Anyone here a Bon Jovi fan? I AM! LOL I love his song “I’ll Be There for You”—I’ll try to include a link here before the end of the post. This is one saying that I see a LOT when I’m editing. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, I edit a LOT of historical fiction. I don’t remember ever hearing it “back in the dark ages” of the 1950’s and 1960’s…so I guess maybe the 70’s was when it got to be popular. The 1970’s, not the 1870’s, y’all. I don’t believe a knight would tell his lady he’d “be there” for her…at least not for another 500-800 years, or somewhere around that, anyhow.
Here’s another one that’s jarring to me—the use of “morph” for “change”—it reminds me of those wonderful days when my son Casey was a young boy and so, so crazy about the Power Rangers. Anyone remember them? They were popular in the 1990’s. Five teenagers—two girls and three boys—who had the power to change from mere teens to THE POWER RANGERS! How did they accomplish this? They gave each other meaningful looks and said, “It’s morphin’ time!” And with some fancy camera work, there they were, in their Power Ranger color-coded uniforms. All…morphed…
How about the response to “Thank you.”? Truly…can you picture a knight responding with “No problem.”? No…me either. Yet, sometimes that’s the response that crops up in historical manuscripts. It doesn’t matter how politely one responds, the response has not been invented or introduced into thought or speech patterns of that time.
Another simple one that turns up a lot in response to “How are you?” is … “I’m good.” When did this phrase come into existence? I don’t ever remember this being said until only in the last couple of decades. When talking about someone else—“He’s good to go.” No…you might hear that on Blue Bloods or Law and Order, but not so much in 1860’s Indian Territory.
“Marshal Tilghman, how are you today?” “I’m good.”
Here are a couple of words that tend to creep in a lot—and shouldn’t—flashback and replay. Remember what these words are really saying, what they convey to people of this day and age who are reading the stories we’re writing. A medieval knight or a drifting cowboy will have no idea what “replaying something in his mind” even means—or that he’s having a “flashback” to when he was fighting at the battle of Honey Springs. Or that he’s “flashing back” to something that might have been a sweet memory in his early years. These characters are going to just be remembering, recalling, or thinking back to something… When you use this type of modern wording that refer to contemporary actions/equipment, it’s easy to pull readers out of the story. Because my husband is such a sports fan, I can’t hear or read the word “replay” without thinking of the sports connotation it carries. Flashback—this conjures up images of Hollywood movie scenes.
“Well, it’s all about you, isn’t it?” This is one that creeps in every so often, too. It “being all about” one person or another—or NOT “being all about” them is something that should never, ever, ever show up in any kind of historical writing. It’s easy to do—these contemporary sayings are so normal to us we can’t imagine NOT using them in daily conversation—problem is, it’s our job to check and double check what our characters are saying. If we don’t, they go out into the world showing that we have not “brought them up” correctly.
That reminds me—do you know the difference between being “reared” and “raised”? The standard saying used to be that “Children are reared; livestock is raised.” Those lines have blurred in modern times. I still remember my mother talking about children being “reared” and her brother “raising” cattle. She was born in 1922, so I would say that distinction has faded only during my lifetime.
RAISED, NOT REARED
This is “picky” but it’s the sort of thing that readers will seize on—and there are certain word usages and phrases that will definitely pull me right out of a story that’s written in historical times, so I’m sure that’s true of others, as well.
One more biggie–the use of “bleeding out” in describing someone’s medical condition from being stabbed or shot. I don’t ever remember hearing this until detective and police shows became so popular on television in the last several years. And when I asked a Scottish doctor friend of mine what a correct historical term would be, he replied that “bleed out” is not used in Britain to his knowledge even today. If you’re wondering, “exsanguination” is the correct medical term for “bleeding out”–but of course, that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?
These are a few of the many “uh-ohs” I see when I’m reading/editing. These are kind of fun to think about, but good golly–we have to watch what we put into our stories, don’t we? What are some words or phrases you’ve come across that don’t belong?
If you are a FRIENDS tv show fan, you know that there is another “I’ll Be There for You” – the theme of the show by the Rembrandts. There’s also a Kenny Rogers song that uses that phrase. But I promised you Bon Jovi! Here he is singing “I’ll Be There for You”—a wonderful song to turn up loud and belt out when you’re driving…just remember, in historical fiction writing, we have to find another way to say this. Kinda makes me sad, but we have to wait for it to be invented.