Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Changing Vocabulary

I bought this book some time ago because I always wanted to write historicals. However, it took a while before I had the nerve to do it. English is constantly evolving with new words being added and old words falling out of use. I bought English Through the Ages to ensure that I did not have my characters speaking words that would not have been invented during the time period in which the story is taking place. dictionary.com also gives the dates that most words were in use and I often use it just to be sure because it's quick.

Nevertheless, I believe that reading the lists of words in English Through the Ages for the time period during which my novel is set gives me a better idea of what life was like then--what was new, fresh, and contemporary.

For instance, the word cerulean was born about 1670. I love that color. Ethereal was also in use at that time as well as jaded. Wonderful descriptive words!

Transmogrify was in use by 1660. That would be terrific for a paranormal.

Then there's homemade. Homemade was in use by 1660. That surprised me. I would have thought almost everything at that point was homemade. I guess Mom's homemade biscuits have always tasted better than the ones that anyone else makes.

So if you're going to write historical fiction, I strongly suggest you get a copy of English Through the Ages.

1 comment:

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Sounds like a fun read. I adored my all of those sorts of classes when I was an English major. I still have two dictionaries of etymology that I use often. I'm such a geek! :)