Friday, July 31, 2009

A Note About Language

So, with the memorial service over and my melancholy hopefully shelved for awhile, I'm back to work on the 1794 vampire story. One thing I've noticed while working on this story (and oddly enough, more so than when working on the ancient Greek ones) is how careful one has to be when using language in a period piece.

For example, I wanted to write that the main character's gaze "was riveted to" something. Then I wondered, when did they start calling them rivets? And earlier, I wanted to use the phrase "pass the baton" but then couldn't be sure that anyone was running relay races in London at that time period.

In both instances it was easier to change the phrasing than to find out one way or another whether either would be anachronistic. But it does bring home the point that one must be constantly aware of one's use of language. Things that we take for granted - "riveted," "electric," etc, - are relatively recent additions to the general language, and can throw a more savvy reader out of the story if the writer isn't careful.

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