Monday, May 16, 2011

Old and new

Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait, W...There are some words (handset, kablooie) that are clearly unfit for a story set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603). But there are lots more that are ambiguous.

I've run a few of the words I'm most worried about through the OED to see if my fears are groundless or justified. Any that have lacked a definitive answer from the OED, I've used a concordance of Shakespeare as a back-up. There are some real surprises in the list - chuckle fercrissakes. Language is a constant torment and a lesson.

If the words were in use before 1608 I've deemed them safe. Later than that and they are ruled out. This has been a really useful exercise and lots of fun, its made me think about how I use some words and will make me think of different ways to say some things.

desperation (1366)
lunatic (1290)
drugged (1758)
ambition (1340)
concotion (1531 - but only of digestion. 1851 to describe a mixture)
chuckle (1743)
laboratory (1592 - in Dee's own work!)
shy (1791)
dotage (1386)
spindrift (1614 - of spray)
conversation (1340 - to mean living among others. 1830 - specifically as talk)
expansive (1651)
drugged (1758)
rug (1547 - a coarse woollen cloth)
nightgown (1475 - a loose gown worn over night clothes)
abashed (1425)
conscious (1651)
chatter (1851)
embarrassed (1683)
regularity (1600)
truncheon (1400)
bustle (1637)
fret (1556)
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Mike Keyton said...

I was surprised to learn 'Garbage' is to be found in Shakespeare. The reason why we associate it with Americanese is that they preserved alot of our sixteenth century words

markb said...

Not once but twice. In Cymbeline and Hamlet. Lordy. Now I'm paranoid about all the language in that story.