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:
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!
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?
One thought on “Time Travel for Writers”
Thanks for sharing!