Anachronisms and “Almost Words”

Things that make me laugh while I’m reading a book include events and verbal expressions that are inappropriately placed in the time period of the novel and words that are misused. In the case of things associated with a particular time that are placed in another time period, I always assume the author was so caught up in the story that stopping to research would have impeded the flow. However, when a word is used, apparently because it sounds much like the word intended, I’m just amused and guess that the author does not know better, and that the editor was “out to lunch,” so to speak.

Last week I read a best-selling book that had an example of the latter in the second sentence of the prologue. The author wrote, “He furls his brow…” It also stated that he does this "countless times each day." Really? How does one furl his or her brow? Is this somewhat like furling a flag? I considered putting the book down after sentence two and not picking it back up. If the second sentence contained such a blatant error, how might the rest of the text insult my intelligence?

My editor should have been so lackadaisical! I was frequently required to defend occurrences and the existence of objects during the Great Depression and to support my claims with data. Yes, there were school buses in the 1920's. Yes, even young people who were poor graduated from high school. Yes, girls who were from wealthy families attended college. No, Hoovervilles did not exist in small towns and rural areas.

Much research can now be done online, but researching train schedules took me to the historical documents room of the public library where even my purse had to be left outside. And, yes, trains were the transportation of the day. The twenty-four hour, seven days per week schedule allowed for convenient local and nationwide travel.

I hope there are no “almost words” in my novel. But if you find one, please let me know so I can stress for the rest of my life because it’s out there for everyone to see, and there is nothing I can do to fix it. 

Oh, and if you are writing a book, you do need an editor. Invaluable!

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  1. Sometimes it is nice to be a broad brush person, I read what should have been automatically and never stop to question why a Ben Franklin sent a text!

  2. Captain Nancy, you are so funny! I have no problem with these kinds of things in everyday writing. I do think extreme care should be taken by an author who is selling his book for $28.00.

  3. There's a thrid on the thrip, and though the thrip is real, the thrid is merely a typo. We excuse those. [You may delete this message after you flick the thrid off.]

  4. Vanilla, you play way too much Scrabble.

  5. Not so. Limit, two games per day.