Watching My Language

  Bouffant_barbie_1_3    From Loretta:
      
      This week the microwave died.  I vow, they’re doing this on purpose, those appliances, because they know I don’t have time.  This week I have Copy Edit.
      According to WORDS INTO TYPE (my style book–and I now seem to be the only person on the face of the planet who uses it), “even the finest writers have occasional lapses, and errors in spelling or inconsistencies in capitalization or usage of numbers creep in.”  The job of the copy editor is to correct these errors and inconsistencies.
      Yes, even I make these errors.  I fail to type in a “the” or type “foul” when I mean “fowl.”  I misplace an apostrophe or forget a comma rule.
      WIT goes on to say, “There are many cases in which acceptable usage is merely a matter of personal preference, and so long as an author is consistent, the reader scarcely notices whether it is percent or per cent, freelancer or free-lancer.”  I don’t know about the other Wenches, but I can’t remember any case in which the copy editor applied the consistency rule.  I tend to hyphenate a great many more compound words than is customary in American spelling style because so many of my reference works are from England.  The copy editors always go through and unhyphenate them, even though no American reader, I believe, would have any difficulty in reading them with the hyphens.  For instance, two of my references works used a hyphen for brew-house and no hyphen for bakehouse.  So that’s how I wrote them.  And that’s how I explained them on the style sheet I included with my manuscript.  The copy editor changed “brew-house” to “brewhouse.”
      Who cares?  Not me.  No big red “stet” in the margin on that one.
    Fowler_modern_english_usagesm   I do become incensed, however, when “chaperon” is changed to “chaperone,” because to me that’s just abominable–again, though I seem to be the only person remaining on the planet who agrees with Fowler that “The addition of a final e is wrong.”
      I also have nails-on-blackboard reaction to “comprised of”–which to me is awkward and backward.  The rule I learned is that the whole comprises the parts, e.g., “His lodgings comprised two rooms.”  I agree with Fowler that the “lamentably common use of comprise as a synonym of compose or constitute is a wanton and indefensible weakening of our vocabulary.”
      Not that I agree with Fowler on everything.The_kings_englishsm
      And not that even experts (most of whom seem to be self-appointed) agree on everything.  And how, I wonder, does one decide who is an expert and who is not? 
      Still, all in all, in the last few years I have felt thankful to the copy editors, especially when they make a cuckoo change to my deathless prose.  Or when I get a query I find completely insane.  Nine times out of ten, this indicates that the deathless prose in question is not going to make sense to the reader.  If it did make sense, the copy editor would not have gone all cuckoo and deranged.
      A recent example is “tapes” as referring to those narrow strips of cloth that helped hold women’s clothing together–along with pins (not safety pins, mind you) and hooks and eyes and drawstrings.  The copy editor queried “tapes,” wondering about the plural form.  I scratched my head over this one.  Then I finally realized that the usage tends to be found mainly in costuming books, which meant that the average reader might picture something very different from what I had in mind.  So I changed “tapes” to “fastenings.”  After all, this was not a treatise on early 19th C dress construction but a love scene.
      In writing my books, I try to channel the English authors I’ve read.  Still, I am a Yank and the majority of my readers are Yanks, so the challenge is not only to try to avoid Americanisms (which, as the comments to Jo’s post indicate, is a tricky task) and blatantly anachronistic language but to also avoid excessive use of British terms that would baffle American readers.  I try to remember that British English, is, after all, a foreign language, and it is not my first or many of my readers’ first language.  Usage_abusagesm It’s also good to remember that a little 19th C terminology goes a long way.  As Susan/Sarah indicated, there are ways of conveying a different time period and language style without becoming incomprehensible.
      A couple of books ago, the copy editor queried “bosom bow.”  This was a term I’d come across in Regency after Regency.  Maybe even in Heyer.  I can’t remember.  But when I tried to look it up, I found it…nowhere.  So I changed it.
      Susan/Sarah and Jo have talked about language, and the discussions have been great fun.  AgTigress used the word “twee”–and I had to go look it up.  That got me wondering how much looking up readers will do or want to do.  Since it’s part of my job, I never think twice about looking things up.
      But what about you?  The copy editor’s job is to improve readability.  What do you think makes for readability?  To what extent are you interested in looking up puzzling words or phrases or references?  Do you think it’s OK to encounter a few such in a book?  What words or phrases or references have puzzled you recently?  Do you think I should have let “tapes” stand, or was it wiser to use “fastenings”?
      

84 thoughts on “Watching My Language”

  1. I vote for fastenings, though I’d picture tapes correctly (mostly).
    I am primarily interested in the couple and how they relate to each other and their environment. I want that environment to convey the place adn time, and their speech, to some degree.
    Anachronisms do bother me, but sometimes I like a little give in dialogue. If the heroine truly spoke in the formal speech of a Regency lady, I’d think her stiff, and maybe that’s not what the author wanted to convey. Therefore, the dialogue might get relaxed, just enough to let the personality come through. Of course there’s always the action… so if your hoydenish miss is hanging upsidedown from the bough of a tree, and she’s speaking the formal English of a gently bred lady, I’d get the picture. But if she’s in the ballroom at Almack’s…I might miss it.
    In short, I forgive authors who shed the period perfect language–at least where possible–to accurately portray the personality.
    As for grammar. I write for a living–business communications, and have thought I was just fine with grammar. Until working with a freelance editor proved me wrong in many cases. I mess-up affect and effect more than I care to admit. I have a few other foibles too.

    Reply
  2. I vote for fastenings, though I’d picture tapes correctly (mostly).
    I am primarily interested in the couple and how they relate to each other and their environment. I want that environment to convey the place adn time, and their speech, to some degree.
    Anachronisms do bother me, but sometimes I like a little give in dialogue. If the heroine truly spoke in the formal speech of a Regency lady, I’d think her stiff, and maybe that’s not what the author wanted to convey. Therefore, the dialogue might get relaxed, just enough to let the personality come through. Of course there’s always the action… so if your hoydenish miss is hanging upsidedown from the bough of a tree, and she’s speaking the formal English of a gently bred lady, I’d get the picture. But if she’s in the ballroom at Almack’s…I might miss it.
    In short, I forgive authors who shed the period perfect language–at least where possible–to accurately portray the personality.
    As for grammar. I write for a living–business communications, and have thought I was just fine with grammar. Until working with a freelance editor proved me wrong in many cases. I mess-up affect and effect more than I care to admit. I have a few other foibles too.

    Reply
  3. I vote for fastenings, though I’d picture tapes correctly (mostly).
    I am primarily interested in the couple and how they relate to each other and their environment. I want that environment to convey the place adn time, and their speech, to some degree.
    Anachronisms do bother me, but sometimes I like a little give in dialogue. If the heroine truly spoke in the formal speech of a Regency lady, I’d think her stiff, and maybe that’s not what the author wanted to convey. Therefore, the dialogue might get relaxed, just enough to let the personality come through. Of course there’s always the action… so if your hoydenish miss is hanging upsidedown from the bough of a tree, and she’s speaking the formal English of a gently bred lady, I’d get the picture. But if she’s in the ballroom at Almack’s…I might miss it.
    In short, I forgive authors who shed the period perfect language–at least where possible–to accurately portray the personality.
    As for grammar. I write for a living–business communications, and have thought I was just fine with grammar. Until working with a freelance editor proved me wrong in many cases. I mess-up affect and effect more than I care to admit. I have a few other foibles too.

    Reply
  4. I’ve been a lurker for some time, but am popping out of lurkdom briefly (or maybe not; I tend to ramble).
    First of all, I’m a huge fan. And, for me at least, whatever you’re doing seems to work.
    “but to also avoid excessive use of British terms that would baffle American readers”
    Because we’re so easily baffled? 😉
    I don’t mind looking up words or things I don’t know. I do it quite often. I even have a running list of new-to-me words. As long as it flows and it doesn’t seem as though the author is trying to be pretentious by dropping in big words or character building by using “Britishisms”, for example, I don’t think I’d be bothered or baffled by something I don’t quite understand – something I think context would have quite a lot to do with. If it was clear what “tapes” were, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, even if “fastenings” is more common.
    I like when writers don’t write down to their readers. It doesn’t mean they have to use obscure or difficult words or references, but that they trust that the reader will get it – if they’ve done a good job of conveying what “it” is in the first place – without over-explaining or simplifying.
    Typos, misspellings, grammar issues and the like tend to pull me out of the story. It’s the same with anachronisms, anthropomorphism or other inaccuracies, depending on the extent of the sense of wrongness I feel from the scene or story. But sometimes the writing is compelling enough to keep me reading anyway (or is so riveting that I don’t even notice in the first place).

    Reply
  5. I’ve been a lurker for some time, but am popping out of lurkdom briefly (or maybe not; I tend to ramble).
    First of all, I’m a huge fan. And, for me at least, whatever you’re doing seems to work.
    “but to also avoid excessive use of British terms that would baffle American readers”
    Because we’re so easily baffled? 😉
    I don’t mind looking up words or things I don’t know. I do it quite often. I even have a running list of new-to-me words. As long as it flows and it doesn’t seem as though the author is trying to be pretentious by dropping in big words or character building by using “Britishisms”, for example, I don’t think I’d be bothered or baffled by something I don’t quite understand – something I think context would have quite a lot to do with. If it was clear what “tapes” were, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, even if “fastenings” is more common.
    I like when writers don’t write down to their readers. It doesn’t mean they have to use obscure or difficult words or references, but that they trust that the reader will get it – if they’ve done a good job of conveying what “it” is in the first place – without over-explaining or simplifying.
    Typos, misspellings, grammar issues and the like tend to pull me out of the story. It’s the same with anachronisms, anthropomorphism or other inaccuracies, depending on the extent of the sense of wrongness I feel from the scene or story. But sometimes the writing is compelling enough to keep me reading anyway (or is so riveting that I don’t even notice in the first place).

    Reply
  6. I’ve been a lurker for some time, but am popping out of lurkdom briefly (or maybe not; I tend to ramble).
    First of all, I’m a huge fan. And, for me at least, whatever you’re doing seems to work.
    “but to also avoid excessive use of British terms that would baffle American readers”
    Because we’re so easily baffled? 😉
    I don’t mind looking up words or things I don’t know. I do it quite often. I even have a running list of new-to-me words. As long as it flows and it doesn’t seem as though the author is trying to be pretentious by dropping in big words or character building by using “Britishisms”, for example, I don’t think I’d be bothered or baffled by something I don’t quite understand – something I think context would have quite a lot to do with. If it was clear what “tapes” were, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, even if “fastenings” is more common.
    I like when writers don’t write down to their readers. It doesn’t mean they have to use obscure or difficult words or references, but that they trust that the reader will get it – if they’ve done a good job of conveying what “it” is in the first place – without over-explaining or simplifying.
    Typos, misspellings, grammar issues and the like tend to pull me out of the story. It’s the same with anachronisms, anthropomorphism or other inaccuracies, depending on the extent of the sense of wrongness I feel from the scene or story. But sometimes the writing is compelling enough to keep me reading anyway (or is so riveting that I don’t even notice in the first place).

    Reply
  7. Jo here.
    Interesting post, Loretta.
    As a reader, I mostly don’t like having to look up words. Mind you, I do have a large vocabulary, so it doesn’t happen much, but I find that when I’m stymied by a word in fiction it usually feels like the author has used it to show off.
    I strongly believe that it’s a writer’s job to make her work easy to absorb. I liken it to inviting people to my house for dinner. Am I then going to serve them peculiar food to be eater with strange implements, simply to show off how sophisticated I am? I’m with the etiquette lady — the height of good etiquette is to make people comfortable.
    This doesn’t mean dumbing down because very complex and deep material, especially in fiction, can be written without obscure words.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  8. Jo here.
    Interesting post, Loretta.
    As a reader, I mostly don’t like having to look up words. Mind you, I do have a large vocabulary, so it doesn’t happen much, but I find that when I’m stymied by a word in fiction it usually feels like the author has used it to show off.
    I strongly believe that it’s a writer’s job to make her work easy to absorb. I liken it to inviting people to my house for dinner. Am I then going to serve them peculiar food to be eater with strange implements, simply to show off how sophisticated I am? I’m with the etiquette lady — the height of good etiquette is to make people comfortable.
    This doesn’t mean dumbing down because very complex and deep material, especially in fiction, can be written without obscure words.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  9. Jo here.
    Interesting post, Loretta.
    As a reader, I mostly don’t like having to look up words. Mind you, I do have a large vocabulary, so it doesn’t happen much, but I find that when I’m stymied by a word in fiction it usually feels like the author has used it to show off.
    I strongly believe that it’s a writer’s job to make her work easy to absorb. I liken it to inviting people to my house for dinner. Am I then going to serve them peculiar food to be eater with strange implements, simply to show off how sophisticated I am? I’m with the etiquette lady — the height of good etiquette is to make people comfortable.
    This doesn’t mean dumbing down because very complex and deep material, especially in fiction, can be written without obscure words.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  10. Perhaps because I read as much non-fiction as fiction, I always like learning things I don’t know. The best historical fiction really is that time-machine that so many posters here mention — I want to be jolted out of my 21st century comfort zone. Even as a kid, I read with the dictionary nearby. How else will you ever learn new words? I shudder now when I see my daughter’s high school friends armed with SAT vocabulary flashcards — the worst possible way to learn the words you might actually want to use for the rest of your life.
    I’ve had battles with copy-editors, too, people who claim that the “reader focus groups” are frightened by big words. Sometimes the big word is also the best word. A good writer can use whatever words she/he wants, yet still make the meaning clear enough from the context.
    And if we don’t try to incorporate “historic” words or experiences into our writing, then we might as well be writing fancy-dress contemporaries (and there’s already enough of those out there, thank you.*G*)
    Susan/Miranda, jumping off the soapbox

    Reply
  11. Perhaps because I read as much non-fiction as fiction, I always like learning things I don’t know. The best historical fiction really is that time-machine that so many posters here mention — I want to be jolted out of my 21st century comfort zone. Even as a kid, I read with the dictionary nearby. How else will you ever learn new words? I shudder now when I see my daughter’s high school friends armed with SAT vocabulary flashcards — the worst possible way to learn the words you might actually want to use for the rest of your life.
    I’ve had battles with copy-editors, too, people who claim that the “reader focus groups” are frightened by big words. Sometimes the big word is also the best word. A good writer can use whatever words she/he wants, yet still make the meaning clear enough from the context.
    And if we don’t try to incorporate “historic” words or experiences into our writing, then we might as well be writing fancy-dress contemporaries (and there’s already enough of those out there, thank you.*G*)
    Susan/Miranda, jumping off the soapbox

    Reply
  12. Perhaps because I read as much non-fiction as fiction, I always like learning things I don’t know. The best historical fiction really is that time-machine that so many posters here mention — I want to be jolted out of my 21st century comfort zone. Even as a kid, I read with the dictionary nearby. How else will you ever learn new words? I shudder now when I see my daughter’s high school friends armed with SAT vocabulary flashcards — the worst possible way to learn the words you might actually want to use for the rest of your life.
    I’ve had battles with copy-editors, too, people who claim that the “reader focus groups” are frightened by big words. Sometimes the big word is also the best word. A good writer can use whatever words she/he wants, yet still make the meaning clear enough from the context.
    And if we don’t try to incorporate “historic” words or experiences into our writing, then we might as well be writing fancy-dress contemporaries (and there’s already enough of those out there, thank you.*G*)
    Susan/Miranda, jumping off the soapbox

    Reply
  13. I would have stayed with ‘tapes’ as I’ve seen it in many other historical books.
    Now it’s up to you to fight it out! If you don’t think it’s worth it, then you might as well change the word.

    Reply
  14. I would have stayed with ‘tapes’ as I’ve seen it in many other historical books.
    Now it’s up to you to fight it out! If you don’t think it’s worth it, then you might as well change the word.

    Reply
  15. I would have stayed with ‘tapes’ as I’ve seen it in many other historical books.
    Now it’s up to you to fight it out! If you don’t think it’s worth it, then you might as well change the word.

    Reply
  16. I agree with Cassie that it is about the context, no matter the word a reader will usually understand the meaning even if they don’t have the vocabulary. With a word like “tapes” it seems a bit silly to replace it with “fastenings.” I would think that fastenings would be more likely to pull someone out of the flow/mood then “tapes.” I also agree with Ms. Scott that when reading historical fiction I like it when the author uses “historical” words because they add to the feel of the book and help you transport yourself. I think that using the appropriate word shows that the author actually did the research on the period of their story and I enjoy history which is why I read historical romance. I would think that most readers who would be turned off by “tapes” probably wouldn’t pick up the book in the first place. As Ms. Laurin said I don’t imagine it was worth the fight.

    Reply
  17. I agree with Cassie that it is about the context, no matter the word a reader will usually understand the meaning even if they don’t have the vocabulary. With a word like “tapes” it seems a bit silly to replace it with “fastenings.” I would think that fastenings would be more likely to pull someone out of the flow/mood then “tapes.” I also agree with Ms. Scott that when reading historical fiction I like it when the author uses “historical” words because they add to the feel of the book and help you transport yourself. I think that using the appropriate word shows that the author actually did the research on the period of their story and I enjoy history which is why I read historical romance. I would think that most readers who would be turned off by “tapes” probably wouldn’t pick up the book in the first place. As Ms. Laurin said I don’t imagine it was worth the fight.

    Reply
  18. I agree with Cassie that it is about the context, no matter the word a reader will usually understand the meaning even if they don’t have the vocabulary. With a word like “tapes” it seems a bit silly to replace it with “fastenings.” I would think that fastenings would be more likely to pull someone out of the flow/mood then “tapes.” I also agree with Ms. Scott that when reading historical fiction I like it when the author uses “historical” words because they add to the feel of the book and help you transport yourself. I think that using the appropriate word shows that the author actually did the research on the period of their story and I enjoy history which is why I read historical romance. I would think that most readers who would be turned off by “tapes” probably wouldn’t pick up the book in the first place. As Ms. Laurin said I don’t imagine it was worth the fight.

    Reply
  19. I don’t tend to mind word usages I don’t recognise as long as they’re easily looked up in a dictionary. If the definition isn’t clear from the context, and I have to scour the Web to find out WTF the word means, I’m going to be annoyed.
    But then, I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive about things like that, and I will spend five hours trying to find out what the hell it means. LOL.

    Reply
  20. I don’t tend to mind word usages I don’t recognise as long as they’re easily looked up in a dictionary. If the definition isn’t clear from the context, and I have to scour the Web to find out WTF the word means, I’m going to be annoyed.
    But then, I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive about things like that, and I will spend five hours trying to find out what the hell it means. LOL.

    Reply
  21. I don’t tend to mind word usages I don’t recognise as long as they’re easily looked up in a dictionary. If the definition isn’t clear from the context, and I have to scour the Web to find out WTF the word means, I’m going to be annoyed.
    But then, I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive about things like that, and I will spend five hours trying to find out what the hell it means. LOL.

    Reply
  22. I am with all those who like to learn something new when reading historical fiction, and to feel confident that what the writer is telling me is accurate and properly researched. I like a writer to explain something that is truly obscure, but if she doesn’t, I’d prefer to have to look it up myself than to feel that she has ducked the issue by being less specific, avoiding a precise and appropriate technical word, or glossing over a cultural reference by using vague terms.
    The notional reader: yes, in sheer numbers, there will be more American readers than English-speakers of other nationalities, but don’t forget those others, from Brits and Aussies to Asians who read English fluently as a second language and enjoy American genre fiction. If one is writing in Welsh or Icelandic, it is fairly easy to have a good idea of your typical reader’s likely knowledge. Writers in English really cannot second-guess their global, multi-cultural readers in that way. If the author starts to worry about things her American readers might have to look up, then if she wants to be consistent, she ought, perhaps, to give some thought too to the things her *non-American* readers will find unfamiliar – and it could get pretty complicated!
    I have been reading American novels, contemporary and other, for fifty years: I have many American friends, and I have visited the USA many times, including one 4-month stay. I STILL regularly find words, idioms and cultural references in contemporary American fiction that I do not understand. So I look them up, and I learn something. In a recent contemporary romantic suspense story set in the Southern USA, the author did not see fit to describe properly the topography where the action took place, something which actually mattered to the story, presumably assuming that *American* readers would all be able to envisage the type of landscape from the fact that the name of a city was given. I had to spend quite a while on the internet looking at maps and air-photos to work out what the heck was going on. I should have appreciated a paragraph of description to save me that trouble, but the author clearly felt that that was unnecessary, and would slow down the all-important ACTION. I was actually annoyed by the tacit assumption that all readers were Americans, but that was probably because I was annoyed by other aspects of the book, too!
    If a story is good, the reader will try to look up anything that she doesn’t understand, a process that has been made easier by the Internet. As in so many things in life, the best guide is common sense.

    Reply
  23. I am with all those who like to learn something new when reading historical fiction, and to feel confident that what the writer is telling me is accurate and properly researched. I like a writer to explain something that is truly obscure, but if she doesn’t, I’d prefer to have to look it up myself than to feel that she has ducked the issue by being less specific, avoiding a precise and appropriate technical word, or glossing over a cultural reference by using vague terms.
    The notional reader: yes, in sheer numbers, there will be more American readers than English-speakers of other nationalities, but don’t forget those others, from Brits and Aussies to Asians who read English fluently as a second language and enjoy American genre fiction. If one is writing in Welsh or Icelandic, it is fairly easy to have a good idea of your typical reader’s likely knowledge. Writers in English really cannot second-guess their global, multi-cultural readers in that way. If the author starts to worry about things her American readers might have to look up, then if she wants to be consistent, she ought, perhaps, to give some thought too to the things her *non-American* readers will find unfamiliar – and it could get pretty complicated!
    I have been reading American novels, contemporary and other, for fifty years: I have many American friends, and I have visited the USA many times, including one 4-month stay. I STILL regularly find words, idioms and cultural references in contemporary American fiction that I do not understand. So I look them up, and I learn something. In a recent contemporary romantic suspense story set in the Southern USA, the author did not see fit to describe properly the topography where the action took place, something which actually mattered to the story, presumably assuming that *American* readers would all be able to envisage the type of landscape from the fact that the name of a city was given. I had to spend quite a while on the internet looking at maps and air-photos to work out what the heck was going on. I should have appreciated a paragraph of description to save me that trouble, but the author clearly felt that that was unnecessary, and would slow down the all-important ACTION. I was actually annoyed by the tacit assumption that all readers were Americans, but that was probably because I was annoyed by other aspects of the book, too!
    If a story is good, the reader will try to look up anything that she doesn’t understand, a process that has been made easier by the Internet. As in so many things in life, the best guide is common sense.

    Reply
  24. I am with all those who like to learn something new when reading historical fiction, and to feel confident that what the writer is telling me is accurate and properly researched. I like a writer to explain something that is truly obscure, but if she doesn’t, I’d prefer to have to look it up myself than to feel that she has ducked the issue by being less specific, avoiding a precise and appropriate technical word, or glossing over a cultural reference by using vague terms.
    The notional reader: yes, in sheer numbers, there will be more American readers than English-speakers of other nationalities, but don’t forget those others, from Brits and Aussies to Asians who read English fluently as a second language and enjoy American genre fiction. If one is writing in Welsh or Icelandic, it is fairly easy to have a good idea of your typical reader’s likely knowledge. Writers in English really cannot second-guess their global, multi-cultural readers in that way. If the author starts to worry about things her American readers might have to look up, then if she wants to be consistent, she ought, perhaps, to give some thought too to the things her *non-American* readers will find unfamiliar – and it could get pretty complicated!
    I have been reading American novels, contemporary and other, for fifty years: I have many American friends, and I have visited the USA many times, including one 4-month stay. I STILL regularly find words, idioms and cultural references in contemporary American fiction that I do not understand. So I look them up, and I learn something. In a recent contemporary romantic suspense story set in the Southern USA, the author did not see fit to describe properly the topography where the action took place, something which actually mattered to the story, presumably assuming that *American* readers would all be able to envisage the type of landscape from the fact that the name of a city was given. I had to spend quite a while on the internet looking at maps and air-photos to work out what the heck was going on. I should have appreciated a paragraph of description to save me that trouble, but the author clearly felt that that was unnecessary, and would slow down the all-important ACTION. I was actually annoyed by the tacit assumption that all readers were Americans, but that was probably because I was annoyed by other aspects of the book, too!
    If a story is good, the reader will try to look up anything that she doesn’t understand, a process that has been made easier by the Internet. As in so many things in life, the best guide is common sense.

    Reply
  25. Susan Sarah here.
    Interesting discussion, thanks for bringing this one up, Loretta.
    I have also debated the tape/fastener question, and IIRC, I used “tapes” — but I was the one who had to look it up to see exactly what they were (it was for my first Victorian). *G*
    Possibly, because I was writing for a different publishing house than Loretta at the time, “tapes” wasn’t queried, though at another house, it might have been.
    Loretta touched on this in her blog. Word and detail issues are often influenced, and often determined despite author preference, by editors and copyeditors. Details and vocabulary that an author includes when writing the manuscript, stuff that may be perfectly and wonderfully correct, might not see the light of day in the book’s final form. The editor and/or CE may ask to delete or alter these details. It’s author preference, but most authors have good instincts about when to let an alteration go, and when to go down to the mat for the sake of a detail.
    Sometimes it’s to simplify the language in the book for various reasons (pre-determined length, house style, marketing, reader/audience preference). If a publishing house style — and they can be very aware of an overall style, tone, or “type of book” in their imprints– then the editors and CEs understand exactly what they want, what suits, and what doesn’t. They may edit for simple clarity of language, deleting and reducing complex vocabulary, or complex passages of history and description. They may cut throughout for length, pacing, or flow. So a lot of great detail that some readers love, and some readers just do not, can disappear into Deletion Heaven before the book is in its final form.
    I suspect that may be where that description of the contemporary US city went in the book AgTigress was reading — it was probably there in the original manuscript.
    It’s all a process, and the author is sometimes only small part of it.
    ~Susan Sarah 😉

    Reply
  26. Susan Sarah here.
    Interesting discussion, thanks for bringing this one up, Loretta.
    I have also debated the tape/fastener question, and IIRC, I used “tapes” — but I was the one who had to look it up to see exactly what they were (it was for my first Victorian). *G*
    Possibly, because I was writing for a different publishing house than Loretta at the time, “tapes” wasn’t queried, though at another house, it might have been.
    Loretta touched on this in her blog. Word and detail issues are often influenced, and often determined despite author preference, by editors and copyeditors. Details and vocabulary that an author includes when writing the manuscript, stuff that may be perfectly and wonderfully correct, might not see the light of day in the book’s final form. The editor and/or CE may ask to delete or alter these details. It’s author preference, but most authors have good instincts about when to let an alteration go, and when to go down to the mat for the sake of a detail.
    Sometimes it’s to simplify the language in the book for various reasons (pre-determined length, house style, marketing, reader/audience preference). If a publishing house style — and they can be very aware of an overall style, tone, or “type of book” in their imprints– then the editors and CEs understand exactly what they want, what suits, and what doesn’t. They may edit for simple clarity of language, deleting and reducing complex vocabulary, or complex passages of history and description. They may cut throughout for length, pacing, or flow. So a lot of great detail that some readers love, and some readers just do not, can disappear into Deletion Heaven before the book is in its final form.
    I suspect that may be where that description of the contemporary US city went in the book AgTigress was reading — it was probably there in the original manuscript.
    It’s all a process, and the author is sometimes only small part of it.
    ~Susan Sarah 😉

    Reply
  27. Susan Sarah here.
    Interesting discussion, thanks for bringing this one up, Loretta.
    I have also debated the tape/fastener question, and IIRC, I used “tapes” — but I was the one who had to look it up to see exactly what they were (it was for my first Victorian). *G*
    Possibly, because I was writing for a different publishing house than Loretta at the time, “tapes” wasn’t queried, though at another house, it might have been.
    Loretta touched on this in her blog. Word and detail issues are often influenced, and often determined despite author preference, by editors and copyeditors. Details and vocabulary that an author includes when writing the manuscript, stuff that may be perfectly and wonderfully correct, might not see the light of day in the book’s final form. The editor and/or CE may ask to delete or alter these details. It’s author preference, but most authors have good instincts about when to let an alteration go, and when to go down to the mat for the sake of a detail.
    Sometimes it’s to simplify the language in the book for various reasons (pre-determined length, house style, marketing, reader/audience preference). If a publishing house style — and they can be very aware of an overall style, tone, or “type of book” in their imprints– then the editors and CEs understand exactly what they want, what suits, and what doesn’t. They may edit for simple clarity of language, deleting and reducing complex vocabulary, or complex passages of history and description. They may cut throughout for length, pacing, or flow. So a lot of great detail that some readers love, and some readers just do not, can disappear into Deletion Heaven before the book is in its final form.
    I suspect that may be where that description of the contemporary US city went in the book AgTigress was reading — it was probably there in the original manuscript.
    It’s all a process, and the author is sometimes only small part of it.
    ~Susan Sarah 😉

    Reply
  28. Yes, I am well aware of the part played by editors in changing the author’s words, sometimes for the better, and sometimes not; this happens just as much in non-fiction as in fiction.
    I have seldom had serious fallings-out with my editors, and I have often been truly grateful for their interventions, but there are times when the author’s instincts are the best ones. I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right! So, as it was a popular book, not one intended for my colleagues alone, I gave in.
    But I will fight on some things. There is nothing worse than having a reviewer criticise something that one had originally done differently, and then allowed an editor to ‘miscorrect’! I know of one example at least of an editor ‘miscorrecting’ *got* to *gotten* in a Regency by an American author.

    Reply
  29. Yes, I am well aware of the part played by editors in changing the author’s words, sometimes for the better, and sometimes not; this happens just as much in non-fiction as in fiction.
    I have seldom had serious fallings-out with my editors, and I have often been truly grateful for their interventions, but there are times when the author’s instincts are the best ones. I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right! So, as it was a popular book, not one intended for my colleagues alone, I gave in.
    But I will fight on some things. There is nothing worse than having a reviewer criticise something that one had originally done differently, and then allowed an editor to ‘miscorrect’! I know of one example at least of an editor ‘miscorrecting’ *got* to *gotten* in a Regency by an American author.

    Reply
  30. Yes, I am well aware of the part played by editors in changing the author’s words, sometimes for the better, and sometimes not; this happens just as much in non-fiction as in fiction.
    I have seldom had serious fallings-out with my editors, and I have often been truly grateful for their interventions, but there are times when the author’s instincts are the best ones. I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right! So, as it was a popular book, not one intended for my colleagues alone, I gave in.
    But I will fight on some things. There is nothing worse than having a reviewer criticise something that one had originally done differently, and then allowed an editor to ‘miscorrect’! I know of one example at least of an editor ‘miscorrecting’ *got* to *gotten* in a Regency by an American author.

    Reply
  31. I love looking up words 🙂 But I’m a bit of a word geek, so probably am not an average reader.
    I know what a fine balance it can be – striving for accuracy, yet not wanting to risk losing your reader with obscure words. Though I do confess to having worked in the fun “cockalorum” into my ms and am pretty certain its meaning is clear from the context in which it’s used.

    Reply
  32. I love looking up words 🙂 But I’m a bit of a word geek, so probably am not an average reader.
    I know what a fine balance it can be – striving for accuracy, yet not wanting to risk losing your reader with obscure words. Though I do confess to having worked in the fun “cockalorum” into my ms and am pretty certain its meaning is clear from the context in which it’s used.

    Reply
  33. I love looking up words 🙂 But I’m a bit of a word geek, so probably am not an average reader.
    I know what a fine balance it can be – striving for accuracy, yet not wanting to risk losing your reader with obscure words. Though I do confess to having worked in the fun “cockalorum” into my ms and am pretty certain its meaning is clear from the context in which it’s used.

    Reply
  34. Hi Loretta!
    Thank you for the interesting insight into dealing with copy edits. I had no idea.
    As to fasteners vs. tapes… IMHO if it’s in a love scene, there’s only one place my brain is going and if he’s undoing ‘them’ I’m going to easily equate clothing. Call them what ya like.
    But, tripping up a reader is a valid concern. Thanks to the recommendations from this blog, I am reading my first Heyer. DEVIL’S CUB. Very different from anything I’ve ever read. Ms. Heyer has thrown me for a loop multiple times; like ‘in his cups’. My first thought was jock strap but I doubt that’s what she meant. Then there was ‘present at the drum.’ I’ve heard ‘following the drum’ or ‘being drummed out’ but not ‘present at the drum.’ Oh, and ‘a true Alastair.’ Even looking up the word ‘Alastair’ didn’t help. All in all it’s a very interesting read. But, if I was reading it simply for pleasure, it would not have made it of the store’s bookshelf. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy. Or maybe because I spend so much of my workday battling through difficult tasks that I’m not interested in fighting my way through confusing prose. It also makes me feel dumb. And, in general, adults don’t like that feeling even when it’s being experienced in the privacy of their own heads.
    –the littlest wenchling, going back to DEVIL’S CUB

    Reply
  35. Hi Loretta!
    Thank you for the interesting insight into dealing with copy edits. I had no idea.
    As to fasteners vs. tapes… IMHO if it’s in a love scene, there’s only one place my brain is going and if he’s undoing ‘them’ I’m going to easily equate clothing. Call them what ya like.
    But, tripping up a reader is a valid concern. Thanks to the recommendations from this blog, I am reading my first Heyer. DEVIL’S CUB. Very different from anything I’ve ever read. Ms. Heyer has thrown me for a loop multiple times; like ‘in his cups’. My first thought was jock strap but I doubt that’s what she meant. Then there was ‘present at the drum.’ I’ve heard ‘following the drum’ or ‘being drummed out’ but not ‘present at the drum.’ Oh, and ‘a true Alastair.’ Even looking up the word ‘Alastair’ didn’t help. All in all it’s a very interesting read. But, if I was reading it simply for pleasure, it would not have made it of the store’s bookshelf. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy. Or maybe because I spend so much of my workday battling through difficult tasks that I’m not interested in fighting my way through confusing prose. It also makes me feel dumb. And, in general, adults don’t like that feeling even when it’s being experienced in the privacy of their own heads.
    –the littlest wenchling, going back to DEVIL’S CUB

    Reply
  36. Hi Loretta!
    Thank you for the interesting insight into dealing with copy edits. I had no idea.
    As to fasteners vs. tapes… IMHO if it’s in a love scene, there’s only one place my brain is going and if he’s undoing ‘them’ I’m going to easily equate clothing. Call them what ya like.
    But, tripping up a reader is a valid concern. Thanks to the recommendations from this blog, I am reading my first Heyer. DEVIL’S CUB. Very different from anything I’ve ever read. Ms. Heyer has thrown me for a loop multiple times; like ‘in his cups’. My first thought was jock strap but I doubt that’s what she meant. Then there was ‘present at the drum.’ I’ve heard ‘following the drum’ or ‘being drummed out’ but not ‘present at the drum.’ Oh, and ‘a true Alastair.’ Even looking up the word ‘Alastair’ didn’t help. All in all it’s a very interesting read. But, if I was reading it simply for pleasure, it would not have made it of the store’s bookshelf. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy. Or maybe because I spend so much of my workday battling through difficult tasks that I’m not interested in fighting my way through confusing prose. It also makes me feel dumb. And, in general, adults don’t like that feeling even when it’s being experienced in the privacy of their own heads.
    –the littlest wenchling, going back to DEVIL’S CUB

    Reply
  37. Nina P:
    ‘In his cups’ = ‘drunk’. Other expressions for ‘inebriated’ are ‘castaway’ and ‘foxed’.
    ‘Drum’ = an afternoon or early evening party.
    ‘Alastair’; in this case, the family name (surname) of the Duke of Avon, and thus of his son and uncle.
    Don’t worry – you’ll get used to it!

    Reply
  38. Nina P:
    ‘In his cups’ = ‘drunk’. Other expressions for ‘inebriated’ are ‘castaway’ and ‘foxed’.
    ‘Drum’ = an afternoon or early evening party.
    ‘Alastair’; in this case, the family name (surname) of the Duke of Avon, and thus of his son and uncle.
    Don’t worry – you’ll get used to it!

    Reply
  39. Nina P:
    ‘In his cups’ = ‘drunk’. Other expressions for ‘inebriated’ are ‘castaway’ and ‘foxed’.
    ‘Drum’ = an afternoon or early evening party.
    ‘Alastair’; in this case, the family name (surname) of the Duke of Avon, and thus of his son and uncle.
    Don’t worry – you’ll get used to it!

    Reply
  40. 😉 We still sometimes use ‘in his cups’ in British English. Even though it is a little mannered, the average Brit would still understand if you said something like, ‘I think he let the information slip when he was in his cups’, or ‘he is always a perfect gentleman, even in his cups’.
    You would never hear ‘foxed’ or ‘castaway’ today – or if you did, you’d know that the speaker was a Heyer fan!
    😀

    Reply
  41. 😉 We still sometimes use ‘in his cups’ in British English. Even though it is a little mannered, the average Brit would still understand if you said something like, ‘I think he let the information slip when he was in his cups’, or ‘he is always a perfect gentleman, even in his cups’.
    You would never hear ‘foxed’ or ‘castaway’ today – or if you did, you’d know that the speaker was a Heyer fan!
    😀

    Reply
  42. 😉 We still sometimes use ‘in his cups’ in British English. Even though it is a little mannered, the average Brit would still understand if you said something like, ‘I think he let the information slip when he was in his cups’, or ‘he is always a perfect gentleman, even in his cups’.
    You would never hear ‘foxed’ or ‘castaway’ today – or if you did, you’d know that the speaker was a Heyer fan!
    😀

    Reply
  43. When I first started reading Regencies, I was initially confused by many of the Regencyisms. If I got it from the context, great. If not, I didn’t worry about it–I’d just keep reading, and at some point later in the book the meaning usually became evident.
    I liked Regencies and continued reading them, though sometimes the language baffled me. After awhile, however, I realized that I had absorbed so many Regency terms that I was no longer clueless. Of all time periods, I think the Regency is the most delightful for its colorful and often hilarious cant.
    Nina, LOL about “in his cups”/jock strap! You might have enjoyed Devil’s Cub more had you read These Old Shades first. TOS is about Vidal’s father, and it sets the stage for DC.

    Reply
  44. When I first started reading Regencies, I was initially confused by many of the Regencyisms. If I got it from the context, great. If not, I didn’t worry about it–I’d just keep reading, and at some point later in the book the meaning usually became evident.
    I liked Regencies and continued reading them, though sometimes the language baffled me. After awhile, however, I realized that I had absorbed so many Regency terms that I was no longer clueless. Of all time periods, I think the Regency is the most delightful for its colorful and often hilarious cant.
    Nina, LOL about “in his cups”/jock strap! You might have enjoyed Devil’s Cub more had you read These Old Shades first. TOS is about Vidal’s father, and it sets the stage for DC.

    Reply
  45. When I first started reading Regencies, I was initially confused by many of the Regencyisms. If I got it from the context, great. If not, I didn’t worry about it–I’d just keep reading, and at some point later in the book the meaning usually became evident.
    I liked Regencies and continued reading them, though sometimes the language baffled me. After awhile, however, I realized that I had absorbed so many Regency terms that I was no longer clueless. Of all time periods, I think the Regency is the most delightful for its colorful and often hilarious cant.
    Nina, LOL about “in his cups”/jock strap! You might have enjoyed Devil’s Cub more had you read These Old Shades first. TOS is about Vidal’s father, and it sets the stage for DC.

    Reply
  46. Sherrie: I have to disagree about reading ‘These Old Shades’ first, just because it is chronologically earlier. Whilst I enjoy it as much as the next Heyer devotee, I think ‘Devil’s Cub’ is a much better book, and it stands alone perfectly well. I think it is better to read ‘These Old Shades’ when one is already a Heyer aficionado, and is willing to forgive the sometimes clunky infelicities of an early novel – Heyer was only 24 when she wrote it, and it does have a lot of technical faults, captivating though the hero may be!
    🙂

    Reply
  47. Sherrie: I have to disagree about reading ‘These Old Shades’ first, just because it is chronologically earlier. Whilst I enjoy it as much as the next Heyer devotee, I think ‘Devil’s Cub’ is a much better book, and it stands alone perfectly well. I think it is better to read ‘These Old Shades’ when one is already a Heyer aficionado, and is willing to forgive the sometimes clunky infelicities of an early novel – Heyer was only 24 when she wrote it, and it does have a lot of technical faults, captivating though the hero may be!
    🙂

    Reply
  48. Sherrie: I have to disagree about reading ‘These Old Shades’ first, just because it is chronologically earlier. Whilst I enjoy it as much as the next Heyer devotee, I think ‘Devil’s Cub’ is a much better book, and it stands alone perfectly well. I think it is better to read ‘These Old Shades’ when one is already a Heyer aficionado, and is willing to forgive the sometimes clunky infelicities of an early novel – Heyer was only 24 when she wrote it, and it does have a lot of technical faults, captivating though the hero may be!
    🙂

    Reply
  49. Cassie, I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “pretentious.” I feel as though it rings false or pretentious if I use a lot of Regency slang, for instance, or words that readers won’t find in their dictionaries. I don’t completely avoid using “Britishisms”. I guess it’s a matter of trying to use the “foreign” stuff judiciously. If I can’t make a word’s meaning clear in the context–without stopping dead to explain the term–I’m inclined to change a term that would require a research library. Not always, but often. All of my sisters and most of my friends are not only avid readers but intelligent ones. Yet I know they don’t have costuming books at hand, or any of the references that fill my shelves. If I’m wondering about a word, these are the people I consider.
    All the Wenches who commented made valid points. I don’t think any of us “dumb down” for readers yet we don’t want to be inconsiderate of them, either–and as Susan/Sarah pointed out, the c/e queries often have to do with the publishing house–or even that particular c/e.
    Funnily enough, in my second run-through of the mss, I noticed that the c/e didn’t query the word “tapes” in another scene. Hmmm. Well, I went back to my costume books and realized I might have had the wrong picture in my head of the particular dress, and maybe “tapes” wasn’t accurate anyway. IOW, she made me think, which is not a bad thing at all.

    Reply
  50. Cassie, I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “pretentious.” I feel as though it rings false or pretentious if I use a lot of Regency slang, for instance, or words that readers won’t find in their dictionaries. I don’t completely avoid using “Britishisms”. I guess it’s a matter of trying to use the “foreign” stuff judiciously. If I can’t make a word’s meaning clear in the context–without stopping dead to explain the term–I’m inclined to change a term that would require a research library. Not always, but often. All of my sisters and most of my friends are not only avid readers but intelligent ones. Yet I know they don’t have costuming books at hand, or any of the references that fill my shelves. If I’m wondering about a word, these are the people I consider.
    All the Wenches who commented made valid points. I don’t think any of us “dumb down” for readers yet we don’t want to be inconsiderate of them, either–and as Susan/Sarah pointed out, the c/e queries often have to do with the publishing house–or even that particular c/e.
    Funnily enough, in my second run-through of the mss, I noticed that the c/e didn’t query the word “tapes” in another scene. Hmmm. Well, I went back to my costume books and realized I might have had the wrong picture in my head of the particular dress, and maybe “tapes” wasn’t accurate anyway. IOW, she made me think, which is not a bad thing at all.

    Reply
  51. Cassie, I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “pretentious.” I feel as though it rings false or pretentious if I use a lot of Regency slang, for instance, or words that readers won’t find in their dictionaries. I don’t completely avoid using “Britishisms”. I guess it’s a matter of trying to use the “foreign” stuff judiciously. If I can’t make a word’s meaning clear in the context–without stopping dead to explain the term–I’m inclined to change a term that would require a research library. Not always, but often. All of my sisters and most of my friends are not only avid readers but intelligent ones. Yet I know they don’t have costuming books at hand, or any of the references that fill my shelves. If I’m wondering about a word, these are the people I consider.
    All the Wenches who commented made valid points. I don’t think any of us “dumb down” for readers yet we don’t want to be inconsiderate of them, either–and as Susan/Sarah pointed out, the c/e queries often have to do with the publishing house–or even that particular c/e.
    Funnily enough, in my second run-through of the mss, I noticed that the c/e didn’t query the word “tapes” in another scene. Hmmm. Well, I went back to my costume books and realized I might have had the wrong picture in my head of the particular dress, and maybe “tapes” wasn’t accurate anyway. IOW, she made me think, which is not a bad thing at all.

    Reply
  52. Nina, if you find that Georgette Heyer continues to be a struggle for you, you may want to put her aside temporarily and learn the Regency world through gradual rather than complete immersion. Edith posted a pic of her first Regency, which is a marvelous, marvelous book. You may want to try this and some of the Wenches’ earlier books. That way you can get used to Regency World, learn the lingo by degrees–and then discover the brilliance of Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  53. Nina, if you find that Georgette Heyer continues to be a struggle for you, you may want to put her aside temporarily and learn the Regency world through gradual rather than complete immersion. Edith posted a pic of her first Regency, which is a marvelous, marvelous book. You may want to try this and some of the Wenches’ earlier books. That way you can get used to Regency World, learn the lingo by degrees–and then discover the brilliance of Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  54. Nina, if you find that Georgette Heyer continues to be a struggle for you, you may want to put her aside temporarily and learn the Regency world through gradual rather than complete immersion. Edith posted a pic of her first Regency, which is a marvelous, marvelous book. You may want to try this and some of the Wenches’ earlier books. That way you can get used to Regency World, learn the lingo by degrees–and then discover the brilliance of Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  55. As an historical costumer I’m always bothered by “tapes”. Exactly what/where are these on a Regency gown? Most styles don’t really have “tapes” from what I’ve seen. They might have hook and eyes. They might have drawstrings. They might have pins. They might even have buttons. If it’s a habit it MIGHT have “tapes” to tie up the skirt for walking. If you’re writing an early-Regency (1790-1812) and your heroine is in an apron-front gown you might call the tie that holds the skirt up a “tape”, but Janet Arnold simply calls it a “waistband”.
    If we’re talking 18th century costume the lady would have tapes to tie her petticoats with, and to hold her hoops, but these garments have no equivalent on a Regency garment.

    Reply
  56. As an historical costumer I’m always bothered by “tapes”. Exactly what/where are these on a Regency gown? Most styles don’t really have “tapes” from what I’ve seen. They might have hook and eyes. They might have drawstrings. They might have pins. They might even have buttons. If it’s a habit it MIGHT have “tapes” to tie up the skirt for walking. If you’re writing an early-Regency (1790-1812) and your heroine is in an apron-front gown you might call the tie that holds the skirt up a “tape”, but Janet Arnold simply calls it a “waistband”.
    If we’re talking 18th century costume the lady would have tapes to tie her petticoats with, and to hold her hoops, but these garments have no equivalent on a Regency garment.

    Reply
  57. As an historical costumer I’m always bothered by “tapes”. Exactly what/where are these on a Regency gown? Most styles don’t really have “tapes” from what I’ve seen. They might have hook and eyes. They might have drawstrings. They might have pins. They might even have buttons. If it’s a habit it MIGHT have “tapes” to tie up the skirt for walking. If you’re writing an early-Regency (1790-1812) and your heroine is in an apron-front gown you might call the tie that holds the skirt up a “tape”, but Janet Arnold simply calls it a “waistband”.
    If we’re talking 18th century costume the lady would have tapes to tie her petticoats with, and to hold her hoops, but these garments have no equivalent on a Regency garment.

    Reply
  58. I am quite fascinated by this “language discussion”, as I am one of those non-native speakers of English AgTigress mentioned in her post, and I am never bothered by terms/idioms I do not understand at first glance. First, I guess, because I expect it (even after learning & studying a language for more than 20 years, there are things to be learned!) and secondly, because that is the way you expand your vocabulary in a foreign language. You contextualize (is this a proper word in English??) – or just guess. My English teacher recomended reading popular fiction to improve my vocabulary, but made me promise only to use a dictionary if I absolutely had to. It was good advice, even though I did not catch all the fine points in the beginning… but you do not have to, after all, if you get the overall picture….

    Reply
  59. I am quite fascinated by this “language discussion”, as I am one of those non-native speakers of English AgTigress mentioned in her post, and I am never bothered by terms/idioms I do not understand at first glance. First, I guess, because I expect it (even after learning & studying a language for more than 20 years, there are things to be learned!) and secondly, because that is the way you expand your vocabulary in a foreign language. You contextualize (is this a proper word in English??) – or just guess. My English teacher recomended reading popular fiction to improve my vocabulary, but made me promise only to use a dictionary if I absolutely had to. It was good advice, even though I did not catch all the fine points in the beginning… but you do not have to, after all, if you get the overall picture….

    Reply
  60. I am quite fascinated by this “language discussion”, as I am one of those non-native speakers of English AgTigress mentioned in her post, and I am never bothered by terms/idioms I do not understand at first glance. First, I guess, because I expect it (even after learning & studying a language for more than 20 years, there are things to be learned!) and secondly, because that is the way you expand your vocabulary in a foreign language. You contextualize (is this a proper word in English??) – or just guess. My English teacher recomended reading popular fiction to improve my vocabulary, but made me promise only to use a dictionary if I absolutely had to. It was good advice, even though I did not catch all the fine points in the beginning… but you do not have to, after all, if you get the overall picture….

    Reply
  61. lovely discussion! I suspect we could carry it on for weeks. I’m all in favor of learning new words from reading, but I do understand that for the truly foreign words (or locations or anything else as AGT points out), there ought to be some context for the reader to grasp the meaning. If the reader can’t grasp the meaning from context, then we’re all in trouble.
    The problem lies in knowing which words are truly foreign to a modern reader. I’ve been reading English novels and researching historicals for eons. Very few terms are foreign to me, and I drop them casually without giving them too much thought until someone points them out.
    But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me. Did she want me to snap the shirt closed? Do I add a line saying shirts don’t have buttonholes in this period? that would kind of jar the reader. So how in heck is the hero going to get the danged shirt over his head, I ask you? At some point, one simply has to ACCEPT the word and move on.

    Reply
  62. lovely discussion! I suspect we could carry it on for weeks. I’m all in favor of learning new words from reading, but I do understand that for the truly foreign words (or locations or anything else as AGT points out), there ought to be some context for the reader to grasp the meaning. If the reader can’t grasp the meaning from context, then we’re all in trouble.
    The problem lies in knowing which words are truly foreign to a modern reader. I’ve been reading English novels and researching historicals for eons. Very few terms are foreign to me, and I drop them casually without giving them too much thought until someone points them out.
    But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me. Did she want me to snap the shirt closed? Do I add a line saying shirts don’t have buttonholes in this period? that would kind of jar the reader. So how in heck is the hero going to get the danged shirt over his head, I ask you? At some point, one simply has to ACCEPT the word and move on.

    Reply
  63. lovely discussion! I suspect we could carry it on for weeks. I’m all in favor of learning new words from reading, but I do understand that for the truly foreign words (or locations or anything else as AGT points out), there ought to be some context for the reader to grasp the meaning. If the reader can’t grasp the meaning from context, then we’re all in trouble.
    The problem lies in knowing which words are truly foreign to a modern reader. I’ve been reading English novels and researching historicals for eons. Very few terms are foreign to me, and I drop them casually without giving them too much thought until someone points them out.
    But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me. Did she want me to snap the shirt closed? Do I add a line saying shirts don’t have buttonholes in this period? that would kind of jar the reader. So how in heck is the hero going to get the danged shirt over his head, I ask you? At some point, one simply has to ACCEPT the word and move on.

    Reply
  64. Hmmm. Chaperone is a woman. Chaperon is a man or medieval headgear. I had a copy editor try to change that (and my female character’s hair from blonde to blond), and I stetted it firmly!
    I’ve always used “tapes,” and I’ve never had anyone, reader, editor, or copy editor, question it. (In the Victorian era, most ties were called tapes even though they weren’t at all tape-like. I guess it was a hold-over from an earlier age.)
    Sometimes, the copy editor just wants to make sure you know what you’re doing. *g* My favorite c.e. wanted to make sure a Bath chair could be wicker as well as leather, and she wanted to make sure that constermongers sell fish as well as fruits and vegetables. So I just noted that it was correct and went on.
    I, apparently, read too much British literature, because I use what are apparently British-preferred terms in my everyday speech without noticing. 🙂 That oddly makes it harder because neither the British not the American-preferred term sounds foreign to me.
    >I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right!
    As a reader, if the book were fiction and the person narrating was supposed to be an archeologist, I’d notice the wrong terminology, and it would bother me throughout the book. But otherwise, I wouldn’t care!
    I don’t worry about having words that are “too big” in my books. If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either. I refuse to write to the lowest common denominator, and many readers have written to specifically thank me for that, so I hardly think it’s necessary. Thankfully, I haven’t had anyone at Signet suggest I make those changes!

    Reply
  65. Hmmm. Chaperone is a woman. Chaperon is a man or medieval headgear. I had a copy editor try to change that (and my female character’s hair from blonde to blond), and I stetted it firmly!
    I’ve always used “tapes,” and I’ve never had anyone, reader, editor, or copy editor, question it. (In the Victorian era, most ties were called tapes even though they weren’t at all tape-like. I guess it was a hold-over from an earlier age.)
    Sometimes, the copy editor just wants to make sure you know what you’re doing. *g* My favorite c.e. wanted to make sure a Bath chair could be wicker as well as leather, and she wanted to make sure that constermongers sell fish as well as fruits and vegetables. So I just noted that it was correct and went on.
    I, apparently, read too much British literature, because I use what are apparently British-preferred terms in my everyday speech without noticing. 🙂 That oddly makes it harder because neither the British not the American-preferred term sounds foreign to me.
    >I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right!
    As a reader, if the book were fiction and the person narrating was supposed to be an archeologist, I’d notice the wrong terminology, and it would bother me throughout the book. But otherwise, I wouldn’t care!
    I don’t worry about having words that are “too big” in my books. If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either. I refuse to write to the lowest common denominator, and many readers have written to specifically thank me for that, so I hardly think it’s necessary. Thankfully, I haven’t had anyone at Signet suggest I make those changes!

    Reply
  66. Hmmm. Chaperone is a woman. Chaperon is a man or medieval headgear. I had a copy editor try to change that (and my female character’s hair from blonde to blond), and I stetted it firmly!
    I’ve always used “tapes,” and I’ve never had anyone, reader, editor, or copy editor, question it. (In the Victorian era, most ties were called tapes even though they weren’t at all tape-like. I guess it was a hold-over from an earlier age.)
    Sometimes, the copy editor just wants to make sure you know what you’re doing. *g* My favorite c.e. wanted to make sure a Bath chair could be wicker as well as leather, and she wanted to make sure that constermongers sell fish as well as fruits and vegetables. So I just noted that it was correct and went on.
    I, apparently, read too much British literature, because I use what are apparently British-preferred terms in my everyday speech without noticing. 🙂 That oddly makes it harder because neither the British not the American-preferred term sounds foreign to me.
    >I am inclined to let the small things go, like my editor changing all my ‘…dates to the Xth century’ to ‘…dates *from* the Xth century’ in my current book: she told me firmly that *only* archaeologists say ‘dates to’, and a straw poll proved her right!
    As a reader, if the book were fiction and the person narrating was supposed to be an archeologist, I’d notice the wrong terminology, and it would bother me throughout the book. But otherwise, I wouldn’t care!
    I don’t worry about having words that are “too big” in my books. If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either. I refuse to write to the lowest common denominator, and many readers have written to specifically thank me for that, so I hardly think it’s necessary. Thankfully, I haven’t had anyone at Signet suggest I make those changes!

    Reply
  67. “If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either”
    OMG, I think I love you. No, I already knew that . . . that I love your books, anyway. LOL!
    “But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me.”
    Pat, I’ve never seen ties on an extant man’s shirt from this period (doesn’t mean they’re not out there, but like your CE, I’d have flagged it). Most examples I’ve seen button at the throat, either with the standard buttonhole or with a loop. Some even have hook and eyes. As far as I know the only shirts that still tie this late are for children (see the last example).
    Lovely late 18th century example, linen (note the large frill on the front).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-c-1800.jpg
    On the right, a man’s shirt, dated 1802
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1802-shirt-1810-shift.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830.jpg
    Close up of the neck, showing the buttons, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830-detial.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1820 (note how much narrower the sleeves have become).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1820s-mens-shirt.jpg
    Boy’s shirt, c. 1800 (not how it is simpler, with a tie at the neck, and a ruffle much like a 16th century shirt).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1800-boys-shirt.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-button.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-neck.jpg

    Reply
  68. “If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either”
    OMG, I think I love you. No, I already knew that . . . that I love your books, anyway. LOL!
    “But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me.”
    Pat, I’ve never seen ties on an extant man’s shirt from this period (doesn’t mean they’re not out there, but like your CE, I’d have flagged it). Most examples I’ve seen button at the throat, either with the standard buttonhole or with a loop. Some even have hook and eyes. As far as I know the only shirts that still tie this late are for children (see the last example).
    Lovely late 18th century example, linen (note the large frill on the front).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-c-1800.jpg
    On the right, a man’s shirt, dated 1802
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1802-shirt-1810-shift.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830.jpg
    Close up of the neck, showing the buttons, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830-detial.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1820 (note how much narrower the sleeves have become).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1820s-mens-shirt.jpg
    Boy’s shirt, c. 1800 (not how it is simpler, with a tie at the neck, and a ruffle much like a 16th century shirt).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1800-boys-shirt.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-button.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-neck.jpg

    Reply
  69. “If a reader can’t understand the words I use, she’s not going to understand the story, either”
    OMG, I think I love you. No, I already knew that . . . that I love your books, anyway. LOL!
    “But the CE who questioned the ties on my 18th century hero’s shirt truly stymied me.”
    Pat, I’ve never seen ties on an extant man’s shirt from this period (doesn’t mean they’re not out there, but like your CE, I’d have flagged it). Most examples I’ve seen button at the throat, either with the standard buttonhole or with a loop. Some even have hook and eyes. As far as I know the only shirts that still tie this late are for children (see the last example).
    Lovely late 18th century example, linen (note the large frill on the front).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-c-1800.jpg
    On the right, a man’s shirt, dated 1802
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1802-shirt-1810-shift.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830.jpg
    Close up of the neck, showing the buttons, c. 1810-1830.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/shirt-1810-1830-detial.jpg
    Man’s shirt, c. 1820 (note how much narrower the sleeves have become).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1820s-mens-shirt.jpg
    Boy’s shirt, c. 1800 (not how it is simpler, with a tie at the neck, and a ruffle much like a 16th century shirt).
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1800-boys-shirt.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-button.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/boys-shirt-neck.jpg

    Reply
  70. Kalen, thanks very much for the comment on tapes. I was coming to much the same conclusion, but since I don’t have every costuming book in the world (alas), I dithered for quite a while before deciding that tapes were not necessary for the heroine’s bodice–and probably were not correct, anyway.
    Lydia, I will defend “chaperon” to my dying breath. OED says,”…English writers often erroneously spell it chaperone, app. under the supposition that it requires a fem. termination.”
    On the other hand, I let them take the “e” off “blonde” because I remember there’s some nitpicky rule about it which I have to read over five times to understand–so I just leave that one to the c/e. It’s funny the things we’ll fight about and the things we’ll let slide. Very individual.

    Reply
  71. Kalen, thanks very much for the comment on tapes. I was coming to much the same conclusion, but since I don’t have every costuming book in the world (alas), I dithered for quite a while before deciding that tapes were not necessary for the heroine’s bodice–and probably were not correct, anyway.
    Lydia, I will defend “chaperon” to my dying breath. OED says,”…English writers often erroneously spell it chaperone, app. under the supposition that it requires a fem. termination.”
    On the other hand, I let them take the “e” off “blonde” because I remember there’s some nitpicky rule about it which I have to read over five times to understand–so I just leave that one to the c/e. It’s funny the things we’ll fight about and the things we’ll let slide. Very individual.

    Reply
  72. Kalen, thanks very much for the comment on tapes. I was coming to much the same conclusion, but since I don’t have every costuming book in the world (alas), I dithered for quite a while before deciding that tapes were not necessary for the heroine’s bodice–and probably were not correct, anyway.
    Lydia, I will defend “chaperon” to my dying breath. OED says,”…English writers often erroneously spell it chaperone, app. under the supposition that it requires a fem. termination.”
    On the other hand, I let them take the “e” off “blonde” because I remember there’s some nitpicky rule about it which I have to read over five times to understand–so I just leave that one to the c/e. It’s funny the things we’ll fight about and the things we’ll let slide. Very individual.

    Reply
  73. Liza, I loved your description of reading English. You reminded me of the way I read Patrick O’Brian. No, I don’t understand every word of the nautical terms–and I have a bunch of the books published strictly to explain Patrick O’Brian–but I get the general picture, and that’s enough. And I have friends who sail who also say that it’s rather like reading a foreign language.
    Still, I do believe that writers of historical novels–like writers of historical mysteries–are allowed more leeway with technical terms, historical language, and historical detail than those of us who write historical romances. Which is fine. When I want to read romance, I want to read romance. When I want a mystery or a historical novel, my expectations are different.

    Reply
  74. Liza, I loved your description of reading English. You reminded me of the way I read Patrick O’Brian. No, I don’t understand every word of the nautical terms–and I have a bunch of the books published strictly to explain Patrick O’Brian–but I get the general picture, and that’s enough. And I have friends who sail who also say that it’s rather like reading a foreign language.
    Still, I do believe that writers of historical novels–like writers of historical mysteries–are allowed more leeway with technical terms, historical language, and historical detail than those of us who write historical romances. Which is fine. When I want to read romance, I want to read romance. When I want a mystery or a historical novel, my expectations are different.

    Reply
  75. Liza, I loved your description of reading English. You reminded me of the way I read Patrick O’Brian. No, I don’t understand every word of the nautical terms–and I have a bunch of the books published strictly to explain Patrick O’Brian–but I get the general picture, and that’s enough. And I have friends who sail who also say that it’s rather like reading a foreign language.
    Still, I do believe that writers of historical novels–like writers of historical mysteries–are allowed more leeway with technical terms, historical language, and historical detail than those of us who write historical romances. Which is fine. When I want to read romance, I want to read romance. When I want a mystery or a historical novel, my expectations are different.

    Reply

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