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 Anachronisms 
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Post Anachronisms
Anachronisms

I started to put this in the "Fiction-Literary Irritations" thread but gave it its own Fiction thread because it might stimulate more than a few comments. Susan, if I have misjudged this, let me know and I will relocate.

One serious speed-bump to me is reading a term that just doesn’t sound right in that time period. I find it difficult to confirm or deny whether the term is an anachronism or not because of several problems. First, if the novel is British, there is the culture difference for me as an American. It might be an anachronism in the US but not in the UK. Second, research on the Internet is sometimes poor on many such subjects. Thirdly, some words change meanings over the years and trying to confirm as an anachronism is more difficult.

As an example, I am currently reading "A Matter of Honor" by William C. Hammond and found the following on page 49.

"They met Katherine at the stables. She was dressed in a dark green riding jacket, white linen shirt, brown leather boots, and a pair of light tan culottes designed to resemble a skirt but which in fact were trousers." Note: Katherine is a young English woman living in Fareham, England in 1774.

The best I can find is that the term "culottes" did exist prior to 1774 but was a term used for men’s clothing. The French Revolutionary description of "sans-culottes" comes to mind. The information on-line seems to indicate that "culottes" as split skirts for women dates from mid-19th century. This would seem to indicate that the use of culottes here is an anachronism, but how accurate is the Internet information?

The fact that a young English woman of marriageable age is riding as a man rather than side-saddle is puzzling to me too. Is this out of place? I don’t even know how to check this.

Don


Fri Nov 16, 2007 6:17 pm
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Don,

Funny you mention this particular book. I was at the book store and was skimming through it. I decided not to buy it because the parts I read felt "wrong." It's probably unfair to judge it on a quick glance, but reading your comments back up my first impression. I ended up buying the S. Thomas Russell novel instead.

One thing that sort of jumped out at me was the use of the f-word. Maybe this is why I'm not all that keen on the Lambdin books either. I'm not a prude and I'm not bothered by the language on moral grounds. I have been wondering whether it was actually used as a swear word at the time.

Certainly, it appears in books from the time period. I remember reading a poem in Restoration & 18th c. literature class in college...can't remember who it was by at the moment...but it contained the f- and s-words. However, they were used to describe the acts, rather than as profanity. From the books I have read, blasphemous swearing seemed to have more of an impact.

Anyway, I would be interested if anyone has any concrete references one way or the other.

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susan


Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:09 pm
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I think I mentioned this in another thread, but one anachronism that sticks with me is from William Mack's Captain Kilburnie. He has a character yelling, "Right full rudder!" :shock:

Orders to the Helm/Rudder

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susan


Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:54 pm
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susan wrote:
... One thing that sort of jumped out at me was the use of the f-word.... I have been wondering whether it was actually used as a swear word at the time....From the books I have read, blasphemous swearing seemed to have more of an impact.
My reading experience jibes with yours concerning the f-word. I haven't run into this in this particular book yet but using the f-word as swearing would seem an anachronism to me. It certainly would make me stop and do some research since it would not sound right to me either.

Don


Fri Nov 16, 2007 10:01 pm
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A rough and ready way of researching anachronisms is to use the word or phrase in question as a search term in Google Books (using the Full View option to get results for older out of copyright books). As the publication dates appear in the search results, this can be quite a good indication.

Remember that the long 's', although slightly different, usually incorrectly transcribes to an 'f', so, for example, you have to search for: "sailing navies" OR "failing navies"

And of course bear in mind the long 's' transcription when searching for f-words!

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Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:18 pm
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Tony wrote:
Remember that the long 's', although slightly different, usually incorrectly transcribes to an 'f', so, for example, you have to search for: "sailing navies" OR "failing navies"




.... I come across them all the time reading The Times - I especially like reading about the "russians" ... it always makes me smile: the ruffian russians :)

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Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:27 pm
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Susan,

You're absolutely right about this use of the F-word being an anachronism in 1774. That usage didn't come in until the late C19th. As you say, in the C18th-mid C19th, cursing was of the blasphemous rather than the pornographic variety. "Damn!" was considered quite rude enough, but if you really wanted to shock you might go as far as "God damn it!"

A mistake one or two American authors seem make is thinking that while US English has evolved since 1776, UK English has remained perfectly static, therefore any term of abuse they hear on an Englishman's lips must have been around since the Year Dot. A book I read recently - I shan't embarass the author by naming it - set during the early C18th had one character call another a "git"...about two hundred years before the word was first coined!

I'm not a prude either (I hope), but why descend to coarse C20th profanity when the most cursory study of historical slang reveals a wealth of terms that are not only colourful, but you can use with impunity when the vicar comes round for tea?


Sun Feb 03, 2008 10:23 pm
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First post, so sorry if I break any rules.
I have noticed that Patrick O'Brian, normally rather careful about anachronisms, does use the F word occasionally. (One instance when a young boy obstructs officers on their way through the gun deck, he is pulled out of the way by an older seaman, and told to watch his F'ing manners...)
In writing historical fiction myself I am always aware how some things can appear to be out of time, or just plain "wrong", which are, in fact, right. Nelson was often referred to as Horace by friends, early frigates used the gunroom as the wardroom, and using "electric", as an adjective at the end of the eighteenths century is quite acceptable, even though it might appear too early.

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Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:44 pm
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Hi Badger,

Welcome to the SN Forum!

Please feel free to jump into any thread, or, start a new one.

I do wonder if the choice of profanity is a conscious one to appeal to modern readers. As Dan pointed out in his post, a word like "damn" would have been shocking in those days. Now, it doesn't have as much of an effect.

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susan


Sat Oct 11, 2008 6:46 pm
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susan wrote:




I do wonder if the choice of profanity is a conscious one to appeal to modern readers.

As Dan pointed out in his post, a word like "damn" would have been shocking in those days. Now, it doesn't have as much of an effect.





...... I cannot say that it "appeals" much to me; in fact, it does the opposite... but then I don't live in a man's world at sea at that time, but I think, perhaps Dan does have a point, and in any event, you don't see Marryat coming up with THE word, even if was used or not.

p.s. ...welcome from me, too, Badger!



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Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:45 am
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Just browsing old threads...
With respect to language & if it's acceptable for the time period, here's a very cool website someone directed me to when I mentioned I didn't know if I could use certain words... Very handy! :)
One thing I learned which was interesting, (& required changing some dialogue!) was that "strategy" dates from about 1810, whereas "stratagem" is listed as 1489! I'd have thought they'd be much more closely related in time.
I wonder -- without the worldwide information network that we have today, how long were words in use before they made their way into a dictionary...?

Etymology Online
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php

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Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:01 pm
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Badger wrote:
... some things can appear to be out of time, or just plain "wrong", which are, in fact, right. Nelson was often referred to as Horace by friends...
Alaric, as a British author, I know that you have resources beyond what I have so could you share with us where you found the information that Horatio Nelson was referred to as Horace by his friends. And the reason that it was done? I am currently reading a novel by another author that uses Horace and wondered.

Susan, maybe this needs to be moved to the Nelson thread but I wanted to post here until Mr. Bond replied.

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Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:01 am
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Post Re: Anachronisms
Hi Don

Beware the quick reply! From memory, he was christened Horace, and used that name for the first few years of his life. Some family members and close friends addressed him as such, but I have not looked up my references. I will, and shall post again shortly.

Jim

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Post Re: Anachronisms
Nelson was privately baptised at the age of 10 days. His sponsors were the Reverend Doctor Horace Hammond (married to a cousin of Nelson's mother) and Horace, Lord Walpole. (Sugden). Consequently, he was named "Horace".

Nelson began to use the name Horatio in 1777. A brother born earlier was named Horatio but had died in infancy. (Knight).


Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:56 am
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Post Re: Anachronisms
Thanks, Ionia.

In a letter to Nelson from William Locker dated 17th March 1797 he is addressed as Horace, so the name was clearly still used by some even that late into his life.

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