Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Etymological Blast Back to the Past

 with Guest Eva Maria Hamilton

Happy Birthday, Seekerville!!!

I’m honored to have been invited to guest blog today!

Thank you, Seekers!

But I can’t believe it’s the last day of the Birthday Bash! What will we do with all the party decorations, the left over food, the music that keeps playing in our heads?

How about we use them to get through NaNoWriMo!

Is anyone participating? I can’t since I need to finish my WIP. Nevertheless, even if you’re like me and can’t fully participate, we can still write along with everyone else, feel the camaraderie, write incredible amounts of words, and speed to the finish line.

And speaking of speeding, my poor truck driver told me he got a ticket bringing the supplies for next month here. So please, since I have to pay the ticket anyway, stock up for next month. It’s going to be a ton of work, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, now would we?

But that’s enough talk about the future. It’s time to take a trip back to the past. We’ll be visiting my favorite Online Etymology Dictionary This is where I look up every word in my historical romance novels to make sure the words I use existed when my story took place.

And for those of you who don’t write historicals, I hope you’ll still find it useful. And of course it’s fun. There are tons of words I come across by accident where their origins or meanings surprise me.

So let’s take a look at a few:

Writer (n.)- Old English writere “one who can write, clerk; one who produces books or literary compositions,”… 

Writer’s cramp- attested by 1853

Writer’s block- by 1950.

Don’t you love the fact that before 1950 writer’s block didn’t exist. Jane Austen you were so lucky! ;)

Novelist (n.)- “writer of novels,” 1728…Earlier in English, it meant “an innovator” (1580s)

An innovator- sounds good, don’t you think?

Novel (n.)- “fictitious narrative,” 1560s, from Italian novella “short story” originally “new story” from Latin novella “new things”…Originally “one of the tales or short stories in a collection” (esp. Boccaccio’s), later (1630s) “long work of fiction,” works which had before that been called romances.

So the novel was born from romances! Well then, let’s look into that…

Romance (n.)- c. 1300, “a story, written or recited, of the adventures of a knight, hero, etc., often one designed principally for entertainment,”… Literary sense extended by 1660s to “a love story.” Meaning “adventurous quality” first recorded 1801; that of “love affair” is from 1916.
Romance novel attested from 1964.

Anyone else, think that the term romance novel existed earlier then 1964?

And now, what about love:

Love- Meaning “a beloved person” is from early 13c. The sense “no score” (in tennis, etc.) is 1742, from the notion of “playing for love,” i.e. “for nothing” (1670s).
For love or money- “for anything” is attested from 1580s.

Love Seat- from 1904.

Love-letter- from mid-13c.

Love-song- from early 14c.

To fall in love- from early 15c.

To be in love with (someone)- c.1500.

To make love- from 1570s in the sense “pay amorous attention to;” as a euphemism for “have sex,” it is attested from c.1950.

Love life- “one’s collective amorous activities” is from 1919, originally a term in psychological jargon.

Love affair- from 1590s

No love lost (between two people)- is ambiguous and was used 17c. in reference to two who love each other well (c.1640) as well as two who have no love for each other (1620s).

Well, even though “make love” meant something different before 1950, I don’t think I’d use the term, considering what modern readers would assume it meant!

And therein lies some of the fun.

So let’s have a quiz.

Who came first, the hero or the heroine?

I’ll answer that at the end. But in the meantime, let’s look at some words that might accidentally creep into an historical novel. Here are a couple I’ve had to delete from my manuscripts and my writing vocabulary. And let me tell you, sometimes it’s easy to find a replacement word and sometimes it’s next to impossible.

Quite: early 14c., adverbial form of Middle English quit, quite (adj.) “free, clear”. Originally “thoroughly;” the weaker sense of “fairly” is attested from mid-19c.

I can’t quite tell you how many times I’ve wanted my characters to use this word. But since I haven’t written a manuscript later than 1814, I can’t, which of course is quite unfortunate.

And here’s another phrase that I dance around quite frequently.

You’re Welcome: as a formulaic response to thank you is attested from 1907.

Can you believe it’s as late as 1907? My poor characters must come up with so many other ways to express this common response, unless of course I just argue that they’re ahead of their time. ;)

And now back to heros versus heroines.

Hero (n.)- late 14c., “man of superhuman strength or physical courage,” from Latin heros “hero,” from Greek heros “demi-god” (a variant singular of which heroe), originally “defender, protector,”… Meaning “man who exhibits great bravery” in any course of action is from 1660s. Sense of “chief male character in a play, story, etc.” first recorded 1690s. First record of Hero-worship is from 1774.

Heroine (n.)- 1650s, from Latin heroine… “a female hero, a demigoddess” (e.g. Medea), from Greek heroine, fem. Of heros… As “principal female character” in a drama or poem, from 1715.

So the hero wins! No surprise there for anyone who’s ever studied women’s history.  But let’s not delve into that today. This is still a party! And anyway, it’s your turn now. Look up a word you’re curious about and share it in the comments. I can’t wait to see what everyone uncovers! And someone will get a chance to win a copy of my novel, Highland Hearts.

So Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

I wonder when that term will enter the online etymology dictionary? 

Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, is an Historical Romance Finalist, as well as an Inspirational Traditional Romance Finalist in the Heart of Excellence, Reader’s Choice Contest, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Highland Hearts

Scotland 1748

The Battle of Culloden is over, but one Highlander’s fight has just begun…

Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in the Americas to reach this moment. Now he’s returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery’s father – that his years as an indentured servant would earn him Sheena’s hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena’s father has died, his contract has been lost… and Sheena is engaged to another man.

To connect with Eva Maria Hamilton online, please visit her at


Ashley said...

I'm attempting NaNoWriMo this year. I'm probably going to have to check into all this since my story is going to be be set in the Roaring Twenties... This was a very interesting post. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back, Eva Maria. As a historical reader but not writer I was thrilled to discover this resource. Thanks so much.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Eva Marie. I use it usually has enough for me to find the age of a word. Not always, but usually.
I'm always looking for words and even more for PHRASES to find out if I can use them in my historicals.

And etymologically correct word.

I know one I wrangled with in a book, with my editor.

Cowgirl. I couldn't find it at etymonline but I did find this on

1880–85, Americanism; cow + girl

Well, not a great deal of genius in that one. But my editor said it wasn't used before 1880 and my book was well before that. So boo!

Christina Rich said...

Hi, Eva! Like Mary, I use I will have to check etymology out.

I an obsessed with looking up words but I never thought about the word quite.

I've read Highland Hearts and enjoyed it. I'll be doing non-traditional Nano this . I need to write 60k on a deadline.

Julie Lessman said...


And, OH MY, the Online Etymology Dictionary is one of my SIX main favorite tabs, right after Seekerville and Google!! It is absolutely THE BEST!! I keep it open whenever I am writing to double-check the authenticity of every word I use for my historicals!!

You know, I didn't realize that you wrote historicals, my friend -- I thought you were strictly contemps, so that shows how BEHIND I am on my reading!!

Thanks for the fun blog today!!


Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I never knew there was such a site! Maybe I would have liked writing historicals more if I didn't have to dig for every word.

Or maybe etymology reminds of all those historical linguistics classes I took in college. *yawn*

I had a professor who said it was his dearest ambition to have a radio show where people would call in and ask him to give the roots of common words or phrases.

He was a hoot!

A weirdo, but still a hoot!

Natalie Monk said...

My lands! What a beautiful Highlander. *Ahem* Cover. I meant cover. ;)

Etymology is a favorite subject of mine. I'll have to come back to read the rest of the post and comment on it tomorrow when it's not 1 a.m. and I'm more coherent.

Melissa Jagears said...

*Scurries away to search for "you're welcome" in latest WIP and will now likely have to hang my head in shame reading the two out in print which most likely have such an atrocity within since I only killed like hundred of bad history words in it's last line edit!!

I check both etymology and Merriam webster and if I can't find it in either or I have a question, I go to google books advanced book search and search for the word phrase or origin and make the ending date the date of my novel. Doesn't prove it wasn't used, but if I find it, then it proves it was.

Like I just did it with "you're welcome" hoping etymology was wrong!! (I've caught it wrong once or twice) and "you're welcome" comes up in shakespeare, but not as a response to thank you but to welcome some one somewhere...

Here's the google advanced book search, they hid it about a year ago and made it harder to find, so I bookmark it.

Melissa Jagears said...

And I evidently should have done what Natalie did and go to bed instead of post, 1 AM makes for lots of dumb typos!

Cindy W. said...

What a FUN post. I made the Etymological Dictionary one of my favorites. I could really spend some time there. :)

I looked up several words but settled on "wacky".

wacky (adj.)
"crazy, eccentric," 1935, variant of whacky (n.) "fool," late 1800s British slang, probably ultimately from whack "a blow, stroke," from the notion of being whacked on the head one too many times.

Happy Birthday for the last day! It has been lots of fun!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jenny Blake said...

Hi Eva Marie Sounds like a fun site. I have your book on my TBR list. haven't read to many this year.
I dont notice the wrong words as much as others but its good to know they are checked.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I love entymology and this post is great.

I learned one of the best parts of research is going back and checking to make sure a word was actually in use back in WWII days.

Just read folks are dropping hypens in words like crazy. Wonder what that will do to folks?

Already have the book, you know I loved it!!!!

Peace, Julie

Annie Rains said...

No nanowrimo for me. I'm not at a good starting place right now. I'm in revision mode so that I can enter the Golden Heart.

Thank you for the wonderful post!

I can't believe it's the last day of the birthday bash! Time goes too quickly when you're having fun :)

Jackie said...

It's been a great birthday celebration. Thanks for the fun!

I've got a basic (bare bones) plot, and I'm ready to start NaNo tomorrow.

I write contemporary and use the Thesaurus a lot. I appreciate all the work you historical writers go through to get the right words for your story.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks to everybody for a fun month!

Sally said...

Loved this post! It reminded me of the Linguistics class I had to take. I still have nightmares about that class, but I loved treeing words, trying to figure out if the prefix or the suffix was added first or last to the main word. What fun! I made an A in the class and would love to take it again, just not for credit! I love to read westerns so I looked up:
saloon (n.) 1728, anglicized form of salon, and originally used interchangeable with it. Meaning "large hall in a public place for entertainment, etc." is from 1747; especially a passenger boat from 1817, also used of railway cars furnished like drawing rooms (1842). Sense of "public bar" developed by 1841, American English.
I had no idea saloon could be a passenger boat or a railway car. Very interesting! Thanks!
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

Rose said...

Hi Eva Marie,

I'm not participating this year. I'm deep in revisions of my manuscript.

But, many of NaNoWriMo's helped me get manuscripts finished!

Piper Huguley said...

Hello Eva Maria

It's been a great party month here in Seekerville! Thanks for stopping by!

Yes, in writing historicals, that dictionary must be at the right hand. Or tab. Or use more than one, as Melissa points out. Beverly Jenkins taught me about the dictionary as a historical writer's resource, so I learned well.

In this current book, I used a term "itty bitty" and something didn't feel quite right in the editing process. I looked it up and sure enough, it was one of those 1920's slang terms, not appropriate for 1866. So out it went. Hooray for the dictionary!

And the linguistics classes weren't that bad Virginia! There was history about the way people learned to speak and adventure and...oh okay, maybe all professors are weirdos....

No need to put me in the drawing. I have the book and enjoyed it very much.


Elaine Manders said...

I write historicals from different eras, so have to be attuned to word usage. My Webster's Ninth usually answers my questions about when a word came into usage. The hardest thing I came on was a song. Oh, My Darling, Clementine. It was credited to Percy Montrose in 1884. Well, there were disputes as to whether old Percy really deserved credit because the folk song had had different versions over the years.

My dilemma, my setting was 1884 and nothing told me what time of the year it "came out" Silly me, folk songs don't come out, they evolve. I used it and defy anyone who says I can't.

DebH said...

yep. all professors who love what they teach do tend to appear as weirdos. it's the passion, i'm thinking. so, looked up weirdo:

weirdo (n.)
"strange person," 1955, from weird. Cf. earlier Scot. weirdie (1894).
weird Old English wyrd (n.)
"fate, destiny," literally "that which comes," from Proto-Germanic

The modern sense of weird developed from Middle English use of weird sisters for the three fates or Norns (in Germanic mythology), the goddesses who controlled human destiny. They were portrayed as odd or frightening in appearance, as in "Macbeth," which led to the adjectival meaning "odd-looking, uncanny," first recorded 1815.

this is a nifty post. i don't think about when words first make the common vernacular - but then, i don't write historicals. i do like finding out about origins of words and "common" phrases though. thanks for introducing me to the link for Etymology.

no NaNo for me - although i'd like to try it again sometime. i'm still trying to figure out how to manage time with a four year old in the house. i'm in awe of folks like Virginia, Melissa, and Ruthy.

Courtney Phillips said...

I'd much rather read historicals than write them, but this is still fun! I looked up "fix." But I didn't see it used as we use it around my area. "I'm fixing to feed the dog, leave for church, etc." Or "I'm going to fix supper." Doesn't mean supper is broken, FYI. :)
Love a good historical!

fix (v.)
late 14c., "set (one's eyes or mind) on something," probably from Old French *fixer, from fixe "fixed," from Latin fixus "fixed, fast, immovable, established, settled," past participle of figere "to fix, fasten," from PIE root *dhigw- "to stick, to fix."

Sense of "fasten, attach" is c.1400; that of "settle, assign" is pre-1500 and evolved into "adjust, arrange" (1660s), then "repair" (1737). Sense of "tamper with" (a fight, a jury, etc.) is 1790. As euphemism for "castrate a pet" it dates from 1930. Related: Fixed; fixedly (1590s); fixing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Virginia!!! He was the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"!!!

Remember how he gave the background of every word and how it went back to roots in Greek culture????

He was hysterical!!!! I can totally see your professor doing this!

Eva Marie welcome back! I love Scottish and Irish romances, I love all things Celt so why do I write small town and big city neighborhood Americana?

Because I know them, ♥ them and have lived about every job experience requiring a brain if not a degree, LOL!

I remember you being in Seekerville contests... And it wasn't that long ago!

How fun this is, on the LAST DAY OF BIRTHDAY MONTH, OH MY STARS!!!!

Chipmunks Singing and Dancing Happy Birthday to US!!!

I've got carrot cake here, but it's not Melissa's. I still need to make that bit of amazement!!!!

Happy Last Day of Birthday month Seekerville!!!!

CatMom said...

Good morning Eva Maria! I really enjoyed your post, especially since word origins fascinate me.

One word I've been curious about is "savvy"--for some reason I'd been thinking it was a relatively newer term. So, after seeing it in some historical novels I checked and it's from 1785---wow! That surprised me.

No need to enter me in the drawing, because I already have your wonderful book HIGHLAND HEARTS (on my "keeper shelf" of course!).
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

CatMom said...

p.s. Ooops! Meant to add that since it's the last day of the Seekerville Birthday month, I've brought lots of goodies to share on the food table today: Peach cobbler, Pecan pie, pecan pralines, chocolate kisses, and candy corn. Please enjoy!
Blessings, PJ

Mary Hicks said...

Hello Eva Marie. Reading your post while I sipped my coffee was so much fun.

Thanks for sharing the resource.

Jeanne T said...

Eva Marie, what a fun post! I've always been fascinated with the origin of words. In eighth grade, I took a semantics class, and I loved it. Finding where words originated, but I don't remember learning the centuries words and phrases came into existence. It's good to have an etymological dictionary! I write contemporary, but I can see how it would be extremely helpful for historical writers!

Off and running for now. It's a busy Oct 31st!

Sherri Shackelford said...

Great article!

Like Mary, I use It can be surprising how early certain words were used vs. how late other words became commonplace! Then you have to balance historical accuracy with story telling. I don't like too many 'thees' and 'thous' and 'forsooths.' :)

Mary Connealy said...

Now I can't remember if I've ever had anyone say 'you're welcome' in a book.'
Surely I have.

My characters tend to say, "Much obliged." instead of thank you.

But do they then respond, "You're welcome?"

I just can't remember.
And if they do, they're WRONG...
And if they don't, it's not because I knew this, so it must be, because they are rude JERKS.

My mother raised me wrong.


Susan Anne Mason said...

What fun! I know I've made a ton of modern mistakes in the two historicals I've written. My cp's were clever enough to catch a couple of them. I would never have thought to look up "you're welcome". What did people say when someone thanked them?

Not doing NaNo either. Will be working on the edits for my second book! Whoo-hoo! And we finally came up with an agreement for the new titles: "Betrayed Hearts" and "Wayward Hearts". Glad I like them. It's hard to let go of a title you love sometimes, but I was prepared to have to change it.

Somehow I missed getting your book, Eva! Would love a chance to win a copy.

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Mary Connealy said...

Yeah, let's blame my POOR MOTHER!

Myra Johnson said...

EVA MARIA, thank you for this enlightening look at word origins! Since I became interested in writing historicals a few years ago, I've grown much more conscious of when words and phrases came into common use.

One word I always want to make sure about is "okay."

I also learned the term "teenager" wasn't common until after 1922, so I had to be careful in my 1919 story involving a teen.

Melanie Dickerson said...

You are speaking my language, Eva Maria! Etymology. I love etymology so much! I actually pay a yearly fee to get the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, because it gives me this information. The Etymonline site is great, but the Merriam-Webster site is a bit more detailed, or at least it used to be. It looks like the Etymonline site has gotten better. Hmmm... Might have to rethink paying for Merriam-Webster.

I have to pay close attention to this kind of stuff, since I write Medievals. However, I have been known to use a word as long as I knew that the CONCEPT of the word was in place at the time. And sometimes you have to go with what is comprehendable rather than what was actually used at the time when you're dealing with Medieval times. Most modern readers just can't comprehend The Canterbury Tales in its original form.

I did something fun with the word "hero" in my Medieval novel The Merchant's Daughter, which was set in the mid-1300's. I knew the word "hero" was not used until the 1300's, and therefore the more educated people might have used it, but the less-educated people probably would never have heard of it. So here is the conversation between the hero and the heroine:

"On the way out, some burning thatch fell on my arm and burned away my sleeve.” He said dryly, “So you see what a hero I am.” For the second time in my life.
“Hero? I’m not familiar with this word.”
“’Tis from the Greek, a word meaning someone with great strength and courage. Someone who protects and defends.”
“Oh, yes, indeed.” She put the cloth aside and reached for the flask. “Indeed, you are a hero. I like this word, hero.”

:-) That was fun to write. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, and I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. The one time I tried, it gave me terrible writer's block. I just don't write that way. I write, then stop and think. Write. Stop and think. If I don't do it that way, the story goes astray. Trust me.

Tina Radcliffe said...

EVA MARIA--A on the end like AVE MARIA!!!


Tina Radcliffe said...

I agree, Courtney. I don't know how historical writers manage to get it all done!!!

Connie Queen said...

Evidently my characters aren't too friendly because I didn't have one case of saying "you're welcome" but had several instances of "thanks."

I trying to finish my wip in progress. When I get it complete, I'll try Nano.

Jan Christiansen said...

Whew - I'm glad I'm writing a contemporary for NaNoWriMo, but filing this resource away in case I ever get brave and do a western like Mary Connealy. I live in Arizona, so I'm sure I'll have to do a cowboy story soon. :) Thank you, Eva Maria for this great tip.

Marianne Barkman said...

I don't usually notice words out of sync, but just read an 1800s novel that used "kids" for children numerous times! Really? That long ago? And a WWII book I just read mentioned the maple leaf flag in the scene where Allies freed the Dutch. again, are you sure?
Great post, and again

Mary Connealy said...

Look at this one--weird, I've never heard it used as an insult before:

brother-in-law (n.) c.1300; also brother in law; see brother. In Arabic, Urdu, Swahili, etc., brother-in-law, when addressed to a male who is not a brother-in-law, is an extreme insult, with implications of "I slept with your sister."

Mary Connealy said...

Once my editor wouldn't let me use the word FEISTY.

He used etymonline a lot.
He said that word didn't exist as I wanted to use it at the time. YIKES

feisty (adj.) 1896, "aggressive, exuberant, touchy," American English, with -y (2) + feist "small dog," earlier fice, fist (American English, 1805); short for fysting curre "stinking cur," attested from 1520s, from Middle English fysten, fisten "break wind"

Jamie Adams said...

Sounds like a great tool, Eva. I sure could have used it years ago when I sent my first completed manuscript to an editor. It came back with notes like "Stetson's weren't worn until the year ..." bla bla bla lol
Who knew they were so picky ;)

Walt Mussell said...

Can't believe the party's over. It's been a lot of fun.

Words to use are a particular problem for me. Please read as I have two questions.

I once had a discussion with one of the nicest people on the planet (the Seekervillager can identify herself if she wants to) about my usage of the term "paulownia flower" in one of my Japan-based WIPs. She told me that the book was 16th century and my word was based on an 19th century Russian word. My response was that the word didn't exist in English until well after my time period, but was definitely around. In fact, the paulownia flower is the design on the battle flag of the regent in power at the time of my books.

So, question #1 is this, should I call it the "paulownia" flower or should I use the Japanese term for it, which would cause me to have to include it in an index.

Second question. I looked up the word "backgammon" as a close variation of "backgammon" was played in medieval Japan. Per the on-line dictionary, the popular word at the time for the English variation of backgammon was "tables."

So, should I use "backgammon" or some other word?


Project Journal said...

Well HELLO, beautiful!!
What a surprise to see you posting in Seekerville today, Eva Maria :D Love it.

Okay, maybe I'm dull, maybe it's because I'm not an author lol for whatever reason I would've never even realized that there was something like this dictionary. How cool is that?? When I'm working on my school papers, I constantly have and open lol can't do it without either....I just can't.

I'd never thought of 'you're welcome' before though! THAT'S SO HARD :O Lord, no wonder I could never be an author lol. Kudos to you, my friend, I've gained even more respect for all of my author friends today :)

Walt Mussell said...

One more thing, I already have Eva's boook. :-)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Good morning, Seekerville!

Ashley, thank you! And good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Tina, you're welcome! Thank you for having me :)

Mary, I understand wanting to use a word and not being able to! :) is actually linked with So if you're on etymology and click on the little book (dictionary) it takes you to for more info. :)

Project Journal said...

Bahahaha brother-in-law, Mary.....may have slightly snorted on that one. Who knew!?

Project Journal said...

I admit, I've not yet had the privilege to read your books. However, that scene is SO clever! That's what we, as readers, love to see :) and hear the back story on it. Very, very cool. Thanks for sharing!

Jamie Adams said...

I looked up a word one of my critique partners has used it in a 1890's story. I wondered about it when I first read her work but didn't say anything because she's got 15+ books published. Who am I to doubt her?
Turns out she's 20 years too soon!She's either going to love me or hate me when I point it out to her :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Christina, it can become quite an obsession looking up words! :) So glad you liked Highland Hearts! Thank you! And good luck with your deadline! Wow 60k! That's more than NaNo :)

Julie, my other must have open is, which of course is part of, which is part of :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Virginia, yes, etymology reminds me so much of historical linguistic classes and tracing word origins throughout the world :) I wonder if your professor is behind the site :)

lolNatalie I hope you had sweet dreams :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Melissa, in case a word ever sneaks into a novel improperly, my favorite words of defence will always be my characters are just ahead of their time :)

And thanks for posting that google advanced book search! Here it is if anyone missed it:

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Cindy, wacky, good word! I love learning what else the words meant besides how we commonly use them today :)

Jenny, hope you're having a good day! I'm so excited you'll be reading Highland Hearts! I hope you like it :)

Marilyn Baxter said...

I'm trying NaNoWriMo this year too. I hit 50K in 2008, 2009 and 2010 but 2011 was a monumental failure. Well, it was a failure in 2011 but I took what I had and participated in the most recent SpeedBo to turn it into the novella I entered in the Boroughs contest. It should be out sometime next year. :-)

Wow! I hadn't really thought about how much effort goes into every word of an historical romance. The terms I take for granted might not work for something set in another century -- or even another decade. I'm finding that even with the book I did for NaNo in 2008. I have references to flip phones. I'm going to have to change those to smart phones and even change how the characters use the phones.

Great post! Happy end of birthday month! Happy Halloween! (I brought a big bag of candy!) And happy 1st birthday to my younger granddaughter. I can't wait til Saturday and her party.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Julie, thanks for stopping by! It's always fun to find a word that was common in a time period you're writing about that has fallen out of use and you can bring it out in your writing! :) Good luck with WWII!

Annie, I can't believe it's the end of October either! Good luck with your revisions and with the Golden Heart!

Cheryl St.John said...

I won't go back and humiliate myself looking for you're welcomes in previous books, but I shall tuck away the info for the future! Great post.

I no longer set myself up to fail doing NaNo. It took me a few frustrating attempts to face the fact that I'm not a rough draft writer and can never be, but I will cheer on the rest of you.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Jackie, good luck with NaNo! I hope your plot comes alive and your fingers fly across the keyboard next month!

Sally, sorry about the nightmares of your Linguistics class! :) Saloon, is an interesting word! Prior to 1841 it didn't have to be a place where people drank. Interesting! :)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

WHAT a resource!!!

Thank you so much, Eva Marie!

Here's my word:

macabre (adj.) Look up macabre at
early 15c., from Old French (danse) Macabré "(dance) of Death" (1376), probably a translation of Medieval Latin (Chorea) Machabæorum, literally "dance of the Maccabees" (leaders of the Jewish revolt against Syro-Hellenes; see Maccabees). The association with the dance of death seems to be via vivid descriptions of the martyrdom of the Maccabees in the Apocryphal books. The abstracted sense of "gruesome" is first attested 1842 in French, 1889 in English.

The typical form which the allegory takes is that of a series of pictures, sculptured or painted, in which Death appears, either as a dancing skeleton or as a shrunken corpse wrapped in grave-clothes to persons representing every age and condition of life, and leads them all in a dance to the grave. ["Encyclopaedia Britannica," 11th ed., 1911]

Who knew?!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Rose, I can't do NaNo either. But there's always next year, right? Good luck with your revisions!

Piper, thanks for sharing about itty bitty! 1920s, huh? Interesting! And I'm glad you enjoyed Highland Hearts!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Elaine, I agree with you on using the song. And understand the stress surrounding a word or term that you so want to use. Sometimes, it's a judgement call and you have to stand behind your decision with your evidence :)

DebH, you're welcome! And I understand time constraints! Some days, or should I say months, it's tough to keep up! :) But of course your four year old won't stay that young forever, so it's good to cherish this time :)

I love that you looked up weirdo because of the professors! lol

Weirdie-1894, that's a neat word I didn't know!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Courtney, I think you've hit upon something, there should be a site devoted to regional slang!

Ruth, that was a great movie! And thank you for the big, warm welcome! I think the same reason you write about what you know is why historical writers stay in the same time period for a while, you get to know it so well that changing means changing everything :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

CatMom, I would have thought savvy was recent, too! Thanks for sharing that! And thanks for adding Highland Hearts to your keeper shelf! You've made my day! And thanks for all the goodies you brought today!

Mary, I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

JeanneT, thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a fun day! Enjoy it!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Eva Maria! The last day of our birthday bash is just as special as the first. Glad to have you here!

Thanks for sharing the origins and dates of words and phrases we romance writers commonly use.

I have on my shelves and use Merriam Webster's Collegiate to date words and the American Heritage dictionary of Idioms to date phrases. I've also used the online Etymology Dictionary you mention. Just a great resource. Thanks for sharing the link!

Hint: If you're entering a contest with an historical, be careful that the words you use are in use at the time of your story. Judges will notice. Editors too. Not that we haven't all messed up, but it's important to work at this.

Even if a word was in usage, if it sounds modern, it'll turn readers off. A fine line for historical writers to walk.

I often see reticule c. 1738 used in books set late in the 19th century. To me reticule at that point in history seems outdated when handbag, c. 1862 is in common usage. Still, if the purse has a drawstring, reticule isn't wrong. The fun of playing with words.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Sherri, I get surprised by words all the time! :) And every time I hear the word forsooth, I think of Natalie Portman on Sesame Street pretending to be an elephant. It's on youtube in case curiosity strikes you. It's cute for kids :)

Mary Connealy, you are making me laugh! I don't want my characters to be bad people either by not saying you're welcome :) So someone must come up with a list of things our characters can say or do...
nod their heads
tip their hat...

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Susan, congratulations again! I like both of those titles! Highland Hearts was Indentured Hearts before it got published :)

Myra, I've come across that teenager dilemma myself. I use adolescent :)

Cindy Regnier said...

Great link - thank you Eva Marie. Most of my writing is set about 1880 or later. Still there are words I want to use like 'ok' or 'hi' that I don't. These words might have existed at the time but I'm not sure they were used as commonplace as today so I leave them out. Ever realize how often we respond with "OK"? Even more than 'You're Welcome."
One of my pet peeves to find in a historical novel is the phrase "wrap his mind around..." I'm sure this a modern saying.
Thanks again, great post and a keeper.

Vince said...

Hi Eva Maria:

Your post has one of my favorite topics!

You asked: “Anyone else, think that the term romance novel existed earlier then 1964?”

That may depend on how you choose to translate the Latin and Greek words.

I’ve read that romance novels were best sellers in the Roman Empire. Five full texts have survived as well as parts of several others. I have these in a large collection. There is even a book written about these:

“Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel: Returning Romance (Greek Culture in the Roman World) Tim Whitmarsh (It’s on sale for $90.00)

It seems these Latin best sellers were all translations from the Greek. It seems that when the people learn to read, it’s not long before they want to read romance novels. That’s job security – at least for some writers!

I’m not sure about who came first the hero or the heroine. At least in the romance genre meaning of the words. I had a history teacher who asked: “Which came first the city or the wilderness?” Everyone said ‘wilderness’ but he said ‘No’. Before the city there was no ‘wilderness’. So can you have a romance hero without a heroine to save, love, protect and cherish? I don’t think so. As always, ladies first.

Thanks for the link to the “Online Etymology Dictionary”. I always have questions about words when I read a historical novel. Yesterday I had to look up cattle prod because I did not think there were any before 1903. But it was invented in 1890! The author was right. I trust but I verify. :)

In addition to knowing if the word existed before a given date, you also need to know if it had the same meaning. I read an article years ago about all the words that now mean the opposite of themselves! I can only remember a few right now: artificial, nice, brave, awful, manufacture and counterfeit. I’m sure there are many more; however, would a writer dare use the then meaning today? The reader would not be expected to know this and it would only confuse the reader. So should a writer use a synonym or should writers just worry about anachronisms and not worry too much about 'word' words?

Yes, please put me in for a chance on your new book. I hope you come back soon with a part II of this post. Thanks.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Melanie, yes we do speak the same language! Loved the way you used hero in The Merchant's Daughter!

The further we go back in time, the harder it is to use words exclusively from that time, because we just don't speak like that any more and modern readers don't want to get bogged down with the words. For instance, I would never write a novel using Shakespearean English :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I can see it's time to brush up on my 8th grade Latin. I wonder if anything has changed? (KIDDING!)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Melanie, I've never done NaNo. But I like that you know how you write and stick with it! It is fun to see everyone writing so much though and cheering each other on :)

Tina, yes, like Ave Maria :) If I'm ever asked to blog here again, I think the game I'll play for everyone to be entered into the drawing to win a free book will have to be those who can spell my name correctly :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Connie, good luck with you wip! And I'm sure you'll make your characters friendly even if they don't say you're welcome :)

Jan C, you're very welcome! And living in Arizona you have such great history surrounding you!

Lyndee H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Marianne, kid does seem like a new word, so I looked it up, but it's actually not. Here's what I found:

Extended meaning of "child" first recorded as slang 1590s, established in informal usage by 1840s. Anything before that though was a baby goat :)

But that is funny about Canadian flag since it wasn't adopted until 1965 :)

Lyndee H said...

Hi Eva Marie. Both my daughter and I enjoyed Highland Hearts. I'm going to check out the dictionary you use. It sounds like a great resource. Like several others here, I'm too wrapped up in my WIP to do Nano this year, BUT I WILL be ready for Seekerville's version come March!

It's raining cats here, but I'm guessing we will have a steady stream of candy-grabbers anyway! Dogs will be dressed in full fairy gear - rainbow tulle skirts, crowns, pink wigs and sparkling collars. Mini-milkbones for all!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Mary Connealy, I can't believe that's what brother-in-law meant!

Jamie, yes, it's a good tool for historical writers. :) When I start writing a new time period and don't have all the lingo memorized, I write my novels without thinking about the words and then go back and change any wording that needs it. I wonder if you could do that with your first ms?

Naomi Rawlings said...

I love etymology online, Eva. Use it all the time. And unlike Melissa, I don't think I have any "you're welcomes" in my stories. But that does beg the rather difficult question of what did people say in response to "thank you" way back when.

Donna said...

I looked up the word kiss:

Kissing, as an expression of affection or love, is unknown among many races, and in the history of mankind seems to be a late substitute for the more primitive rubbing of noses, sniffing, and licking.

Sniffing and licking, really? Hmmm

I have read Highland Hearts and enjoyed it very much!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Walt, your questions would probably be your editor's call.

But whoever gave you the info on the flower however, was correct, and if it were me, I would say Kiri flower, that way you cover the actual name, along with what it is, so people don't have to look it up.

And as for baggammon, again, if it were me, I would probably call it tables, but describe the game somehow so readers would know it was akin to backgammon.

I hope this helps :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Hannah, thank you for coming by! Your post put a smile on my face and I'm glad you appreciate all the work that goes into a novel :) Good luck with your work as well though!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Eva Maria, Great resource. I am going to bookmark this for my historical. Thanks for joining us today--our last birthday bash day. You make it special. Well truthfully it has been special all week.

Sandra Leesmith said...

And all month!!!

Walt Mussell said...

Eva, nice research.

I've thought about calling it the kiri flower and I could use the old Japanese term for backgammon (ban-sugoroku). Still, I hesitate using new Japanese words that I haven't figured out in context how to explain.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Jamie, she'll probably love you for it!

Marilyn, you've participated in NaNo for four years in a row, that's impressive!

And I think you hit on an important point, even in contemporary works an author has to be careful. It is too easy, especially with how quickly technology changes, for an author to write in such a way that their novels are out of date before they even hit the shelves.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Cheryl, thanks for stopping by! I agree, don't go back :) And as I said earlier, just say your characters were ahead of their time ;)

And I love the idea of cheering everyone else on. Just being around the momentum is good for everyone :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

KC, I had no idea! Thanks for sharing that!

Janet, thanks for sharing the American Heritage dictionary of Idioms to date phrases, I'll have to check that out!

And you shared some great tips (as usual)! Hint: If you're entering a contest with an historical, be careful that the words you use are in use at the time of your story. Judges will notice. Editors too. Not that we haven't all messed up, but it's important to work at this.

Even if a word was in usage, if it sounds modern, it'll turn readers off. A fine line for historical writers to walk.

And oh how I wish there was an easy to use site specifically for clothes, I would so use that!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Cindy, yes we do say ok a lot!

And in addition to hi, I leave out hello, because that doesn't come in until 1883 and any other form of that word (hallo, hollo, holla) I think would confuse the reader and pull them out of my book.

Karen Kirst said...

Hi Eva! Thanks so much for sharing this site. Up until this point, I've been doing general searches for phrases I'm unsure about. I can't imagine how wonderful it would be to write a contemporary and not worry about every single phrase. :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Vince, great thoughts!

It seems that when the people learn to read, it’s not long before they want to read romance novels. How cool is that! And yes, that is good for us romance writers :)

Loved the chicken and egg game using the wilderness! I once took a course where we read a book titled "Nature's Metropolis". It was a great way to expand your mind into thinking that we as humans are part of nature and so just as a bird builds a nest and we call it nature, did we not just do what the bird did and build our houses, and hence our houses and cities are also nature. :)

And I'm glad you looked up cattle prod, because isn't it better to know than have that detail bothering you.

As for your question about words having different meanings, I would use a different word, if I could, and stay true to the time period.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Tina, cute joke about Latin! :)

Lyndee, thanks for coming by! So glad you and your daughter liked Highland Hearts!!!

I'll start hoping now that I can join in Seekerville's version of NaNo in March.

And my puppy will be dressed as a bee tonight :) Wish I could see a picture of your dogs, Lyndee! :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Naomi, thank you so much for stopping by! Yes it does beg that question and I'm always trying to come up with new ways to get my characters to say you're welcome without actually saying it!

Donna, I won't be letting my characters sniff or lick each other any time soon! lol Thanks for sharing that and I'm so happy you enjoyed Highland Hearts!

Heidi said...

I'd love to win your book! Here's a word I came across this morning that you inspired me to look up:
1 a : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color
b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use
2 : an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character
3 : a superficial covering or exterior

Meghan Carver said...

I am so impressed with writers of historical fiction and all the details they need to get right. I can't imagine how long it would take to research everything. I admire the diligence. Great post!

Debby Giusti said...

Eva Maria,
What a delightful post! I keep thinking of how quickly new words are added to our vocabulary these days...iPhone, iPAD, SmartPhone, on and on.

Think of the nightmare for historical authors in the future! LOL

Melanie Pike said...

I hope you forgive me for not looking up a word (can't think of one actually), but am in the midst of organizing this forever-cluttered room (where genealogy, bills, and sometimes writing vie for space) and it's my son's 27th birthday (yep, a Halloween boy). Need to go help make homemade pizza anytime now (d-i-law took dough out of the freezer; she thought ahead last time!)--and I will be trying a gluten-free crust for myself (hmm...a whole small pizza all to myself? Can you say glutton?). And then I have to make his annual birthday dessert: apple crisp (won't be eating any of that either). Goodness, the fun has gone out of birthdays, LOL!

Anyway, I would love to win your new book! (If allowed, that is, since I'm not sharing a word...) The first novel I ever wrote I started back in high school. The setting was Scotland--present day (AKA the late 1970s) and late 1700s. Back then I enjoyed reading books involving reincarnation (not anymore though!), so that's what my book entailed and I loved writing it. Wrote it a total of probably 3 times, but within the past 10 years (since my salvation), I shredded the entire thing. Now I focus on contemporaries when I write.

Happy Birthday, Seekerville! This month has flown by and I've been neglectful in coming here to check out posts--for various reasons. Not doing NaNo either. Maybe if and when our son and his family move out? ;-)

Thanks for the interesting post, Eva Marie!


Chill N said...

What a fun post, EVA MARIA! Learning new things is such a blast.

One of my favorite 'look ups' was when I checked the word 'computer.' Not for something I was writing but because of an historical book I was reading. Sure enough, the word computer was used for the predecessors of what we would call calculators (machines) in the late 1800s. I just checked the etymology dictionary link you shared and it turns out the term was used as far back as the 16th century for people who did calculations.

Those are lovely pix of Scotland in the trailer on your website. Best wishes with your writing.

Nancy C

Jackie Smith said...

Interesting post, Eva Maria! I learned a lot! Would love to win your book!
It's been a great month in sure November will be great also.

Chill N said...

So ... before 1907, did people say "Thank you"? And if they did, how did someone respond verbally? Or did they? My books on Victorian etiquette are not helping me here ...

Nancy C

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Eva Maria!

I've heard about the Etymology dictionary, but kept putting off browsing through it - I won't anymore, though. Thanks for the heads up!

And don't put me in the drawing - I already have your book :)

Chill N said...

Gee, I found some substitutes for "you're welcome" but none of them sound like what my characters would say. This just gets worse and worse ...

Note to self: do not write polite characters anymore.

Nancy C

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Sandra, such sweet words, thank you! :)

Lyndee H said...

Eva Marie, If you like me on facebook you'll see my fur girls. I'll like you back... ;)

Cindy W. said...

Ruthy! Thank you for the link to the Chipmunks singing happy birthday. I LOVE the Chipmunks! I'll have to play it next month on my birthday!

Happy Birthday Seekerville!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thank you,Walt. And I understand your hesitation. I think as long as the reader knew it was a game that would be fine. If your readers are interested they might have fun looking it up.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Karen, I'm so glad to share this site with you! I can't imagine how much time it would take to search everything, because that might lead me to get sidetracked :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Heidi, patina is actually a word that's a lot older than I would have thought! Thanks for sharing it!

patina (n.)
"greenish film on old bronze," 1748, from French patine (18c.), from Italian patina, perhaps from Latin patina "dish, pan" (see pan (n.)), on the notion of encrustation on ancient bronze dishes. Sense of "refinement, cultural sophistication" first recorded 1933.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Meghan, thank you! That is very nice of you to say! I'm sure all historical writers would appreciate your comment! :)

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Hi Eva, enjoyed your blog and all the helps. I use online etymology dictionary and love it. Got that resource link from the Favorite PasTimes site.
"You're welcome" I used in a story set in 1939 where I had a Brit say it. Hubby informed me this response to "thank you" is very recent in England. So had to use a substitute that was historically accurate. I enjoyed the birthday celebration.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Debby, I so agree! They would have to figure out when the product was made vs when each segment of the population got it. Always something to be thankful for isn't there? :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Melanie, Happy Birthday to your son! I hope you have a great time celebrating! We had pizza for dinner tonight, too! :) Good luck with your contemporaries!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thank you,Chill N!

Wow, as far back as the late 1800s! I wouldn't have guessed the term computer existed back then.

Thanks for checking out my website and I'm glad you enjoyed the trailer for Highland Hearts!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Jackie, so glad you were able to stop by! Thank you!

Chill N, that is the big question... What did they say or do? I'm still trying to hunt that tidbit of info down.

But at least we can figure out thank you:
phrase attested by c.1400, short for I thank you; as a noun, from 1792.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Jan Drexler, glad this post helped :) Thanks so much for stopping in!!!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

lolChill N!

Lyndee, I'll look you up :) Oh, my! They are soooo cute!!!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Pat, glad you enjoyed the post! I'm curious though, what substitute did you use?

Donna said...

One last birthday wish.

Happy Birthday Seekerville!

Natalie Monk said...

Welp, I searched the tradition of "booing" someone or something to ridicule. And here's what I found:
"Booing was common late 19c. among London theater audiences and at British political events; In Italy, Parma opera-goers were notorious boo-birds, but the custom seems to have been little-known in America till c.1910."

It does say "little known." Aherm. Maybe the people in my setting are some of the few American people who knew about "booing" before 1910? Hehehe.

Natalie Monk said...

Love this post, Eva Maria! Thanks for letting us know about the site! I'm adding it and Melissa's Google Advanced Book Search to my list of helpful links in the "for writers" tab of my blog!

Terri said...

I've never heard of this, thanks for sharing.

Happy Birthday Seekerville, it was a great bash!

Audra Harders said...

Eva, I know I'm late to the party, but I wouldn't have missed it! Especially this topic.

How fascinating!! I love words. I have an historical series I'm editing. Victorian. My Merriam-Webster Dictionary is indespensible.

Your example of You're Welcome is spot on. There were so many phrases I used that had to come out because no matter how I dressed them up in accents, they still didn't exist : )

Thanks for your fascinating read down history : )

Audra Harders said...

NaNo is an exercise in futility for me. I have the best of intentions, but never the right timing on books. I'm finishing up my current project.

Maybe next year.

Pat W said...

Hi Eva Maria, what a fun post! My hat goes off to all historical writers. I like to read historicals but just thinking about writing one gives me hives lol. So much more detail!

I wont be attempting NaNo this year. I'll be too busy holding and playing with my new grandson!!! He won't stay little for long :)))

Mary Curry said...

So it's 11:05 here on the east coast. Almost November.
I'm sad to bid farewell to Seekerville's birthday month.

What a blast!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Natalie, you're welcome and thanks for sharing booing! Now I've learned a new phrase: boo-birds! Love it!

And maybe your characters know about booing if they had some outside influence, for instance their ancestors came from London or Italy? :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

You're welcome, Terri! Thanks for stopping by :)

Audra, so happy to see you! And I didn't know you were writing an historical series! I'm interested to know more! Good luck with your current project!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thanks, Pat W! And congratulations on your new grandson! Enjoy every minute! They do grow fast!

Mary Curry, I agree! Where did October go! Only two more months until 2014! :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thank you so much to everyone who came by! I had a very fun day chatting with everyone! I feel blessed! Thank you! :)

CatMom said...

It's now almost midnight here in before October is officially over, I must say one more time (for this year):

Whew! Glad I did that before the stroke of midnight---not that I'd turn into a pumpkin or anything... but it IS Halloween, LOL!

Hugs to all my Seekerville friends, Patti Jo :)

Tanya Agler said...

Happy birthday, Seekerville. I enjoyed today's blog, especially on Nanowrimo Eve.

Best of luck to Ms. Hamilton in getting her current WIP finished as it sounds like you thoroughly research your historical phrases and etymology.

Mary Preston said...

Just yesterday my daughter stumbled upon the word VERDIGRIS in her reading. We have been exploring. So much fun.

I would love a copy of HIGHLAND HEARTS thank you.

Missy Tippens said...

Eva Maria, I read your post yesterday but realized in bed last night that I never posted a comment! What a fun, interesting post! Since I write contemporaries, I tend to forgot you historical writers have to worry about word choice. Thanks for sharing the examples!

Bookishqueen said...

There are so many words that we think have been around for centuries but have really been here for one or less. It makes writing difficult.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thank you, Tanya!

Mary, I've never even heard of verdigris! Glad you had fun researching it! I'm going to have to look it up, too :)

Missy, thank you so much for making a point to come and say hi! Isn't it funny how things pop into our heads when we're supposed to be sleeping :)

Bookishqueen, that is so true! And the opposite is also true! Yes, writing isn't easy :)

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Eva - to answer the question on "You're Welcome." A substitute could be any of the following: Don't mention it, it's quite all right, it's nothing, not at all, my pleasure. All these would've been used in the 40's in England. Today you're welcome is not used that often.

Michelle said...

I was surprised about You're welcome not being used earlier. I wonder what they said. Well, they certainly didn't say "No problem" like they do now! I know some people don't like it when restaurant servers say that. I like historical books and sometimes reading them has me wondering if a certain phrase was around. Now that makes me think of when they used the phrase "masters of the universe" in Titanic. Please enter me in the drawing.

Wanda Barefoot said...

I learned some very interesting facts! Thank you for this post! Thank you for the giveaway as well! :)

Wanda Barefoot