Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Matter of Words


I've always loved trivia, but have recently developed a bit of an obsession for the etymology of words. It all started simple enough... I was writing my steampunk romance and was not sure if the word I was using would have been accurate for my time period. In my search I stumbled across a fantastic website, Online Etymology Dictionary. Now, I don't know how I ever lived without it.

By avoiding modern day words, and also using words common during your time period, it is an easy way to set the mood and feel for your manuscript. Most often than not, reading other works that are either set or were written during that time is the easiest way to pick up on a feel for the language and develop your vocabulary. Of course, there are several websites that have compiled lists, so here are a few I've come across that you might find helpful.

The Victorian Slang Dictionary
The Victorian Dictionary
Canting Dictionary (Thieving Slang) 1736
Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
How to Speak Proper

Please feel free to share any sites you have found helpful.

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12 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - I didn't know anything like these dictionaries existed. What a great resource!

The only down side is that I'm probably going to spend too much time this afternoon going through them for fun!! :)

Thanks, Calista!

jmartinlibrarian said...

Thanks. All this buzz about steampunk has whet my appetite for more. Perhaps you could add a blog post of seminal steampunk reading?

Calista Taylor said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jemi, and Jmartin!

Jemi, I swear I look up every other word I write some days. I'm completely addicted to the Online Etymology site.

Jmartin, that's a great idea. I'll have to do a bit of research and post.

quillfeather said...

Great post! I love dictionaries and words.

Like Jemi, I too may spend a good few hours wading through them all. Can think of worse ways to spend my time.... :)

Jody (aka Cat Woods) said...

Hey, Cali.

It's great to find you and your beautiful blog and website. Nice job. Like Jemi, I will spend this rainy day searching your posted sites for thier fascinating facts.

cate

Calista Taylor said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone! I really am addicted to the site, and sometimes find myself looking up every fifth word I type. I find staying as true as possible to your time period immediately sets a feel for the era. Simple and easy.

Eli Ashpence said...

I did a google search for "steampunk words" and surprise, surprise.... this came up at #2. :D

Calista Taylor said...

Thanks for letting me know, Eli! I'm glad to hear we actually turn up in searches-- and not 50 pages in. Yay!!

Raen said...

Sorry to necropost, but thank you so much for this! I've been planning out a steampunk story, but I'm finding it hard to know what words to stay away from (words like okay and racism weren't created until the 1900s). This is extremely helpful!

Calista Taylor said...

Raen, so happy that you found the post useful!! All the best with your story!

KittyM23 said...

Great resources!

Brenda Peick said...

@Raen, love the phrase "necro post" :) I, too, am glad for this helpful post as I'm trying my first steampunk excursion.