Time Travel for Writers

As a playwright I am always obsessed with language.  What a character in a certain situation, certain environment, certain time period would or could say.  Not every reader  is fact checking what I write, but an off tune word or phrase can take an audience out of the moment and is one of the biggest traps we face.

Merriam-Webster has created a significant aid to my process.  Go to this URL:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-by-first-known-date/

Here you will find lists about first known use of words or phrases.  Want a character to humblebrag?  Not before 2002.  Want someone to wear bicycle pants?  Not before 1976.  Is someone in your play a beatnik?  Not before 1958.  Want someone to make a “check mark?”  Not before 1917, please.  They have also added the dates to many of their word definitions so you can look up a word in their dictionary to see where it started.

It is fascinating and not just as a writing tool.  Of course, I’ve already bookmarked the URL (1992) to come back often.  It is also a wonderful time waster that I can say is educational and not just a rabbit hole.  Try it, lots of fun!

ancient books

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

TOMORROW: Halloween, aggression and the patriarchy (first used in 1632, by the way) – how do I tie these together?

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