Conjuring Tricks

Molly_halloween Happy post-Halloween!
It’s Thursday, Jeudi, Jeuves, Giovedi, Diar-daoin, der Donnerstsag, Torstag, Thor’s Day, and Friday Eve…. and Susan Sarah is back again!

Language, what a great, juicy topic, something writers could go on about indefinitely. I loved RevMelinda’s question about language accuracy, and Jo’s post, and the great discussion that got started (am I not allowed to say ‘got’? *g*).

So I’ll roll up my sleeves on this Friday Eve of Halloween week, and jump in as well (actually I tried to comment last night, but Typepad wouldn’t accept my comment, hmmph. So I’ll come in the front door of the Wenchie parlor, as it were, and post a more elaborate version).

In the case of historical fiction written in the here and now (as opposed to fiction written contemporary to the actual time period), readers know the writer is contemporary, and depend on that author to create, or conjure, a particular time and place, and people it with interesting characters running around in an interesting and believable story (hey, a clumsy defnition but it’s early and you know what I mean!).  Believable: the reader willingly sets aside that disbelief thang and buys into the author’s construction. Story, setting, time and place, environment, costume, and characters who behave appropriately to their time period (or at least approximately…) are all part of this.

And language, whether it’s dialogue or narrative text, is a big part of the success of the whole conjuring effect.  Language is one of the factors that can make or break it, can tear that fabric of the story, or keep it intact, for the reader.

I write mostly Scotland; I’ve written several medievals, and some stories set in the Jacobite/Georgian, Regency, Victorian eras. Language is a particular concern of mine, because many times, my characters do not even speak English – they speak Gaelic, French, Latin, Norse, Saxon, or early forms of English and Scots (which technically is not considered a dialect of English, but rather a language form in and of itself).

When my characters speak Gaelic…I’m not likely to have the hero say,
"Thainig sinn o Dhun-Eideann," nor will I let him go on like that in Gaelic, with a glossary at the back. But that would be the more accurate thing, since he speaks Gaelic, not English.

But accurate is not always what is needed. What serves better, often, is authentic language in a historical, rather than historically precise. OK, so the character speaks Gaelic, but we want to understand him. We want to be there with him, sharing that moment. A little sprinkling of accurate language, salted and seasoned here and there, gives the reader a feel for the story, character, time, and moment. A touch of too-modern language jars the reader. We are dependent on the author’s ear, and sensibility, for language as well as time period. The author can build a bridge between the reader and the time period, so the reader can go visit. It need not be an exact replica, since then it might not be accessible.

Back to our Highland hero (who, btw, might not be in a kilt, but a wrapped plaid) saying "Thainig sinn o Dhun-Eideann." 

A simple translation works here. If the story is medieval, it doesn’t sound right for him to say, “Hey, I’m going to Edinburgh.”
Better: “I am for Edinburgh” or “I am headed to Edinburgh.” If it’s an early-set medieval, pre-1100, he really should say “I am headed for Dun Edin.” The name ‘Edinburgh’ didn’t exist until Malcolm III decided to adapt the Saxon system of boroughs.

If it’s a Regency setting (and there were still Gaelic speakers in the Highlands), he might say something a little more formal, such as, “I’m traveling to Edinburgh.”  The same phrase can be translated differently for each historical context, nuanced to suit the time and setting.
 
Another way that I’ve handled the presence of Gaelic speakers in my books is to give a sense of that specific language in English. For example, Yes and No don’t exist as simple forms in Gaelic as they do in English. Yes and No depend on the context and tense of the question or statement.
So I don’t use plain Yes and No in dialogue for certain characters (this can make copyeditors nuts, but it’s worthwhile). To the question, “Are you headed to Edinburgh?” the heroine does not answer “Yes” or “No.” She would say, “I am” or “I am not.”
To the question, “Will you head to Edinburgh?” she says, “I will,” or “I will not.”

It’s not Gaelic, it’s not medieval, but it manages to convey the sense of both. Convey and conjure–I think those are two important words for the writer of historical fiction.

One thing that personally makes me a bit nuts in some historicals is the use of broad Scots for just about any Scottish character. If they speak Gaelic, they’re not speaking Scots in the translated form of the dialogue. If they are from any part of Scotland in the early medieval era, they’re not speaking Scots, it did not exist in that form then. If they’re actually speaking English as native Gaels, then their English is more likely to be a soft, lilting, more correct British English, without much trace of Scots (depending on time period). These things mean a lot to me, and I’m careful about them in my stories, because to me that can make or break the historical world I’m building for the reader, and can be a stumbling block along that bridge.

Whether it’s romantic fiction or mainstream, as a writer I want to understand the context of the time frame in which I’m placing my characters. I don’t feel that I need to be completely accurate, if accuracy is as much a context-breaker as modern language. For example, my medieval heroes don’t sleep in hats, and they do bathe.  And I try not to let the dialogue and narrative text become unreadable for the modern reader. Have you ever tried to read Scots literature, accurately represented (try Lewis Grassic Gibbon, or some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s short stories)?  It’s crazy difficult, slows down the story, and the reading experience can become a thick wade. It’s an aspect that becomes more an artistic touch, the story as artwork, than the story as entertainment for the reader.

Other thoughts… if the hero is a Viking, and the heroine is Irish…how are they communicating?! This bugs me when it’s blatantly ignored (it also bugs me if every paragraph of the narrative is salted with ’twas and ’twere, but that’s another post *g*). If the heroine is Saxon and the hero Norman, or the heroine Gaelic and the hero an Englishman, and so on through many time periods and combinations –- I feel as an author that I have a responsibility to explain to the reader just how those two are talking and comprehending each other.
Sometimes this can become a fun story element: sign language, body language, learning curves, teaching one another. Sometimes it can be a great way to show a character’s educational level or social position. Maybe they both speak Latin or French, for example, depending on time and place.  The dialogue is in English, but seasoned with a few foreign phrases to set the tone, it works. It lends immediacy and yet story integrity is still intact.

As a fiction writer, I’m not necessarily RECONSTRUCTING history, the way that a historian might put together known facts and educated guesses in order to put together an understanding of some historical event. I’m trying to RECREATE aspects of history. Using the same facts and information, I’m trying to conjure not exactly what happened back then –c’mon, I made most of it up!– but what it was like to have lived back then. I think there’s an important distinction there, and that’s where the various elements, like language, can form a bridge for the modern reader. Authentic trumps accurate, in those situations.

There are always exceptions. Anachronisms can be fun where they are deliberate. The soundtrack of the new Marie Antoinette movie, for example, or the soundtrack and some fun bits in the movie A Knight’s Tale. But if the aim, as in most historical romance, is to create a sense of a time and place, then nuancing the language, massaging those foreign phrases or that sometimes very stilted Regency language is a good thing –- it requires a thorough understanding of the time period, and a good ear too.

~Susan Sarah Barbierenp

51 thoughts on “Conjuring Tricks”

  1. “it requires a thorough understanding of the time period, and a good ear too.”
    I always find it amazing when a pseudo historical romp (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) manages to get it far more “right” than a supposedly serous period piece (GLADIATOR or the latest version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). I’m guessing that SIL works because it’s Tom Stoppard, and he’s a freaken genesis. When it’s veers off into historical fantasy and play it does so SO brilliantly that it still speaks of the period, or of/to a modern perception of the period.
    The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish. If the characters are all supposed to be speaking Gaelic, or Scots, or whatever, then it really bugs me to be reading pidgin English. None of the characters would perceive this “accent” (even if they were all speaking English) so why am I being subjected to it?

    Reply
  2. “it requires a thorough understanding of the time period, and a good ear too.”
    I always find it amazing when a pseudo historical romp (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) manages to get it far more “right” than a supposedly serous period piece (GLADIATOR or the latest version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). I’m guessing that SIL works because it’s Tom Stoppard, and he’s a freaken genesis. When it’s veers off into historical fantasy and play it does so SO brilliantly that it still speaks of the period, or of/to a modern perception of the period.
    The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish. If the characters are all supposed to be speaking Gaelic, or Scots, or whatever, then it really bugs me to be reading pidgin English. None of the characters would perceive this “accent” (even if they were all speaking English) so why am I being subjected to it?

    Reply
  3. “it requires a thorough understanding of the time period, and a good ear too.”
    I always find it amazing when a pseudo historical romp (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) manages to get it far more “right” than a supposedly serous period piece (GLADIATOR or the latest version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). I’m guessing that SIL works because it’s Tom Stoppard, and he’s a freaken genesis. When it’s veers off into historical fantasy and play it does so SO brilliantly that it still speaks of the period, or of/to a modern perception of the period.
    The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish. If the characters are all supposed to be speaking Gaelic, or Scots, or whatever, then it really bugs me to be reading pidgin English. None of the characters would perceive this “accent” (even if they were all speaking English) so why am I being subjected to it?

    Reply
  4. So true, Susan Sarah. I don’t want to slog through heavy approximations of dialect–I want the story to flow and invite. But I also want a sense a different time and place. The examples you give really illustrate how do to this.
    For example, I didn’t know that Gaelic didn’t have a simple yes and no, though I did recognize that the constructions “I am,” or “I am not,” felt more appropriate. Now I know why. 🙂
    mjp

    Reply
  5. So true, Susan Sarah. I don’t want to slog through heavy approximations of dialect–I want the story to flow and invite. But I also want a sense a different time and place. The examples you give really illustrate how do to this.
    For example, I didn’t know that Gaelic didn’t have a simple yes and no, though I did recognize that the constructions “I am,” or “I am not,” felt more appropriate. Now I know why. 🙂
    mjp

    Reply
  6. So true, Susan Sarah. I don’t want to slog through heavy approximations of dialect–I want the story to flow and invite. But I also want a sense a different time and place. The examples you give really illustrate how do to this.
    For example, I didn’t know that Gaelic didn’t have a simple yes and no, though I did recognize that the constructions “I am,” or “I am not,” felt more appropriate. Now I know why. 🙂
    mjp

    Reply
  7. Welsh does not have a simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ either, but uses the same verbal constructions as Susan describes for Gaelic. I should not be surprised to learn that the same is true of Irish.

    Reply
  8. Welsh does not have a simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ either, but uses the same verbal constructions as Susan describes for Gaelic. I should not be surprised to learn that the same is true of Irish.

    Reply
  9. Welsh does not have a simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ either, but uses the same verbal constructions as Susan describes for Gaelic. I should not be surprised to learn that the same is true of Irish.

    Reply
  10. “The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish.”
    Few things bug me more than overdone dialects/accents, Scottish or otherwise. First, the writer’s ear is rarely as good as she thinks. I especially notice botched attempts to render a Southern accent, given my Alabama upbringing, and that alone makes me wary of trying to replicate distinctive accents not my own. (It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.)
    Second, no one, but no one, speaks English exactly as it’s spelled. So it seems kind of silly to me to make arbitrary calls on whose dialect/accent is spelled out and whose isn’t. I feel strongly about this one after spending most of a community college writing class session trying to convince another writer of how condescending and obnoxious he was being by writing African-American characters with dialect straight out of Gone With the Wind. (He even used Margaret Mitchell as his excuse. Um, TIMES HAVE CHANGED.)
    And last but not least, dialect slows the reader down, because you start sounding it out instead of just letting it flow along. I don’t want to slow readers–it might give them an excuse to stop!
    (All this is JMHO, of course, though it *is* a strongly held opinion! Less is more, and it’s amazing what you can do with judicious word choice, like Susan Sarah’s examples of “I am” and “I will” instead of “yes.”)

    Reply
  11. “The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish.”
    Few things bug me more than overdone dialects/accents, Scottish or otherwise. First, the writer’s ear is rarely as good as she thinks. I especially notice botched attempts to render a Southern accent, given my Alabama upbringing, and that alone makes me wary of trying to replicate distinctive accents not my own. (It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.)
    Second, no one, but no one, speaks English exactly as it’s spelled. So it seems kind of silly to me to make arbitrary calls on whose dialect/accent is spelled out and whose isn’t. I feel strongly about this one after spending most of a community college writing class session trying to convince another writer of how condescending and obnoxious he was being by writing African-American characters with dialect straight out of Gone With the Wind. (He even used Margaret Mitchell as his excuse. Um, TIMES HAVE CHANGED.)
    And last but not least, dialect slows the reader down, because you start sounding it out instead of just letting it flow along. I don’t want to slow readers–it might give them an excuse to stop!
    (All this is JMHO, of course, though it *is* a strongly held opinion! Less is more, and it’s amazing what you can do with judicious word choice, like Susan Sarah’s examples of “I am” and “I will” instead of “yes.”)

    Reply
  12. “The thing that dives me nuts in so many Scottish-set histoicals is the use of dialect/accent to remind me that the characters are Scottish.”
    Few things bug me more than overdone dialects/accents, Scottish or otherwise. First, the writer’s ear is rarely as good as she thinks. I especially notice botched attempts to render a Southern accent, given my Alabama upbringing, and that alone makes me wary of trying to replicate distinctive accents not my own. (It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.)
    Second, no one, but no one, speaks English exactly as it’s spelled. So it seems kind of silly to me to make arbitrary calls on whose dialect/accent is spelled out and whose isn’t. I feel strongly about this one after spending most of a community college writing class session trying to convince another writer of how condescending and obnoxious he was being by writing African-American characters with dialect straight out of Gone With the Wind. (He even used Margaret Mitchell as his excuse. Um, TIMES HAVE CHANGED.)
    And last but not least, dialect slows the reader down, because you start sounding it out instead of just letting it flow along. I don’t want to slow readers–it might give them an excuse to stop!
    (All this is JMHO, of course, though it *is* a strongly held opinion! Less is more, and it’s amazing what you can do with judicious word choice, like Susan Sarah’s examples of “I am” and “I will” instead of “yes.”)

    Reply
  13. “It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.”
    Lord, yes. Nothing will make me toss a book faster than an author using “y’all” as a singular. I immediately lose all faith in them. I mean, it’s so simple. If they don’t know something that basic, then they don’t know anything about the South.
    I just remembered a hilarious example of screwy dialect that ruined a book for me. Talk like Yoda, they did. Think like Yoda, they did. Very irritating, it was. Ruined the book, it did. I have no idea if this type of construct is authentic, but it shouldn’t have been used, regardless.

    Reply
  14. “It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.”
    Lord, yes. Nothing will make me toss a book faster than an author using “y’all” as a singular. I immediately lose all faith in them. I mean, it’s so simple. If they don’t know something that basic, then they don’t know anything about the South.
    I just remembered a hilarious example of screwy dialect that ruined a book for me. Talk like Yoda, they did. Think like Yoda, they did. Very irritating, it was. Ruined the book, it did. I have no idea if this type of construct is authentic, but it shouldn’t have been used, regardless.

    Reply
  15. “It’s spelled “y’all,” not “ya’ll,” and it’s a PLURAL FORM. Grr. Just to name one example.”
    Lord, yes. Nothing will make me toss a book faster than an author using “y’all” as a singular. I immediately lose all faith in them. I mean, it’s so simple. If they don’t know something that basic, then they don’t know anything about the South.
    I just remembered a hilarious example of screwy dialect that ruined a book for me. Talk like Yoda, they did. Think like Yoda, they did. Very irritating, it was. Ruined the book, it did. I have no idea if this type of construct is authentic, but it shouldn’t have been used, regardless.

    Reply
  16. I can’t really tell if the language is accurate if it’s in German, Gaelic, Spanish or Norse. But I CAN tell if the dialogue is right in French. It’s one of my biggest pet-peave! I haven’t read any author who have used French accurately. There’s always a small mistake in the gender, putting LE instead of LA; in the verbs and the tenses… it drives me nuts!
    However, I won’t toss the book asside because of that fact. I’ll just roll my eyes, wish I was able to tell the author of her mistake and continue reading.

    Reply
  17. I can’t really tell if the language is accurate if it’s in German, Gaelic, Spanish or Norse. But I CAN tell if the dialogue is right in French. It’s one of my biggest pet-peave! I haven’t read any author who have used French accurately. There’s always a small mistake in the gender, putting LE instead of LA; in the verbs and the tenses… it drives me nuts!
    However, I won’t toss the book asside because of that fact. I’ll just roll my eyes, wish I was able to tell the author of her mistake and continue reading.

    Reply
  18. I can’t really tell if the language is accurate if it’s in German, Gaelic, Spanish or Norse. But I CAN tell if the dialogue is right in French. It’s one of my biggest pet-peave! I haven’t read any author who have used French accurately. There’s always a small mistake in the gender, putting LE instead of LA; in the verbs and the tenses… it drives me nuts!
    However, I won’t toss the book asside because of that fact. I’ll just roll my eyes, wish I was able to tell the author of her mistake and continue reading.

    Reply
  19. Re: The overdone “Scottish” dialogue. I once got only three pages into a book before tossing it aside forever, because the author kept inserting a pointless and difficult to read “dialect” into every other paragraph. We now refer to this style as an “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book. So- don’t y’all just hate those “ach ye wee bonnie lassie” books? BTW-regarding yesterday’s discussion of”Looking out the window”- I seem to remember seeing it in earlier literature as “Looking out AT the window”.

    Reply
  20. Re: The overdone “Scottish” dialogue. I once got only three pages into a book before tossing it aside forever, because the author kept inserting a pointless and difficult to read “dialect” into every other paragraph. We now refer to this style as an “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book. So- don’t y’all just hate those “ach ye wee bonnie lassie” books? BTW-regarding yesterday’s discussion of”Looking out the window”- I seem to remember seeing it in earlier literature as “Looking out AT the window”.

    Reply
  21. Re: The overdone “Scottish” dialogue. I once got only three pages into a book before tossing it aside forever, because the author kept inserting a pointless and difficult to read “dialect” into every other paragraph. We now refer to this style as an “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book. So- don’t y’all just hate those “ach ye wee bonnie lassie” books? BTW-regarding yesterday’s discussion of”Looking out the window”- I seem to remember seeing it in earlier literature as “Looking out AT the window”.

    Reply
  22. The classic description of dialogue that apes Medieval and early Modern usage to an excessive and irritating degree is ‘forsoothery’.
    🙂

    Reply
  23. The classic description of dialogue that apes Medieval and early Modern usage to an excessive and irritating degree is ‘forsoothery’.
    🙂

    Reply
  24. The classic description of dialogue that apes Medieval and early Modern usage to an excessive and irritating degree is ‘forsoothery’.
    🙂

    Reply
  25. ‘”Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book’
    ROFLOL! That’s perfect!!! I don’t need heavy handed dialect to imagine I’m listening to Sean Connery or Billy Connolly (who I’ll readily admit IS the voice of all things Scottish in my head).

    Reply
  26. ‘”Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book’
    ROFLOL! That’s perfect!!! I don’t need heavy handed dialect to imagine I’m listening to Sean Connery or Billy Connolly (who I’ll readily admit IS the voice of all things Scottish in my head).

    Reply
  27. ‘”Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” book’
    ROFLOL! That’s perfect!!! I don’t need heavy handed dialect to imagine I’m listening to Sean Connery or Billy Connolly (who I’ll readily admit IS the voice of all things Scottish in my head).

    Reply
  28. Great post, Susan/Sarah.
    About people understanding each other, I sometimes wonder how people are understanding a passing farm laborer in a different part of England. It can be hard today! But to be too picky on that one would take all the fun out of things.
    But it bugs me when it’s not dealt with in time travel. I’ll accept a simple “How could she understand him. It must be magic.” because time travel is pretty magical anyway, but if it’s ignored when someone goes back into the middle ages, i can’t read it.
    Jo

    Reply
  29. Great post, Susan/Sarah.
    About people understanding each other, I sometimes wonder how people are understanding a passing farm laborer in a different part of England. It can be hard today! But to be too picky on that one would take all the fun out of things.
    But it bugs me when it’s not dealt with in time travel. I’ll accept a simple “How could she understand him. It must be magic.” because time travel is pretty magical anyway, but if it’s ignored when someone goes back into the middle ages, i can’t read it.
    Jo

    Reply
  30. Great post, Susan/Sarah.
    About people understanding each other, I sometimes wonder how people are understanding a passing farm laborer in a different part of England. It can be hard today! But to be too picky on that one would take all the fun out of things.
    But it bugs me when it’s not dealt with in time travel. I’ll accept a simple “How could she understand him. It must be magic.” because time travel is pretty magical anyway, but if it’s ignored when someone goes back into the middle ages, i can’t read it.
    Jo

    Reply
  31. Hey, Susan/Sarah —
    What a cute Westie!
    My hero has a Westie, only they were called Rosneath Terriers then. But you already know that, I’m sure.
    I’m a very forgiving reader. I have stumbled across historical inaccuracies–or so I’ve thought. If I take the time to look it up, sometimes the facts are obscure, or the author was right! If not, and the book is well-written, I can get past it.
    I like light and fluffy romance novels. Sometimes I do not mind if they are plot-less, as long as the characters and their story keep me interested.

    Reply
  32. Hey, Susan/Sarah —
    What a cute Westie!
    My hero has a Westie, only they were called Rosneath Terriers then. But you already know that, I’m sure.
    I’m a very forgiving reader. I have stumbled across historical inaccuracies–or so I’ve thought. If I take the time to look it up, sometimes the facts are obscure, or the author was right! If not, and the book is well-written, I can get past it.
    I like light and fluffy romance novels. Sometimes I do not mind if they are plot-less, as long as the characters and their story keep me interested.

    Reply
  33. Hey, Susan/Sarah —
    What a cute Westie!
    My hero has a Westie, only they were called Rosneath Terriers then. But you already know that, I’m sure.
    I’m a very forgiving reader. I have stumbled across historical inaccuracies–or so I’ve thought. If I take the time to look it up, sometimes the facts are obscure, or the author was right! If not, and the book is well-written, I can get past it.
    I like light and fluffy romance novels. Sometimes I do not mind if they are plot-less, as long as the characters and their story keep me interested.

    Reply
  34. I should mention about Scottish dialects —
    My grandmother, God rest her soul, hails from the Isle of Skye. She’d lived in Yorkshire, too, and then America for a good long time. Soooo, her accent was very interesting. Most of her adult dialect was more Yorkshire (Bluedy Boos=bloody bus). She’d lost a good part of it, but certain phrases never lost the flair.
    I’m actually pretty good with dialects. I do not know why–maybe it’s genetic?
    I work with a lot of people of every nationality. Many of my co-workers will say: “I think he’s from Australia,” because the person’s accent is so odd to them. I say: “Bet it’s North London.” And I’m right. I can tell a Yorkshire Brit from Northumberland. I can pick-up even the subtlest of Scots. Many Scots and Irish have very English educations, and yet, when they’ve relaxed, tired, having fun, the accent comes out–BIG.
    I’ve never spent any significant amount of time in Britain, so do you suppose the ability to differentiate between regions is genetic?
    I could go on-and-on about this stuff, because although America is a melting pot, and many of us are generations removed from our immigrant ancestors, cultural customs remain. Some families have no idea what their cultural backgrounds are, but if you study them long enough, you’ll get hints.

    Reply
  35. I should mention about Scottish dialects —
    My grandmother, God rest her soul, hails from the Isle of Skye. She’d lived in Yorkshire, too, and then America for a good long time. Soooo, her accent was very interesting. Most of her adult dialect was more Yorkshire (Bluedy Boos=bloody bus). She’d lost a good part of it, but certain phrases never lost the flair.
    I’m actually pretty good with dialects. I do not know why–maybe it’s genetic?
    I work with a lot of people of every nationality. Many of my co-workers will say: “I think he’s from Australia,” because the person’s accent is so odd to them. I say: “Bet it’s North London.” And I’m right. I can tell a Yorkshire Brit from Northumberland. I can pick-up even the subtlest of Scots. Many Scots and Irish have very English educations, and yet, when they’ve relaxed, tired, having fun, the accent comes out–BIG.
    I’ve never spent any significant amount of time in Britain, so do you suppose the ability to differentiate between regions is genetic?
    I could go on-and-on about this stuff, because although America is a melting pot, and many of us are generations removed from our immigrant ancestors, cultural customs remain. Some families have no idea what their cultural backgrounds are, but if you study them long enough, you’ll get hints.

    Reply
  36. I should mention about Scottish dialects —
    My grandmother, God rest her soul, hails from the Isle of Skye. She’d lived in Yorkshire, too, and then America for a good long time. Soooo, her accent was very interesting. Most of her adult dialect was more Yorkshire (Bluedy Boos=bloody bus). She’d lost a good part of it, but certain phrases never lost the flair.
    I’m actually pretty good with dialects. I do not know why–maybe it’s genetic?
    I work with a lot of people of every nationality. Many of my co-workers will say: “I think he’s from Australia,” because the person’s accent is so odd to them. I say: “Bet it’s North London.” And I’m right. I can tell a Yorkshire Brit from Northumberland. I can pick-up even the subtlest of Scots. Many Scots and Irish have very English educations, and yet, when they’ve relaxed, tired, having fun, the accent comes out–BIG.
    I’ve never spent any significant amount of time in Britain, so do you suppose the ability to differentiate between regions is genetic?
    I could go on-and-on about this stuff, because although America is a melting pot, and many of us are generations removed from our immigrant ancestors, cultural customs remain. Some families have no idea what their cultural backgrounds are, but if you study them long enough, you’ll get hints.

    Reply
  37. Great comments! I love Scottish romance (wouldn’t have written so many if I didn”t!), though I do agree about the over-the-top use of heavy dialect. Less is more — with dialect and inflections, Scottish, Irish, Yorkshire and otherwise, and in the use of Regency-speak as well. The “ear” for dialogue is a bit like an ear for music, I think, either it’s there or it isn’t, but it can be developed.
    AgTigress, Welsh does have the same constructs–it’s a P-Celtic (brythonic, using the letter P) language while Scots and Irish (which share a root language in Irish) are Q-Celtic (goidelic, using a Q or hard C sound). And “forsoothery” — what a hoot!
    Cathy, nice to know you have a Westie in your book! I knew about Roseneath terriers, which were also called Poltalloch terriers, descended from Cairns — long ago the white ones were not encouraged (as in, often destroyed, sadly) but by the 19th c. they were bred purposefully as hunting companions, and became stubborn, affectionate, intelligent, delightful Westies. In the time of Mary Queen of Scots, Cairns and related terriers were called “earth-dogs” for their tendency to go digging after rabbits and foxes. At one time MQS herself had a half dozen of these “erthh-dogges” listed in her household. Fun!
    Love, love, love Billy Connolly. I could listen to him for hours.
    And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!
    A good friend of mine, a Scotsman, visited Monticello in Virginia with us last year, and asked us, “What does ‘yawwwwwwl’ mean?” So we explained.
    Which brings the discussion back around to Scots, I guess! *G*
    ~Susan Sarah

    Reply
  38. Great comments! I love Scottish romance (wouldn’t have written so many if I didn”t!), though I do agree about the over-the-top use of heavy dialect. Less is more — with dialect and inflections, Scottish, Irish, Yorkshire and otherwise, and in the use of Regency-speak as well. The “ear” for dialogue is a bit like an ear for music, I think, either it’s there or it isn’t, but it can be developed.
    AgTigress, Welsh does have the same constructs–it’s a P-Celtic (brythonic, using the letter P) language while Scots and Irish (which share a root language in Irish) are Q-Celtic (goidelic, using a Q or hard C sound). And “forsoothery” — what a hoot!
    Cathy, nice to know you have a Westie in your book! I knew about Roseneath terriers, which were also called Poltalloch terriers, descended from Cairns — long ago the white ones were not encouraged (as in, often destroyed, sadly) but by the 19th c. they were bred purposefully as hunting companions, and became stubborn, affectionate, intelligent, delightful Westies. In the time of Mary Queen of Scots, Cairns and related terriers were called “earth-dogs” for their tendency to go digging after rabbits and foxes. At one time MQS herself had a half dozen of these “erthh-dogges” listed in her household. Fun!
    Love, love, love Billy Connolly. I could listen to him for hours.
    And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!
    A good friend of mine, a Scotsman, visited Monticello in Virginia with us last year, and asked us, “What does ‘yawwwwwwl’ mean?” So we explained.
    Which brings the discussion back around to Scots, I guess! *G*
    ~Susan Sarah

    Reply
  39. Great comments! I love Scottish romance (wouldn’t have written so many if I didn”t!), though I do agree about the over-the-top use of heavy dialect. Less is more — with dialect and inflections, Scottish, Irish, Yorkshire and otherwise, and in the use of Regency-speak as well. The “ear” for dialogue is a bit like an ear for music, I think, either it’s there or it isn’t, but it can be developed.
    AgTigress, Welsh does have the same constructs–it’s a P-Celtic (brythonic, using the letter P) language while Scots and Irish (which share a root language in Irish) are Q-Celtic (goidelic, using a Q or hard C sound). And “forsoothery” — what a hoot!
    Cathy, nice to know you have a Westie in your book! I knew about Roseneath terriers, which were also called Poltalloch terriers, descended from Cairns — long ago the white ones were not encouraged (as in, often destroyed, sadly) but by the 19th c. they were bred purposefully as hunting companions, and became stubborn, affectionate, intelligent, delightful Westies. In the time of Mary Queen of Scots, Cairns and related terriers were called “earth-dogs” for their tendency to go digging after rabbits and foxes. At one time MQS herself had a half dozen of these “erthh-dogges” listed in her household. Fun!
    Love, love, love Billy Connolly. I could listen to him for hours.
    And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!
    A good friend of mine, a Scotsman, visited Monticello in Virginia with us last year, and asked us, “What does ‘yawwwwwwl’ mean?” So we explained.
    Which brings the discussion back around to Scots, I guess! *G*
    ~Susan Sarah

    Reply
  40. “And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!”
    I haven’t lived in the South since I was 18, but “y’all” is still with me. Since I don’t have a Southern accent anymore, this often leads people who don’t know me well to double-take and say, “Where did THAT come from?”
    (It’s probably not 100% accurate to say I don’t have a Southern accent, because it tends to reappear at odd times. My husband still tells the story of how, during the first months of our marriage, he was stunned to hear his wife, watching a key play in the Alabama-Auburn game, yell at the TV, “You git that boy! GIT ’em!” And when we visit my family, I’ll talk to him in my usual generic American accent, and then turn and address a Southerner in something close to my childhood accent–without even thinking about it.)

    Reply
  41. “And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!”
    I haven’t lived in the South since I was 18, but “y’all” is still with me. Since I don’t have a Southern accent anymore, this often leads people who don’t know me well to double-take and say, “Where did THAT come from?”
    (It’s probably not 100% accurate to say I don’t have a Southern accent, because it tends to reappear at odd times. My husband still tells the story of how, during the first months of our marriage, he was stunned to hear his wife, watching a key play in the Alabama-Auburn game, yell at the TV, “You git that boy! GIT ’em!” And when we visit my family, I’ll talk to him in my usual generic American accent, and then turn and address a Southerner in something close to my childhood accent–without even thinking about it.)

    Reply
  42. “And as an Upstate New Yorker transplanted years ago to Maryland, I am now guilty of saying “y’all” — but only in the plural!”
    I haven’t lived in the South since I was 18, but “y’all” is still with me. Since I don’t have a Southern accent anymore, this often leads people who don’t know me well to double-take and say, “Where did THAT come from?”
    (It’s probably not 100% accurate to say I don’t have a Southern accent, because it tends to reappear at odd times. My husband still tells the story of how, during the first months of our marriage, he was stunned to hear his wife, watching a key play in the Alabama-Auburn game, yell at the TV, “You git that boy! GIT ’em!” And when we visit my family, I’ll talk to him in my usual generic American accent, and then turn and address a Southerner in something close to my childhood accent–without even thinking about it.)

    Reply
  43. Language use is one of my favorite topics. I can be relatively forgiving about small anachronisms in a story. What drives me batty are Gretchen’s “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” books. I just roll my eyes. Most of the time the overuse/abuse of Scottish words and phrases make the character sound like a half-wit. Why must the writer beat the reader over the head with every Scottish cliche they can think of, when an occasional Scots word is much more effective and elegant?
    Slight topic shift, but language (mondegreen) related: I love the story I read in Readers Digest once, about a woman visiting New York. She was unable to understand a native New Yorker who kept asking her in a strong Bronx accent if she had “PSDS,” while tugging her earlobe. It took awhile before she realized the NY’er was asking her if she had pierced ears!

    Reply
  44. Language use is one of my favorite topics. I can be relatively forgiving about small anachronisms in a story. What drives me batty are Gretchen’s “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” books. I just roll my eyes. Most of the time the overuse/abuse of Scottish words and phrases make the character sound like a half-wit. Why must the writer beat the reader over the head with every Scottish cliche they can think of, when an occasional Scots word is much more effective and elegant?
    Slight topic shift, but language (mondegreen) related: I love the story I read in Readers Digest once, about a woman visiting New York. She was unable to understand a native New Yorker who kept asking her in a strong Bronx accent if she had “PSDS,” while tugging her earlobe. It took awhile before she realized the NY’er was asking her if she had pierced ears!

    Reply
  45. Language use is one of my favorite topics. I can be relatively forgiving about small anachronisms in a story. What drives me batty are Gretchen’s “Ach Ye Wee Bonnie Lassie” books. I just roll my eyes. Most of the time the overuse/abuse of Scottish words and phrases make the character sound like a half-wit. Why must the writer beat the reader over the head with every Scottish cliche they can think of, when an occasional Scots word is much more effective and elegant?
    Slight topic shift, but language (mondegreen) related: I love the story I read in Readers Digest once, about a woman visiting New York. She was unable to understand a native New Yorker who kept asking her in a strong Bronx accent if she had “PSDS,” while tugging her earlobe. It took awhile before she realized the NY’er was asking her if she had pierced ears!

    Reply

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