Thursday, July 7, 2011


The other day I missed the last four steps and went straight for the tile. Our staircase turns at a 90 degree angle and 2 of the steps at that point are triangular and then there are 4 more before the ground floor. The shortest distance down the stairs involves cutting in at the narrowest point. I missed. Toe, ankle, knee, then caught myself and lay there for a moment, stunned. I also yelled, in slow motion, the big bad mamajamma of four letter words.

Now I do not swear a lot.  I am a teacher and insist on 'polite language' in my classroom (when students don't realize that bitch is not okay to use casually or that the term faggot is offensive and perpetuates bigotry and hatred, the fact that 'suck' is crude elludes them entirely). As a mother, my kids think 'stupid' is the "s-word." I have never dropped the F-bomb in their presence.  Until last week.

Luckily they were more in a panic by the yell and following groaning on the floor to pay attention to what I actually yelled.  Phew.

As a writer of historical fiction, I have to be aware of the vernacular of the era. In choosing not to include thee, thou, thy, etc... I made a point to give a sense of formality when appropriate and an old world flare by using terminology from the age. Including crass terms. The F-bomb was absolutely a verb for the same action as it describes today, however it had yet to evolve into an adjective (He's f-ing stupid) or noun (that F over there said....). Ass was actually a jackass = donkey. Arse was the word describing the modern day ass and used, mainly, for anatomical purposes verses name calling. When I do use cruder terms, I look up their etymology to make sure they were common place in my era and that I am using them correctly.


Unknown said...

You left out an important element to this story. Worry about tramatizing your children with new and exciting vocabulary aside, are you OK? Bruised? In possesion of broken bones?

I like it when books use the flavor of an era but not necisarily the exact dialect. As much as I love Shakespeare reading a whole novel like that would give me a headache. That isn't really an option for my own writing though as most of my settings would involve middle English or some form of Gealic --which I do not speak.

Lindsay Gage Natale said...

I WISH I could say I have never sworn in front of my kids - you made a pretty good run of it not swearing until now. In fact, I hate to admit this, but I have to stop Matteo from saying damn it already. I don't swear often, but when I do, I guess that's the main one that comes out!

Great post!

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