time-consuming process. I have fewer problems with seventeenth-century French.

Use of 'gotten' in a novel immediately indicates to us on this side of the Pond that the the writer is not from these shores and tends to detract when the dialogue is supposed to be set here. It kind of jumps off the page at you.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Madeleine » Wed March 22nd, 2017, 10:21 am

I've come across the use of the word "gotten" by writers who are British, and are writing books set in Britain, so I wonder if they just use this word themselves, or they're putting it in to appeal to the US market? Just a thought.
Currently reading "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby SGM » Wed March 22nd, 2017, 10:57 pm

You might, without knowing it, be reading a novel prepared for the US market. With so many backlists now being republished as e-books, you rarely know which version was used. Many UK novels are 'Americanized' for sale there. Some writers, such as Claire Rayner, refuse to allow this. I don't know whether it has any great affect on sales. As far as I know, the UK readers aren't bothered by the language difference so few books are 'Anglicized'.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby Madeleine » Thu March 23rd, 2017, 9:24 am

Yes you could well be right, I thought the same thing myself.
Currently reading "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey

tdkerst
Scribbler
Currently reading: Lincoln in the Bardo
Interest in HF: I'm writing a historical novel set during the Irish Famine in the 1840s
Favorite HF book: The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl
Preferred HF: 19th century New York
Location: Lower Hudson Valley, New York

Re: Historical Dialogue

Postby tdkerst » Sat March 25th, 2017, 3:30 am

This a question I'm mindful of as I write a historical novel set in the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Much of the dialog is in the rural dialect of the local region. Traces of that distinctive dialect still survive in the region today. Like reading the local Dorset dialect in Thomas Hardy English novels, though, it takes some time for the modern ear to acclimate to the speech. Yet, as with Hardy's novels, within twenty pages or so it becomes familiar enough for a modern reader. The regional dialect provides a local flavor that authenticates the characters and sets them apart from the Anglo-Irish class that lords it over them, a dichotomy central to the theme of the story.
Certain Irish idioms and dialect words like "acushla," a term of endearment meaning "pulse of my heart," can be explained in a glossary--preferably in a sidebar notation alongside the line on the page where they appear.


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