She is the author of On Writing Romance, published by Writers Digest Books. She teaches romance writing online at Gotham Writers’ Workshop (www.writingclasses.com) and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and at writers workshops across the Midwest. She is currently an adjunct professor in the school of communications at the University of Iowa. Her website is www.leighmichaels.com.
I followed up my historical fiction habit by reading history, social commentary, diaries, and period literature. So when I started writing Regency-era historicals, I felt reasonably well informed about the Regency period – the etiquette, the language, the manners, the food, the titles. I’m not fool enough to think I know it all, of course, but I did believe I was alert and knowledgeable enough to recognize potential pitfalls in time to look them up.
It came as a bit of a shock, therefore, when I got the copy-edited manuscript of my first Regency historical and realized how many of the phrases and terms I’d thought were ancient were not used until well after the Regency period. Here are a few of them, and the dates when the authorities in the dictionary business say they first appeared:
brandy snifter – 1844
pick-me-up – 1867
footloose – 1873
sadist – 1888 (I’d have sworn the Marquis de Sade was Georgian, not Victorian, so it never occurred to me to look him up to make certain. Color me red-faced.)
hairstyle – 1913
French doors – 1917
love nest – 1919
hideaway – 1926
pablum – 1948 (Okay, I admit this one really hurts. I was off by a hundred and thirty years?)
My ego is wounded and my self-esteem has slipped... But at least I knew enough not to let my Regency heroine use ego and self-esteem to describe her state of mind!
Now it’s your turn... In your reading, what anachronisms have you discovered in historical novels? Are there any modern-day references that you know perfectly well don’t belong in your historical, but you still have to struggle to avoid using them? Please share.