Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writing Historical Dialect

with guest Vickie McDonough.

 Howdy folks! I’m excited to return to Seekerville and visit all of you nice people. I have a cold sarsaparilla here to wet my whistle, and I’m settling in to stay for a bit.

For those who don’t know me, I’m best known for writing historical romances set in the Old West, but I have been known to dabble in contemporary writing. As of this October, I will have 34 books and novellas that have been released, and only three of those are contemporaries. My latest contemporary is Rancher Under Fire, a Love Inspired Suspense, which releases Sept 2nd.

Today, I thought we’d talk about few random things that will help you create good historical dialogue. As with science fiction and fantasy writers, the historical author must create a believable world for their characters to live in, and a big part of that world is how your characters talk and communicate. To engage the reader, you must bring the time period to life with interesting dialogue.

1. Remember that your reader wasn’t born a hundred years ago

The majority of your dialogue should be speech your reader can easily understand. Give your characters a unique word or two that belongs only to them, but don’t go overboard. Sprinkle in words from the past to add the flavor of the time, like you would lightly season your supper.

Here’s a line from The County Fair Bride, which will release next summer and is part of the 12 Brides of Summer Collection.

“Miss Willard, how nice to see you again. Might I inquire after your father?”

Today’s version: “Prudy, it’s great to see you again. How’s your dad doing?”

See the difference? Historical dialogue is often more formal, such as in using a person’s surname instead of their first name. The flow is a bit stiffer at times with a more formal cadence, especially for wealthier characters with a high status in society and a good education. The manners and customs of a historical era governed how the people would speak and behave. In a historical, dialogue is one of the most powerful tools to use, both to create the setting and to establish the characters.

 2. Avoid overuse of dialect.

 Does anyone remember the Red Neck Reading Test?

M R Ducks
           M R Not
           M R Too
           C M Wangs


      M R Ducks = Them Are Ducks
      M R Not = Them Are Not
      M R Too = Them Are Too
      C M Wangs = See Them Wings

Here’s a link if you want to read the silly whole thing:

  Let me just say, do not write like this! I’m sure you wouldn’t, but I don’t want you to think I’m endorsing it. I just goes to show you that you can take dialect way too far.

 Okay, I’ll confess that I’m a g-dropper. I write a lot of westerns with cowboys and sometimes hick characters, and I tend to drop a “g” on the end of some verbs. Some sources say not to do that, but I like it and think it gives the reader a better sense of the character’s drawl. Don’t drop the “g” on every –ing verb though. That would be overkill. Be selective with any dialect you use.

3. Watch for anachronisms: What is that? Something or someone not in its correct historical or chronological time. I once read a historical set in the 1880s where the hero was carving a toy truck for a child. Yikes! He can’t carve something that hasn’t been invented yet. Keeping with the topic, words that are common to us often slip into our writing, and we never stop to think they weren’t around at the time our story takes place. Take the word, “nursing” as in “nursing an infant.” According to this term dates to the 1530s. If you write Biblical fiction or stories in the Early Middle Ages, you’d be inaccurate if you used that term. “Electrifying” is another word you must be cautious of in historicals.

Here’s a goof I got called out on by my editor while she was editing Song of the Prairie, which just released:

Aaron mentally smacked himself upside the head.

I changed it to: Aaron inwardly chastised himself.

The second version doesn’t have quite the visual impact that the first one does, but my editor was correct in saying it sounded too modern.

Here’s another site you might find helpful in determining when a word was used:

I asked a couple of writer friends for tips to pass on to you. 

Here’s one from Connie Stevens—the author, not the actress:

Nothing will yank me out of a story faster than a character in a 19th century story saying something like, “No way” or “I’m out of here.” Even many phrases that were used in the 18th and 19th centuries carry a different connotation in the 21st century, so we must be careful to stay in the period with dialogue.

For example: the term “out of pocket” was originally used in the late 1600s to mean someone was broke—out of money. It later grew to mean having to pay for something out of my own pocket or to label “out-of-pocket expenses.” Today, “out of pocket” can mean a person is going to be out of the office. So even if the phrase is essentially correct, it can sound contemporary.

Angie Breidenbach says:

Using words of the time period. It helps to read books published during the time you're writing. Read letters and journals too. I love the old newspapers!! Hilarious stuff in those and very much written as the spoken word, gossipy, in most of them. Look at the ads too. The way ads are phrased is very conversational in old newspapers and magazines :)

From Amanda Cabot:

In general, I advise authors to use more formality in dialogue. That means fewer contractions and fewer sentence fragments. I also like to substitute "four and twenty" for "twenty-four," since it adds an historical flavor to the story without being overwhelming.

Margaret Brownley offers two resources I haven’t heard of before: My favorite dialogue resources are I Hear America Talking and Listening to America by Stuart Berg Flexner. These books are well-organized and fun to read. For example if you look up the word courtship you’ll find pages of the popular terms used throughout the years starting from the 18th century (bill and coo) to the roaring twenties (dating).

That’s some excellent advice from well-published authors. I hope you found something you could use. Before I close, I want to leave you with some other resources to help with writing dialogue and dialect.

Other Resources:

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms book.

Here’s an interesting dialect map if you can make sense of it and read the tiny font:

This is a cool site that lets you listen to audio recordings of people from all 50 states so that you can hear their dialect:

Dialect Survey:

I LOVE! this site. Each state has a long list of words with different pronunciations, and it shows the percentage of people from that state who say the word each way. In the example below, 87.76% of Oklahomans say “ant” for the word “aunt.” 
(How do you pronounce the word?)

1. aunt
    a. [ ] as in "ah"        (6.12%)
    b. [ ] as in "ant"        (87.76%)
    c. [ ] as in "caught"        (2.04%)

 Farewell, y’all, and may God bless your writing. Be sure to share your pet peeves when it comes to dialect. Two commenters will win a copy of Song of the Prairie

(Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.)
Song of the Prairie
 Janie Dunn's life changes when, at the request of her dying cousin, she flees with her cousin's newborn son to protect him from his abusive father. She moves to Kansas, but things take a dire change when her brother is killed. Is a marriage of convenience to kindhearted Aaron Harper the answer to her problems? Is Kansas far enough away from New York that they are safe from the baby's father?

Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West during the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of over thirty published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013.

Vickie has been married thirty-eight years, is the mother of four grown sons, one of whom is married, and she is grandma to a precocious eight-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website:


Marianne Barkman said...

Not sure I really have pet peeves in novels I read. Atleast not as far as words and phrases go. I do not particularly like reading books with hard to pronounce or understand words. Your post is great. I'm looking forward to reading Song of the Prairies. Thanks for the chance to win!

Helen Gray said...

Yes, I remember the Red Neck reading test. :) And I've dropped quite a few g's.

The goof I got called out for was saying a guy was "hanging around" with some friends.

Would love to read Song of the Prairie.

The coffee pot is set to brew in time for the early crew.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I always wished I had been raised to say AUGHNT. It sounds so regal.

"I've been to see Aughnt Josephine. We had tea."

Ruth Logan Herne said...

No aughnts here, either. I'm Ant Ruthy....

Although like Tina, I'd love (for a minute!!!) to be in the company of an aughnt, but I suspect it might end badly, like Lady Catherine DeBourgh in Pride and Prejudice....

There's only so much "aughntiness" a country gal like me can take!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen!!!! Enjoying the coffee, danke! Couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd get up and finish a book!!!! Your timing is exemplary!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marianne, Melissa Endlich tweaks me if I get too heady with "smart" words...

"Ruthy, we all know you're smart, but we're not about to enclose a dictionary with each book..."


"Ruthy, explanation needed here, in words mere mortals understand."


Sometimes I get carried away!!!!! Good to have someone on board with a sense of humor that helps me stay where I need to be: Normal!!!

Cindy W. said...

There have been times where I pick up a book and the dialect overshadows the story and makes me lose sight of the story line. That bugs me.

Thank you for the links. I loved going to dialect link by states and seeing that I'm a mixture of my native state of California and Missouri where my mom was born. Fun stuff thanks for sharing!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

How fun! The book looks amazing and I've bookmarked the links.

And I say "ant" over here in Orygun.

cathyann40 said...

This book looks really good.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We need to have a TEA PARTY and talk Brit and say Awnt or Aughnt and eat delicious whipped cream on something that isn't dry like scones... Or just have carrot cake, LOL!

That's my kind of tea party!

And we can all be Austen characters!

#loveit !!!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh! Great post, Vickie.

Okay, what about "Come on." Do any of you use that in historicals. I find it slips in really easily, and I'm not sure if it sounds too modern or not. But I try to keep things to just come. "Come, we've got a train to catch." Instead of "Come on, we've got a train to catch." Any thoughts?

And "truck" isn't anachronistic. The word was around long before our current motor vehicles that we think of as trucks. A toy truck in the late 1800s would be a toy version of a cart that could transport goods. A toy "wagon" might have been a better word choice for the author to make in that situation, but the truck still isn't anachronistic, just confusing. ;-)

Mary Connealy said...

Good Morning, Vickie.
I am up ridiculously early and I'm not happy about it.

But Vickie's post makes it all worthwhile.
Vickie and I are in a novella collection together.

We've just been talkin' and talkin' and talkin'.

(dropped 'g' alert)

Mary Connealy said...

I remember a much harried English teacher I had who always 'chastised' us for saying ANT for Aunt.

He'd give us that 'teacher-y' look and say, "Do you mean a BUG came to visit you, or your AHnt, a female relative?"

I used to think, "It's an accent, dork, get over yourself."

Of course I never said that out loud.
But I don't say Ahnt either. Too embarrassing in Nebraska.

Audra Harders said...

I love listening to dialect across the country and reading it across time. Funny how everyone thinks they way they pronounce words is correct. LOL!

Accent? What accent? Folks from Colorado don't have accents : )

Thanks for joining us today, Vickie!!

Audra Harders said...

So, question.

If you're having a conversation with someone and they say "auhnt" while you say "ant," do you continue to say the word your way or just stop using it?

To me, it feels like a showdown of words...I'm saying it right and you aren't.

Is that stupid or what??

Kav said...

LOL -- It's ant up here in Canada too. Wonder just what percentage of North Americans use auhnt anyway? I'm Irish and we say ant -- well antie.

Loved all the links. Oh my goodness, but I was transfixed by the dialects site. Way too much fun.

Cindy Regnier said...

Hi Vickie - love your books and this post. My pet peeve in historical, well one of them, is "wrap his mind around". I'm quite sure no one said that 100 years ago. Another very common word that takes me out of the story immediately is "lunch." I think folks a century ago ate dinner at noontime and supper in the evening. Well - anyway, I'm Ant Cindy to eight nieces and nephews in Kansas but my BIL from Minnesota thinks we all say it wrong. He thinks we ought to say Ahnt.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Vickie! I'm careful to use my Dictionary of Idioms and the Collegiate Webster that dates words, but still make mistakes.

Thanks so much for all the terrific links! What a wealth of information on these sites!

Congratulations on all those books! Fun that you and Mary are in an anthology together!

I say Ant. Does anyone not???


Janet Dean said...

Naomi, my Idiom dictionary says come on, as in urging someone to hurry, has been in usage since 1450.

Know you're right about truck, but that usuage might take readers out of the story.


Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Vickie! Thanks for your helpful and fun post.

I'm among the 6.12% who say aunt as if ahnt. I'm from an area in New England where everyone says it that way.

Historical writers have to be so careful to use words in a way that sounds authentic to the time period, but not too stiff and old fashioned. It's a balance.

Janet Dean said...

Cindy, lunch has been in usage for most of the 1800s. Even the words lunchroom and luncheon and lunchtime. But I agree that lunch sounds modern. I don't use it in novels unless the speaker is upperclass. Most farmers/small town folks called the noon meal dinner and the evening meal supper. My grandparents did as the noon meal was the largest of the day. Supper was light in comparison and when the heavy work was done.


Wilani Wahl said...

I read a book where every character sounded just like a lot of Southerners talk. the problem is not every one who lives in South uses improper grammar and I almost quit reading a great book because of it.

By the way I am an ant

Thank you for this great reminder

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Vickie!!! So fun to see you in Seekerville today!

And what great resources--thank you! Now that I've ventured into writing historical fiction, I'm always on the lookout for words and phrases that just don't fit the time period. You can bet I'll be bookmarking several of these links!

On the dropping-the-g thing? I like to do that, too, when appropriate, but I've learned to do so in moderation. Just enough to give the flavor and not bombard the reader.

Again, great, great post, Vickie! Thanks for all these helpful tips!

Julie Lessman said...

VICKIE!!!! Love, Love, LOVE this post, my friend, and have put several of the books on my Amazon wish list, so THANK YOU!!

One of my favorite (or least favorite, I should say) phrase faux pas in historical books is any variation of "he/she couldn't wrap his/her mind around it."

I remember the first time I read that in a western romance, I literally sat right up and groaned, because it snatched the authenticity of that novel right out from under me with that one phrase. Since then, I've seen that phrase used in approximately 4-5 other historicals, and I wonder where the copy editors are.

I love all the resources you gave, and I have one to add that is my etymology bible online because you can look up a word or phrase to see the date of its origin/usage in most cases. Of course, I also have several online idiom sites I search, too, but this site is by far my favorite:

Thanks for a great post, my friend, and your new book looks AWESOME!!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Apparently some of you read a lot of historicals, as two of you mentioned: wrap his mind around it. That's interesting.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Vicki and welcome to Seekerville. A great post and so true. We need to watch out for those things even in contemporary novels. I had in one of my manuscripts the hero dialing his phone and hanging up. Well hello. We don't do that any more. We punch or swipe or simply say a name to make a phone call. LOL

Sure good to hear from you. Thanks again for sharing. Have fun today.

Vickie McDonough said...

I was up half the night because I couldn't sleep, so I apologize for showing up late to the party. I wish I would have thought to visit Seekerville then but I was searching for places in KY to visit on my vacation. I've got my Coke ready since I'm not a coffee drinker. Oh my, I heard that loud gasp all the way to Oklahoma.

Tina, the first time I heard someone say Aughnt, I thought they were from overseas, but no, just from the east coast.

Ruth, why is it that Aughnt sounds a bit stuffy? Maybe because of my mid-western upbringing.

Cindy, I love the Dialects by State link too. I usually go and read over the list of the state my new story is set in. I got off easy with my newest series since it's set in OK.

Vickie McDonough said...


I have used c'mon in my historicals. To be honest, I never considered that it might not have been used in the 1800s, and I don't remember an editor calling me out for using it.

You're right about "truck". I know it was used before, and it's true the man in the story may have been carving a cart that he called a truck, but it pulled me from the story, and those are the kind of things we need to be very careful of.

Vickie McDonough said...

Hey, Mary! I'm so glad to finally be writing something with you. Our 12 Brides of Christmas is going to be a great collection for readers. Your teacher trying to get you to say Aughnt reminds me of the ones I had who tried to make me write right-handed instead of with my left hand. I didn't do it either. :)

Audra, I don't stop talking in my normal manner just because I'm talking to someone with a different accent. We lived in Israel for a year, but it wasn't the Israeli's who teased us about our OK accent but the other people in our group who were from other states.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You lived in Israel for a year??? Whoa. Tell us about that. Lucky you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And tell us a little about your writing schedule.

And wow, the leap to LIS? How did that happen?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Food. I forgot food.

Old fashioned biscuits and gravy from the chuck wagon!

Vickie McDonough said...

Kav, I'm curious as to what part of Canada you live in. I have good friends who live in Toronto, and they say Aughnt. She is from Holland, so that may be the reason she says it, but he's from OK, so he has no excuse. :)

Cindy, I use lunch in some of my historicals. It depends on my character's background as to what they call it. "Lunch" has been around since the 1700s as a shortened form of "luncheon." You do need to check on other versions of the word though, such as "out to lunch," which wasn't used until the 1940s. Choosing the correct word can be difficult at times.

Heidi Robbins said...

Great post! It's so true that using modern phrases in a historical novel make the dialogue seem out of place. I love when an author incorporates a little dialect, especially when the setting is Ireland or Scotland :)

Thanks for the giveaway! I'm looking forward to starting your series!

Vickie McDonough said...

Cara Lynn, Do you cringe when you hear people say "ant" instead of "augnht?

Janet, I also sometimes have my characters refer to lunch as dinner and the evening meal as supper, but I still wonder if it confuses readers. I'd love to hear some dialogue about that. That's one of the things I look for when I visit the Dialect by State site. And thanks for the warm welcome!

Hi Myra! We sure miss you here in Tulsa. You're right about dropping the "g." You certainly need to use it selectively.

Hey Julie!! Did I forget etymonline? Yikes! It's one of my favorite sites too. I don't write a book without using it. And now, I'm trying to remember if I ever used "wrap my mind" in one of my books. It's one of those sayings so common to us writers that we don't stop to think it wasn't used in the 1800s.

Sandra, I probably would have used "dial" too. It's what I grew up saying and still do--even though I do punch in my numbers on the phone. I something call my refrigerator and "ice box" even though I've never had an "ice box" but it's the term my parents often used. I wonder how many words we say are hold-overs from previous generations.

Yes, I lived in Israel for a year. My husband and I went with a group called Project Kibbutz and lived and worked at Keriyat Annvim for a year. It was a fun and interesting time. We celebrated our first anniversary at restaurant in Jerusalem. :)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh, I like c'mon. And I've seen it used before. Don't know why I never thought to use it myself. That's a good one!

Young'uns is another good one that I just saw discussed on an editing loop.

Vickie McDonough said...

My writing schedule varies a lot. I like to get up and tend to emails, eat breakfast, and jump into writing. I'm primary caregiver for my 84 yo mom, who lives alone but can't leave her house without help, so sometimes she takes priority over my writing. It usually takes me four or five months to write an 80,000 word trade fiction. And the closer I get to my deadline, the longer my writing days usually are. I probably write 2 - 4 hours most days, although I'm on the computer much more than that. I also try to take Sundays off as much as I can.

As for how I made the leap to LIS...well, my agent asked me if I had any completed books he could send to LI, and all I had was a book I wrote toward the beginning of my career. It was a contemporary romance with quite a bit of suspense, but I wouldn't have called it a suspense. Imagine my shock when LIS bought it. I had to do a LOT of rewriting to get it up to their standards. In fact, it took be longer to rewrite the book than it did to write it in the first place, but it's done, and I'm really hoping readers will like Rancher Under Fire.

Vickie McDonough said...

Heidi, I'm with you--I love Scottish and Irish heroes and heroines, even though my favorite genre is western romance. It's probably because I have ancestors from both countries--or maybe it's just that the accents are so intriguing.

I have a novella releasing next month in The Christmas Brides Collection called An Irish Bride for Christmas--and sure now, my heroine has a wee accent.

Vickie McDonough said...

Naomi, I do use young'uns in my historicals. I'm curious what your loop finds objectionable about it.
I can't find anything that says when it was first used.

Tina Radcliffe said...

"tend to emails"

HA! Tend to emails. I love it.

Mary Connealy tends to emails too.

Naomi Rawlings said...

It was an editing loop that had several editors horrified an author was attempting to use a word not in one of the official dictionaries. (Merriam-Webster and Webster's Col legate are the two big ones, I think.) Once someone explained it was a colloquialism and contraction for "young ones", it suddenly became okay to use in informal dialogue. (I may have rolled my eyes a dozen times or so during that discussion.)

"C'mon" probably isn't in Merriam Webster's either. :-D

Tina Radcliffe said...

Looking forward to reading your suspense, Vickie. I am a huge LIS fan.

Does anyone call you Victoria? Where does your name come from in your familial tree, btw? Sounds a bit highfalutin for an Okie. LOL. Kidding.

PriviesAndPrims said...

I lived in the NC mountains for 12 years, so I'm used to the southern language. :)
They tend to have their own language. Like "elt!". What does that mean???
Would love to win one of your books. Have enjoyed every other one I've read!


Anne Payne said...

Vicki, I love this post. I'm not a writer like y'all at Seekerville (see how I slipped that Southern word in here) but I do love words. I think one of the biggest pet peeves I have is when folks put the apostrophe in the wrong place, as in ya'll instead of correctly putting it where it should be, y'all.

I loved reading and reviewing the first two book in this series. I hope I win a copy of Song of the Prairie!

Oh yeah. Here in western NC, most of us say 'ant' :)

Terri said...

Hey, Vicki, great to see a fellow Okie here. Tina's half Okie.

I don't write historicals, but this is a great post. I'm Ant, but thankfully no one calls me that! They just call me by my first name.

Vickie McDonough said...


My dad actually wanted to name be Candy. I am not a Victoria, just plain ol' Vickie. I think Mom thought I'c get teased more if I was a Victoria. Vickie is not a family name--just one my mom liked. I've always wished I'd gone by my middle name--Ann--without an "e."

Ann, Does "elt" have a meaning? How is it used?

Anne, I've used y'all in many of my books, but for some reason, I tend to spell it out as "you all." I think the shortened version looks off to me, but I can't explain why.

Waving at Terri. I'm glad you go stop by.

FYI, I mentioned earlier that I'm primary caregiver to my mom. I have to take lunch to her, so I'll be gone a few hours. TTYL

Constance Hendryx said...

Thanks for the enjoyable read, y'all!

Terri said...

I think you should write one!

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL, Terri. Half Okie. Good one.

I lived 18 years in NY. Lived 17 years in Tulsa. So that makes me almost an Okie.


Tina Radcliffe said...

ELT?? What is ELT??

We need Pepper Basham to decipher.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ann is my sisters name.

I use Ann a lot in my stories. Jack as well.

Debby Giusti said...

Vickie, such a wonderful post. I write contemporary, but I loved your mention of all the research sources that I now want to buy! :)

Writing military suspense, my editor sometimes calls me out for mentioning terms that folks in the military know. Of course, my readers might not. Same problem as dialect that confuses and slows the reader.

Every "world" has it's own vocabulary. Thanks for providing so much info about historical dialogue.

Debby Giusti said...

Ann is my middle name, and I'm an ANT. Ant Debby.

I remember LI editors talking about names. They said they were tired of heroines' names that started with I shy away from A names.

However, I love the letter M! Matthew, Mac, Melissa, Michele, Mark.

Missy Tippens said...

What great resources, Vickie! Thanks so much for hanging out with us today and sharing!

I'm with you, Tina. Saying "aughnt" sounds very ritzy to me. I use the regular "ant."

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Ruthy! I love that Melissa adds those comments. :)

Missy Tippens said...

By the way, my cousins (in the mountains of Kentucky where I was born) always said aunt more as "aint." :) I don't see that one listed!

Linda Goodnight said...

Excellent information, Vickie. I'm keeping all this in mind as I work on the second book in my split time series, The Honey Ridge Novels. I totally agree that a word here and there, a dropped g or very formal term adds a great deal of "time" flavor to a book. And you did a super job of that!

Tracey Hagwood said...

In coastal Va. it's ant.

For midday meals it's lunch and evening meals are interchangeable, either dinner or supper. EXCEPT on Sunday,when the biggest meal of the day is usually midday after church and becomes Sunday dinner and the evening meal is supper. I don't know why this is, but my NC raised mama always said it this way, so I do too. Fun posts!

Regina Jennings said...

Great post, Vickie! Thanks for the helpful links and resources. I'll be spending some time with those.

Missy Tippens said...

Tracey, that's the way it is here, too (for lunch vs dinner/supper). :)

Tracey Hagwood said...

Missy, I guess that's the way it is in the South!
Btw: I have heard some of my older country relatives use aint like your Kentucky cousins

DebH said...

Native of Colorado. I don't think I have an accent, but sometimes people here on the East Coast ask me where I'm from 'cuz I talk funny.
I've done enough traveling that I pick up lingo from different places that tickle my fancy and then I use 'em. Just sayin' (ala Ruthy)

My middle name is Ann as well and I'm both 'ant' and 'aunt' Debbie. (although my given name is Deborah)

DebH said...

p.s. I've got nieces and nephews all across the country, that's why I answer to both 'ant' and 'aunt'.

(well, I also answer to 'hey you', but that's a different thing altogether...)

Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you, Vickie! What great advice and excellent resources to check into!

I find I'm heading unintentionally toward writing historical romance and realizing it's hard to get everything right. Your post will certainly help!

I agree with g-dropping to add a bit of flavor.

I started out in Kansas, so my "WAR-shington" was hilarious to my Connecticut friends. :)

Thanks so much!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Aint Missy. Gotta love that.

Vickie McDonough said...

"tend to emails" -- that must be one of those regional sayings. Tina. :)

Debby, I know all about military talk since I have a son who's been in the National Guard 14 years. He doesn't use the bathroom, he uses that latrine. I can't get used to that term. It reminds me of when I was a kid at summer camp.

Tina, when did you live in Tulsa, and did you attend school here? I don't know that I knew you lived here.

Missy, I'm headed to KY after a stop in Nashville. You can be sure I'll be listening to the local dialect. Our kids had youth pastors from KY for several years, and we had some fun conversations on the way home from church about how different their accents sounded.

Thanks, Linda! What's a time-split book? Is that one with part of it contemporary and part historical?

Vickie McDonough said...


That's the same way we label our meals. I wonder why lunch on Sunday is called dinner. It always has been in our home too.

Waving at Regina and Linda--my OKC friends.

Sherida, My dad was born in Kansas, and he pronounced several words in unusual ways. Wash was always worsh. Tire was tar. Extra was extry.
His whole family was from PA, so may explain some of it.

Jamie Adams said...

Great information... a keeper for sure!

Jennifer Smith said...

Great post, Vickie. That part about an 1800s character carving a toy truck made me laugh. :) Thanks for the chance to win your book!

Sandy Smith said...

Those links to sites related to dialect look very interesting. I think it would be difficult to choose just the right dialog in a historical novel. I can't think of a particular pet peeve, but I have read books with characters speaking in a way that sounds too modern and it does pull me out of the story. Please enter me in the drawing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I lived in Tulsa from 1976-1993. I went to TJC (Now Tulsa Community College) and became an RN. I worked as Director of Nurses at Oral Roberts University Village Retirement Center and then worked as an oncology certified RN at City of Faith and after it closed at Cancer Treatment Center.

That's why I was in Tulsa with Mary and Ruthy a few years back. Book signing at Steve's Sundries (now closed. boo hoo).

My first two books (The Rancher's Reunion and Oklahoma Reunion are set in the Bixby area.)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vicki, I tend to drop "g's in "ing" endin's when I want that down home sound.

I love how that simple alteration changes the complete tone of dialogue.

Love it!

Vicki, I love the suspense novels, too!!!! But I also love the simplicity of times we feel with the historicals, and you do it so beautifully.

That's a wonderful gift!

Sandy Smith said...

I forgot to say that I also say ant. I live in Nebraska like Mary does, and I agree that ahnt sounds pretentious here.

Ruth Tredway said...

Great post! I've lived a lot of places in more than 50 years. I love to study the way people talk locally, and have been known to adopt their ways if I stay long enough. My husband has some distinctly country Kansas words - His "worship" sounds like "wash-up" and washing sounds like war-shing.
One word use in a novel that sounded off: the writer, in dialogue, said..."blah, blah, seriously blah..." and to me, it sounded contemporary, like you would say, "Seriously, you have the nerve to ask?" Not a bad word, but didn't seem to fit where it was placed.
Vickie, I'd love to have a copy. I enjoyed the Texas Boarding House Brides.

Tanya Agler said...

Thanks for the blog about dialect in dialogue.

It's always helpful when someone shares tips on how to make something authentic without tipping the scales on the side of too confusing for the reader to understand the character.

Thanks for the tips.

Natalie Monk said...

Wowee did I need this post! The heroine I'm plotting is a Tennessee mountain girl from a clan with Scottish roots. Talk about dialect! It's hard not to overdo. But I was able to learn a lot of nuances through listening to some Youtube videos featuring voice recordings.

Thank you for sharing these tips and resources, Vickie!

Hmm. I say "ant" when using it as a pronoun. But when using it as a proper noun, part of her name, I say "Aint" as in "Aint Rita." Don't know if this is standard Mississippi talk or just my family, lol.

Vickie McDonough said...


I'm pretty sure I worked at TJC back then. I can't remember the exact years. I worked in the continuing ed department. I t was sad to see Steve's Sundry closed. It was a cool store--loved the soda bar.

Thanks, Ruth! That means a lot coming from a writer as good as you.

Good luck in the drawing, everyone. I wish I could give a book to each of you. I'm turning in early because we leave on vacation tomorrow. Yippee!!!

Thanks so much to the Seekerville gals for letting me visit again.

Mary Preston said...

I do love it when the dialogue gives me a true sense of the time period, but I don't need to be hit over the head with it.

jubileewriter said...

My family has always prnounced it ant. My daughter-in-law uses Auntie.
I refer to the fluffy bedcover as a comforter while an elderly friend from Boston called it a puff. I appreciate this great post. Lots of helpful resources and great reminders. Prarie Song sounds interesting.
Cindy Huff

jubileewriter said...

My family has always prnounced it ant. My daughter-in-law uses Auntie.
I refer to the fluffy bedcover as a comforter while an elderly friend from Boston called it a puff. I appreciate this great post. Lots of helpful resources and great reminders. Prarie Song sounds interesting.
Cindy Huff

DiAnn said...

Super post, Vicki, and thanks for the resources!

Donna said...

Vickie,I'm a day late but had to say how much I appreciate this post! This is something I struggle with. Too much...not enough...
So thank you!

Walt Mussell said...

I cannot believe I missed this day. I wish I had been here.

This post was very helpful. If anyone is still following, then I wonder how you might handle a word that is now considered offensive but would have been appropriate in the time period. (No, I am not talking about the things that get some of Mark Twain's books banned from school. I'm talking about how people in America would have referred to Asians in the 19th century.)

Definitely saving this one.