I’ve been writing in the Regency world lately, that time when George the IV of England was the Prince Regent while his father slipped into madness. But alas, while producing a 400-page manuscript, words often find their way in that are, shall we say, too young?
Words like twit, meaning nonsensical person, sounds old but actually came into being in 1934 and into common usage in the 1950s. So my 1818 hero cannot call someone a twit. Twaddle, which is the nonsense the twit might spout, was actually found back in the 1500s. If I wanted to use that word, I could. Twistical—which I added here because it sounded good —is used in my manuscript. It means unfair and was an American euphemism used as far back as the Colonial period.
Euphemisms, used here as substitute words or phrases, can catch a historical writer “with his pants down” if the writer isn’t careful. That’s a crude phrase, but you get my meaning.
So what were a few others in my hastily edited manuscript which thankfully hasn’t yet been published?
Two left feet
Bug (as in “bug him”)
That went well…not.
These are the words and phrases my editor found (thank heaven for editors), and I have to admit I even found a few of my own which were marginal, but too modern for my Regency manuscript.
No shrinking violet, meaning “not modest” was used in the 1870s. I took it out.
Fire-away, as in “go ahead and ask your question” seemed modern to me, so I removed it, although I admit I couldn’t find an origin for this one.
I also looked hard at whether or not my heroine would have a dance card, a small paper where men wishing to dance with a lady sign their names. There is some controversy among Regency writers about whether dance cards existed that early, or came later during Victorian times. I took it out because in 1818 the pencil was just being invented and I couldn’t imagine someone bringing ink and quill to a ball.
At one point my hero winks. Was that a thing? Jane Austen says yes. She has characters who wink. I left that in.
Writing has enough perils, but I created even more for myself when I decided to write about twins separated as infants: one American and quite democratic; one English and quite aristocratic. They had to speak and act differently. Gah!
I’m sure my editor and I will both find more of these little darlings during the second round of edits. Hopefully, not too many. If you want to see how I did, Scandal’s Deception will be a Soulmate summer release.
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