Sunday, January 21, 2007

Slang and stuff

WEATHER in the Phoenix Valley: Forty degrees and raining at 2pm. This is insane.

On to the topic of the day. When writing historical fiction, it's a bonus when you can find slang terms. For the first historical I wrote, it was harder because the characters spoke German and lived in England, slowly learning English, and man, that was nuts trying to accurately nail the process, while still writing the entire book in English.

On my second historical, which I'm just starting (yeah, we had a few paranormals in between), life is easier for two reasons. One, I grew up there and know the local dialect with Dutch influence, subtle as it may be (oh, knock it off). Two, a simple Google search brings up websites with slang of the 1920s...it's the berries (aka bee's knees or cat's pajamas)! Though getting used to the word "Bimbo" being used as a compliment (A tough guy) is a little difficult. Insert the word "Bimbo" into a book without proper context could have your readers scratching their heads.

"Bum's rush" today has shades of a sexual nature. In 1925, it meant to get kicked out of an establishment.

"Butt me" sounds, um.... but it was a common phrase referring to lighting up a cigarette, and a "Dick" was, of course, a private investigator.

If you write anything other than present day fiction, a great place to check your slang words is an etymology dictionary. I used it to check the word fink. Did that word exist in 1930? If so, how was it used?

But, as one wise commenter mentioned in the previous post, technology has come a long way in the past 20 years, and the language has changed along with it.

So writers, don't be a pill. Get on the trolley, or you'll be all wet.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling me about the "etymology dictionary", Lisa. Until now, I hadn't heard of it. A friend of mine uses a book called SLANG AS ITS SLUNG, but he writes NOIR fiction, which has a slang all its own! Take care...

Landru said...

Do I know you from somewhere? I used to know someone in the Phoenix valley, but she disappeared. Something about cereal milling. I dunno.

Lisa McMann said...

I'll have to check out that book, Holly -- sounds terrific.

landru! Hi, landru. Hi. It's me. Your favorite. I suppose I have to go and use the phone now...you know I hate the phone.
xo