Literary pet peeves

Charles Butler hannibal at
Sun Feb 9 16:51:23 EST 2003

There was a time around Fire and Hemlock when I rather thought that DWJ
rather overdid the word 'rather', rather. But it seemed to pass.

>Where characters wouldn't be speaking modern English it is possible to
assume that a word or concept is "translated" into
modern English, as long as something like that concept
would have existed in the original period.

This seems a pretty good rule of thumb. Does it apply to third person
narrators as well as characters, though? In the first draft of what I'm
writing at the moment, for instance, I've referred to someone setting a
'fuse of rumour'. This is in an Iron Age setting. It's a clunky phrase that
will probably go anyway, but does the anachronism matter considering a) it's
a metaphor and b) it's the narrator talking, and not at that moment from any
characters' POV? I can't decide, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with it.

>Robert Graves in his Claudius books uses the modern equivilents for Roman
military units -battalion rather than cohort etc

Garner's Vietnam-inspired GI legionaries in Red Shift must be the modern
locus classicus of this kind of thing. Always thought it was a brilliant
stroke in itself, but not sure how well it gelled with the 'authentic'
Cheshire dialect he put in the 17th century scenes. Two different solutions
to the same problem smacks of ad hockery. But there - I am giving up
historical books after this, at least until I've read Sally's and pinched
all her techniques ;-)


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