Words don’t

word

Kill.

But the wrong one can kill the story you’re reading.

If you write and or read historical novels like I do you might know what I mean.

Quite a few years ago I was reading a regency romance by a well-known author and enjoying the story. Until.

I came across the word ”tsunami”. Grabbing my smartphone I called up the Merriam-Webster Dictionary app and typed in the word. Not for the definition but to find the date it was first included. 1897. Oops. Somebody slipped up. Who? Don’t know. Don’t care. Just that one word kind of took me out of enjoying the rest of the book.

Several years ago I had written a regency romantic suspense and wanted to use the word “thug”. The story was set in 1812-1813 and my editor questioned me on the word. She was right, I couldn’t really use the word since its first use was 1810.

Even writing mysteries set in Los Angeles, CA in the 1940’s I have to be careful of my word choices. If I have a question about one I’ll look it up. I also have a wonderful editor who can catch them if I make a mistake.

So, the next time you pick up a book to read if you have a question about the word choice look it up. BTW- “ultrasound” was first used in 1923. But, does that mean I can use the word in a scene where the wife is having one done so the doctor can see the baby in utero? That calls for a trip down the research rabbit hole. Someday I’ll find out but not yet.

 

Advertisements