Last night, when I was in the midst of a futile attempt to fall asleep, my mind was going through the things that I needed to research for my current WIP. Instead of making a mental list of things to research, my train of thought was on formulating what I hoped would be the most efficient search terms to input into Google. I then began to ponder the use of google as a verb, Google (noun) versus google (verb).
How often have you heard the phrases, “I’ll google it” or “Just google it”? No one ever says “I’ll yahoo it” or “I’ll bing it” or even “I’ll alta vista it” does that one still even exist? I might google it to find out… Nope, according to Wikipedia, AltaVista was popular until Google came along, then it was brought by Yahoo! and eventually shut down in 2013. Thanks Google!
Somewhere in recent history, approximately in the last ten years or so, the name of the popular internet search engine Google came into common usage a verb and was even included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Just like all verbs, the word is slightly changed depending on whether it is used in past, present or future tense, for example “googled” (past) or “googling” (present).
This got me thinking, not only has there been many words introduced to the English language throughout history, perhaps even more so in recent times, but also got me wondering how much of this do we need to take into account when writing historical fiction? Of course there’s the obvious things like not mentioning the name of any modern technology, in say, a 17th century novel. Yet there is much more to consider as well, especially if you want to attempt any element of historical accuracy. The work may fall into the genre of historical fiction, however there needs to be at least a certain amount of historical accuracy I think., especially if you wish to convey a certain world to your readers, a world of a different place and time.
I remember a while back (gosh it seems like a lifetime ago), I was working on a particular scene in Lonely Hearts and I decided it would be more engaging and believable for the character in question with a little coarse language. Just a little and nothing over the top. I wrote a paragraph, with the language included and then began to wonder whether the words I had included were even in popular usage in the early 1930s. I really had no idea how long the words had been in usage, certainly they had been around all of my life and I was guessing my parents’ as well, but were they used in the early 1930s? So I googled it (there’s that word again!) “The history of swear words” is one of my more interesting search terms and actually came up with a lot of useful information and some hilarious swear words from so long ago that not many people alive would have even heard of them, I certainly hadn’t.
The point I am trying to make, is that language -all languages that is, not just the English language, is constantly evolving, there are many words in use now that were not even conceived fifty years ago, twenty years ago, maybe even five years ago. However, as language has evolved and new words became common usage, how many words have been forgotten and lost over the years? No longer in use, so they cease to exist.
So what does this have to do with writing historical fiction? If we want our work to truly represent the time period it is set in and to immerse our readers into a different time and place, then we need to find the right words. I’m not saying that the whole novel has to be written in “Ye Olde English”, if that’s what was spoken at the time, because that might become a little annoying and hard for the reader to understand. However, finding the right words is just as useful as ensuring you’re not using the wrong words – if that makes any sense at all. Ensure that the words that you use, are representative if the characters and the time in which the story is set, as this will help convey the time in which the story is set and what kind of world in which the characters live.
So as I go off to try and meet my word count goal for this month (I’m just over half way!), I hope that I am able to find the right words, if not perhaps googling it will help me or help me procrastinate…..
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