Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Words, Words, Words

I admit I have started watching Spartacus : Blood and Sand and am quite enjoying it. And when I was reading historicals - several years ago now - one of my favourite eras was Roman Britain. I still have Defy the Eagle by Lynn Bartlett on my bookshelf, not that I read it that often, 'cause it's over 600 pages long and my pback copy is looking a little tatty. And one of my favourite series are the Marcus Falco books by Lindsey Davis.

With 300, Spartacus, Centurion - that time period is obviously coming back into fashion. So when I saw a new romance book set in Roman times I admit I was overcome with a little nostalgia and thought I'd check it out.

I'm not buying books at the moment having made the decision to tackle my TBR pile. But I am adding books to my wishlist after careful research.

So I search out an excerpt and within the first few paragraphs the heroine is talking about her pussy. Now I'm not a prude, I read a hell of a lot of erotic romance both m/m and f/m and probably know more words for genitalia than the average person. But this completely put me off the idea of buying the book.


Because it knocked me out of the time period. I cannot believe that this is set in Roman Britain. If you check the etymology of the word pussy most sources say it wasn't used to describe female genitalia until the mid 19th century. So I get pushed from Roman to Victorian.

I don't think you even need to know that. It just sounds wrong. (Maybe after reading the Falco novels I've been spoiled.)

Does this matter? Well it does to me. If you're going to set your book in a certain period surely you want to make it authentic on at least some level. If not, why bother writing an historical?

What does everyone else think?


Chris said...

I'm not much for historicals, although I do enjoy a few, of the sort not overburdened with historical detail. That said, the language should be realistic and is one of those things that doesn't feel like a pesky detail. That would've jolted me out of the story, too.

Sullivan McPig said...

Oh, I agree with you!!
Nothing puts me off historicals faster than things like that. I enjoy reading Native American Historicals but so often I come across french kissing natives while kissing wasn't something most tribes were familiar with. Ergh...

Anonymous said...

I agree!! I'm not much of an historical buff, but some things are so glaringly wrong its a crime.

Like one I read where the modern gal came to medieval England and in the end was writing romances for her Lord of the manor and his serfs. Could serfs read? And modern English at that???? Duh!!!

in Germany

Renee said...

Totally! I've been completely pulled out of a book before, wondering if a word is anachronistic.

I don't always catch them, and have to admit I really enjoy reading Julia Quinn who tends to make those sort of mistakes. I'm always relieved when I don't catch them.

LesleyW said...

Chris - I went through my historical phase several years ago. It's not something I really read now unless there's something a little steampunk or fantasy mixed in. I do feel a little nostalgic over Roman Britain but I think I'll stick to the Falco novels.

Sullivan - I think as soon as you pick up on one thing, then you're subconciously looking for other slips.

LesleyW said...

Valerie - I think sometimes maybe the thought is that as long as the story is good then the little details don't matter. But I'd argue that if that's what you think you'd be as well writing a fantasy when you can set the world rules any way you want. If I'm reading an historical it's because I want to experience the time period as well as any relationship between the characters.

Renee - I don't read that many historicals any more so it doesn't happen to me very often. I think if you start picking up on mistakes the story has to be SOOO good to carry them. Far better if they're picked up either by the author or the editor. Or if they are intentional the author includes a note saying I know this is incorrect but for the purposes of artistic interpretation I chose to do it.

Kris said...

"Does this matter? Well it does to me. If you're going to set your book in a certain period surely you want to make it authentic on at least some level. If not, why bother writing an historical?"

Word. This is one of my absolutely biggest peeves about historicals. The use of language and idioms not appropriate to the context of the story. It shits me no end.