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Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in the books I read, a habit of using modern day language or euphemisms in stories set in other time periods or other worlds. The example that pushed me into writing this post was in a story set in late medieval times. The language used by the characters wasn’t particularly old sounding, but it was good enough—that is, until one of the teen-aged characters complained of being put “on lockdown” by his parents. Man, did my suspension of disbelief take a kick to the gut.
Now I don’t mind an occasional deviation from period language for the sake of readability. “Thee”s and “Thou”s can get hard to read after a while, but the use of slang that’s only been around for about a decade or so (at least in the connotation of “being grounded”) is just too much.
And it’s not just stories set in the past. I’ve read science fiction set in the far future that used current day slang, pop phrases I’m pretty sure will be dead and buried long before that future arrives. For example, I’m reading one book populated with spaceships and space stations, and was jarred when one of the characters used the phrase “you go, girl.” Now I’ll admit this phrase has been around for a while, and may hang around for a while yet, but it’s already in decline, used these days mostly as a punch line in TV comedies or to make the person saying it appear unhip.
Maybe this doesn’t bother anyone else, but contemporary slang in non-contemporary settings just irks me.
What about you?
P.S. If the writer is deliberately doing this to have fun, for example, A Knight’s Tale, then that’s different.