Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Historical Vocabulary

From NPR:
Has there ever been an age that was so grudging about suspending its disbelief? The groundlings at the Globe Theatre didn't giggle when Shakespeare had a clock chime in Julius Caesar. The Victorians didn't take Dickens to task for having the characters in A Tale of Two Cities ride the Dover mail coach 10 years before it was established. But Shakespeare and Dickens weren't writing in the age of the Internet, when every historical detail is scrutinized for chronological correctness, and when no "Gotcha!" remains unposted for long. Photographers using flashbulbs in 1919 in J. Edgar? Trans-Atlantic twin-engine jets in Argo? Really — it totally took me out of the movie!

In a climate of insistent authenticity, there's nothing harder to get right than a period's vocabulary. The past speaks a foreign language that even those who grew up with it can't recover. The producers of Mad Men take pride in fitting out their characters with the correct ties and timepieces. But as the Boston Globe's Ben Zimmer observed, they can't seem to keep anachronisms out of the scripts. Were we already saying "keep a low profile" in 1963? Actually, no — it didn't catch on until 1969, but who can remember these things? (Read entire article.)

Via Two Nerdy History Girls Share

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