For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Slang and Idioms: In my work I have occasionally used slang, in an attempt at verisimilitude. There are certain characters that would use slang, and where it would be ridiculous for them to speak in the Queen’s English (the Queen, in a lot of my novels, being Victoria, rather than Liz II). The same goes for accents, as well.
I am cautious, though, that none of the characters sound false, or sound like caricatures. Which is not always easy, if you are trying to do a Scottish accent and it is over thirty years since you have spent any time in Scotland. I don’t really want to offend any Scottish readers, for example. But the fact is that somebody from the Highlands, especially in the 1890s, is not going to be speaking Estuary English. The same goes for characters who are French, having the drop their aitches and so on.
I have invented a couple of slang words for my gas-lamp fantasy novels, presuming that if Magick was real that there might be slang words referring to wizards and other such things. In fact, I have tried to invent languages, as well, or at least to create samples of fictional languages from some of my books. I have not gone as far as creating a whole language in detail as J R R Tolkien did, with his Elvish tongues.
For the novel Legion, which deals with alternate worlds, I created a Martian slang, trying to imagine what slang might be used on an inhabited Mars in some alternate future. Some of the slang used was canteened (ate); eyewise (examine); recog (remember); and idented (named). I am quite proud of my Martian slang, even if it was only a very minor part of that novel.
Another issue is trying to avoid anachronisms in my writing, since a lot of it is set in the past. As a writer, you have to avoid your characters using words or phrases which simply weren’t in use at the time. One of the things which annoyed me about the film The Raven was the use of the phrase serial killer, a phrase which did not come in use until the 20th century. I found its use in the film to be jarring, and it was something which easily could have been avoided, by just a little bit of research.
Recently I have been working on a Professor Meerschaum adventure called The Mole Machine. At one stage I wanted one of the characters to mention caving. But the novel is set in 1894, and the word caving did not enter the English language until 1932, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Spelunking was even later, not being used until 1944. I wonder what people called caving prior to 1932, as the interest in going into caves began in the late 19th century. But I could not use either word in the novel – at least not in the speech of characters – without committing the crime of anachronism.
Avoiding such errors has led to one of the schools of Magick (that is, one of the divisions of mysticism, rather than a place like High Tor) being called Portal Magick, whereas another is called Telekinesis. Telekinesis was first used as a word in 1890. But teleportation wasn’t used until 1931. Not as a word, anyway. So the mystical teleportation of people or objects, in my gas-lamp fantasy books and in the role-playing game based on them, has to be Portal Magick.
I am always on the lookout for informative books and websites on slang, idioms, and words. I have three different books on slang, one of them just being on rude words. But they are on modern slang, and it is often hard to discover when a slang word first came into use. Also, the meanings of words change over time. The word gay did not refer to homosexuals during the 1890s, but to the world of heterosexual prostitution.
I hope, at some time, to get a book on the gay slang called Polari, which was used by gay men in London and elsewhere back in the bad old times when the British state used to arrest people just for being gay. (Incidentally, the term does not even appear in my copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica). Polari was a way for gay men to communicate without is heterosexuals cottoning on to what they were talking about. The only thing which I can recall about it, off-hand, was the bona meant good (from the Latin, of course).
I think that it is time to go and read up on slang once more. I’m sure that I read somewhere that, years ago, there was a cant peculiar to the shipyards of Glasgow which was spoken nowhere else…
In other news, the chronicles of Edwyn Le Fay have reached their conclusion, at least for now. All of the chapters are listed below, in the order in which they should be read, to hopefully avoid any confusion.
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
An Enforced Vacation
Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
Back To London
The House Of Edward Lang
The Captive Edwyn Le Fay
The Other Lair Of Gideon De Ville
The Human Infernal Device
De Ville’s Master Plan
The End Of De Ville
Return To The Dark House
I have come to quite like the hapless Victorian wizard, Le Fay, and he will return some time in the future, in the novel The Coven of the Blood.
The plan is to have the above stories remain on the site for the next year or so, to give visitors the chance to read them. Then they will be taken down, and published on Kindle as part of The Complete Blogs, Volume One. I hope, by then, to have other stuff written to replace them.