Words

file0001302011750One of my favorite sources for research is dictionary.com. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. It’s ridiculous for a professed writer to have to use a dictionary, but it’s not quite what you’re thinking. I’m not using the dictionary so I can impress my readers with big words that would take a college degree to pronounce.

That’s not my style.

What I do use dictionary.com for is to reference an approximate year a word was added to our language. This is especially important since I write historicals.

Let’s take a look at a few words.

skedaddle- 1860-65

wallflower- 1570-1580

guttersnipe- 1855-1860

dickens- 1590-1600

rafter- 900

teenager- 1935-1940

boomer- 1820-1830

pirate 1250-1300

cad- 1780-1790

suitcase- 1900

Corinthian- 1350-1400

supersonic- 1915

trashman- 1950

Internet- 1990-1995

Do any of these surprise you? Because I write Biblical and Western romances, I’m constantly looking up words, but sometimes I have to dig a littler deeper. Just because a word existed doesn’t always mean it was used in the context I wish to use it in. Take for instance stamp. As I’m sure you can imagine, the word stamp has been around quite awhile, at least since the 12th century, but if I thought to mail a letter in the 12th century with the sort of stamp we use today, I’d get a ton of mail explaining how that was impossible since adhesive stamps didn’t come into existence until around the 1840s, and even then they were probably pretty rare.

My latest contracted book involves pirates. Problem is my story is set in 600 B.C. and although there were many men who sailed the seas plundering other vessels as well as wreaking havoc on unsuspecting villages, the word didn’t exist. I’m sure you can imagine all the mail I’d receive if I called my hero a pirate. It wouldn’t be pretty.

If you’re a writer and have looked up words to meet the specifics of your manuscript, have there been any words that have surprised you? If you’re a reader have you found words in a book that made you do a double take because you just knew it wasn’t right?

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