mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Dog days

Finished the Parasol Protectorate and sad it's over. Perfect summer reading. I do wonder though about some language points. The author's dress research sounds perfect, but I wonder if English people really said 'pretty darn (adjective)' in the 1870s. I mean, there are surprises in language, like the first usage of 'literally' meaning 'figuratively' dating to the mid-18th century, and Fanny Burney a generation later writing 'Tell it to the marines!' But the first known use of sadist is 1888, ten years after Lyle says it. Maybe shifting Krafft-Ebing and Freud's dates earlier is part of the A/U, but I think it's just our present unconscious use of psychiatric vocabulary.

Something the same with PD James' Austen. One needn't expect pastiche, but it sounds odd to me when a housekeeper says 'There's a bed in the adjoining room. I can get it made up with pillows and blankets.' 'Can get' to my ears is modern, and not suitable servant's language. Doing a fast search through Pride and Prejudice suggests that 'get' has a slightly invidious sense:

The business of her life was to get her daughters married

Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball

I am always glad to get a young person well placed out

Her ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else

She had seen enough of Bingley's behaviour to Jane to be convinced that she would get him at last.

It doesn't feel at all like the neutral verb we now use it as.
Tags: language, reading_13

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