Help, there’s Slang in my History! – Alma Boykin

*Okay, so I got almost everything done yesterday and I’m tempted to say since today is mostly detail and fetch and carry that I’ll be back by early afternoon.  OTOH what these last few months have taught me is that little tasks can eat a whole day, so no promises.  I could still be at the other house at 2 am.  BUT it will be done and we’re meeting with the realtor tomorrow early.  So.  If you guys wish I CAN post photos of cleaned/painted/wood-stained/staged rooms later.  I mean, you should know what ate at least three books worth of time.

Going now.  It’s going to be a rough day because I’m starting it tired.  Keep fingers crossed for me.*

Help, there’s Slang in my History! – Alma Boykin

Twice, thus far, I have encountered books written by historians who lurched way too far in the “popular” direction while writing popular history. In one case I finished the book and just made a mental note to not write like that. The second case stopped me cold one-third of the way through the book, which I then deleted from my e-reader never to be touched again. And it led to much ranting and uncharitable thoughts aimed at both the author and whoever did not tell this individual, “This is excessively hip even for the American market.”

Looking back twenty years or so, the first book gave me the sense that the writer was trying too hard to be cute. She had written a light history about consumer culture during the time of Louis XIV and XV. She argued that many features of what we consider basic marketing and fashion began during this time and were centered on the court cultures of the two Louis. She then proceeded to walk through different case studies and examples. Some I don’t know enough about consumer history to judge, others seemed reasonable (the furniture showroom idea, for example, and the concept of fashion seasons.) She didn’t make any glaring blunders with the material I already knew, so I was inclined to take her arguments as pretty reasonable. But her little asides and winks bumped me out of the book on several occasions.

I’m not an expert on the aristocratic culture of 17th and 18th century France. I do not speak French. But I am pretty certain that no duchess or countess would have described herself as “fashion-forward” or have referred to Madam du Pompadour as being a “fashionista.” As memory serves, there was another place where a jeweler was referred to as the “Cartier” of the time. A few “Sex and the City” references may have been tossed in as well, in one case almost appropriately when the author interviewed a modern shoe designer about the goings on in a Fragonard painting.

The problem with this sort of cuteness is three fold. First, it makes me question the author’s respect for her topic. Just how seriously is she taking the material if she makes little winks and pop-culture shortcuts instead of using more appropriate terms? And if she’s not serious, why should I bother reading any farther? Second, ten or fifteen years from now, a reader might not get the references and will be thrown harder out of the book. Third, the book was packaged and sold as a moderately serious cultural history, not light pop history. If I had not gone through her endnotes and seen a goodly number of primary sources and academic monographs, I would probably have blown off the book and the author. As it happens, the author did do her work, is a decent historian and writer, and the book offers some interesting arguments about the origins of upper-tier consumer culture.

But the second one, oh the second one. My knowledge of Eastern Europe has some large holes, including Romania/Transylvania. So I went looking for histories of that region (that cost less than an arm and a leg). As you would imagine, the field is rather sparse, so when I found an inexpensive volume that had decent reviews and claimed to cover the history and culture of the region from Roman times to the early 20th century, I got it. The monograph started pretty well, with an outline of the topic and the author’s difficulties with the Communist-era historiography. Cool, this was what I was looking for, and so I dug in.

The first chapter had a few rough spots, but the footnotes held up and I’m willing to grant a lot of leeway to people writing in a second or third language when it comes to a few problems with almost-but-not-quite vocabulary and terms. They did not interfere with the story or the author’s argument, and I got what he was trying to say. Then the Romans arrived and the book started to get shaky. Not the facts and dates, no, but the interpretation and the language. Trajan waged a three-stage war against the Dacians, the people living in what is now Romania and Serbia, in the early second century. No problems there, until the author compared the results of the First Daican War to Pres. Bush’s speech with the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background. That jarred, to put it mildly. It may have seemed catchy and current, but it really stuck out of the description of the campaigns, and made me a little concerned about what else might be coming. But perhaps it was a one-off comment.

Then it got worse. The Roman soldiers along the eastern limes, the frontier border between Roman Dacia and the barbarians, were “meat puppets” and a few other slang descriptions. Right there I stopped reading, closed the e-reader, and went to do something else. A day or so later I returned to the book, hoping not to encounter any more egregious abuses of historical writing. Wrong. The author continued to incorporate American slang and references when they really added nothing to his discussion about the re-organization of the Dacian countryside following the withdrawal of Roman civil authority and military forces from the province. The tone of cute asides and “well of course people didn’t abandon the land, they just relocated, stupid,” although aimed at earlier historians, grated too much for me to keep reading.

Now, I should add that the history of population movement and “who settled where when” in the area from, oh, south of the modern Hungarian-Slovak border to Corinth in Greece is a very hot topic. First, there are several periods without a great deal of records, if any, and archaeologists have to try and piece together what they can. Second, a lot of ethnic pride and nationalism is wrapped up in “who got here first,” and who should be where now. Romanian and Hungarian historians argue over Transylvania until they are blue in the face and/or cause nationwide pixel shortages. An ethnic Romanian arguing for multi-thousand year cultural continuity (and land claims) is going to be pretty vehement about the inaccuracy of claims to the contrary. That said, there are ways to express that without, in essence, calling the other side ignorant poopy heads.

I gave up on the book. Despite the author having done his homework, despite providing information that I might find useful, despite including recent research in an area that is very difficult to learn anything about, the book failed me so hard that I quit. The combination of pop references and slang, along with the rather snide tone the author took when discussing Late Antiquity and historiography, pushed me out never to return. If I were rating the book I’d have trouble. Four stars for factual material, perhaps five, at least for the portion I read, but one star for writing style and presentation. Or even zero stars, since that style pushed me out before I got to 500AD/CE.

As a writer, that first encounter with the French cultural history book made me wary of too-cute terminology. I try to keep the informality to an appropriate level based on my audience and the topic. Even in fiction, or perhaps especially in fiction, I tend to avoid slang. The most recent collision has just reinforced that policy, and made me very wary about keeping anachronisms out of my writing as well as out of the story. No medieval “Club Fed” references, no Romans asking for coffee or ancient Irish queens pining for chocolate, Goethe or Bismarck won’t have an assistant look up a bit of information from a database, and I will never, ever, ever imply that a historian with whom I disagree is a poopy head. At least, not in print.

133 responses to “Help, there’s Slang in my History! – Alma Boykin

  1. C4C

  2. If you guys wish I CAN post photos of cleaned/painted/wood-stained/staged rooms later. I mean, you should know what ate at least three books worth of time.

    It would be interesting to see.

    • yes, after hearing about it for so long, I would like to see the end results.

      • Pfagh! That ain’t a house, that’s a David Weber series!

        • Have you read “Sword of the South” yet?

          • It arrived Tuesday … and I am not happy to discover i apparently need to read a 4-novel book before it.

            • I read it too, and didn’t get that impression; yes, there’s obviously a backstory, but it can be enjoyed as a standalone, IMO.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, it helps when one of the point-of-view characters needs to learn some of the back-story as well. [Smile]

                • Glad to know — given the current backlog and time available for reading (other than online stuff) having to acquire the pre-series would have pretty much assured my not reading the book for about five years.

                  I was once traumatized by getting caught up on my reading and finding myself without anything new to read. I have taken steps to assure the problem never occurs again. My “waiting to be read” pile exceeds the number of books in the average American’s library (okay, I admit that might mean only a dozen, but I am confident I have a dozen dozen without going into the 20+ feet of books-waiting-to-be-read packed up when we moved, which I am sure are around here somewhere.)

                  • I’m at the point where I expect to get a new pop-up from the ‘Zon saying “You have [hundred] unread or partially read books on your Kindle, and there is no way you can have finished all the print books you ordered since Jan 1. Confirm purchase? Yes___ No___.”

              • But will having read it impair my enjoyment of the precedent series, or will I have to blank* memory while reading them?

                *Yes, of course I can selectively suppress already obtained knowledge of series, but I would rather not.

            • Song Of The South is 4 novels? I thought it was one book with a bunch of stories, and a movie!

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                In case, you’re not kidding. We’re talking about *Sword* of The South, the latest David Weber novel set in the Bahzell universe. There are four preceding books set in the Bahzell universe. [Smile]

              • Sword of the South.

              • Depends whether you include the Aaron in the Wildwood books (2) with SotS. They share a setting, but no continuity of plot or characters.

          • I have. I read the beginning and then peeked at the end. Woo boy!!

            • Yeah, it’s crazy. I was a little disappointed, though.

              • why?

              • Oh, there’s obviously a sequel or two left to go.

              • I felt like I’d just read 480 pages of setup. And while I don’t mind authors who love their characters, I don’t need to be hit over the head with an axe handle once per chapter while the viewpoint characters gush over each other. And Gwynna…yikes.
                It’s still eminently readable, mind, but it’s not Weber’s best work by a long shot.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Apparently I found it better than you did but YMMV always applies. [Smile]

  3. I’m curious what meaning he attached to “meat puppet.” In my experience, that’s the term for someone you have to give explicit step-by-step directions (Go forward, forward, turn left, keep going, stop, look right, up, up, down a bit, stop, open that valve, turn around, etc.), someone who might as well be an extension of your arm for all the thinking they’re doing. There’s even a gesture associated with it, a bit like putting on an extremely long glove. Needless to say, applying that term to troops at the edge of the empire seems odd.

    • Terry Sanders

      My take was more somewhere between “orc” and “redshirt.” Not real people–completely expendable, from their superiors’ point of view. Cannon fodder.

      Which could also easily be wrong…

      • Probably the most important reason not to use current slang on serious subjects, besides the aesthetic repulsiveness, is that slang words change their meaning frequently and quickly, so that the slang word the writer used can mean something else by the time the work is published. Or it can have different meanings in different areas and cliques. Standard usage and standard definitions change slowly, often under extreme pressure from the elites. Look how long it took the elites to change the meaning of “liberal.” And look up the history of “gunsel.” Hammett in “The Maltese Falcon” got away with using that word in its original NSFW meaning because he guessed, correctly, that the editor would think it meant “little guy with gun.”

        • My uncle nearly died the first week of bootcamp because he referred to another guy as “one of the boys.”

          My uncle grew up in a rural Oregon lumber town that was roughly 95% from county Cork and their immediate family.
          Said other guy was from the deep south, and black.

          So the other guy heard a slightly more polite version of the N-word, when my uncle was saying something more like “adult who isn’t the head of an extended family.”

          Example of use of “boy” for the culture my uncle grew up in: old Batman, at 80-something, was sent to a “retirement home” so his offspring could take the farm.
          He broke out and ran away to “the boy’s farm”– his nephew who never married. (no, he wasn’t named Robin)
          At that time, “the boy” was in his 60s.

          Massive digression, but because the story should be told: as best I can piece together from what nobody will say, his kids got access because Batman’s wife had Alzheimer’s or something close enough.

          He trusted them, and they put him and his wife who’d married as teens in different homes on opposite sides of the state. Sold what was left of the farm. That’s when he got out of the old folks’ home.

          Someone tipped him off that they’d figured out where he was and were sending out people to catch him the next day, and take him back to the old folks’ home, and he died that morning working cows, gored to death.

          He was also the first non-family my mom worked for, and he only hired her because her dad, Bobbie the coach and all of her brothers vouched for her.

      • I would call that “meat-shield.”

      • In military usage I understand the term to be equivalent to cannon fodder: troops whose primary function is to soak up enemy fire.

        To use such a phrase for troops predating gunpowder or even effective archery certainly seems inappropriate. Sure, there were javelin back then, but not the same thing by a very long shot.

        A serious historian might, might, get away with such usage if done sparsely and suitably couched (as in “The Roman equivalent of meat puppets.”) but it would increase pressure toward the putting the book down and quietly walking away.

      • The impression I got is that the author meant “cannon fodder,” but I am not sure the term quite did.

    • His sense was expendable, less-than-intelligent tokens of Roman conquest, rather insulting. As you say applying it to frontier troops was a little odd.

    • The author was probably reaching for the equivalent of “teppodama”, or “meat bullets”, the Yakuza slang for expendable low-level thugs.

      The real danger in using contemporary social references is that they date almost instantly and are forgotten nearly as fast. Most young readers today have never seen an episode of Sex in the City and have no interest in learning about it.

      • The real danger in using contemporary social references is …


        They tend to be deployed in ways that make their user look like the out-of-it nerd trying to look hip — the sort of character who gets mocked in commercials for fast food chains.

        • I think the trick is to make it fit, and to be subtle about it. We’ve all read a reference that was clearly shoehorned in, where the character’s vernacular changes, or the reference is jarring and our of place, anachronistic with the story itself.

          But I believe that there’s a place for well-done, subtle references. By subtle I don’t mean that it’s not a catchable reference, but that it’s one that fits in with the story. For example, a very, very subtle reference in a mystery I wrote was the main character getting a tip that a murder had occurred at Franklin’s Garage. I had a reader once ask me, and I confirmed that the name was a nod to Franklin’s Garage from the first Gears of War game. Very, very subtle, and only identifiable to a select few.

          Another, more recent reference in something I wrote was a bit more obvious, but very well received by my readers because it fit, in addition to being a funny reference. The characters were being pursued by an airship that was firing on them, and one character looked at the other and expressed concern that the other character had told them their foe was out of ammunition. She replied that she’d said they were mostly out, to which the third character intones “Well, I don’t want to end up mostly dead.” The third member of the group then intones that mostly dead is better than all dead, at least according to a story he heard about a pirate.

          It fit, and that’s what made it work, and my readers loved that scene, as it added some nice levity and a moment of relaxation for my pacing. But as a reference, it fit both with how the characters behaved and talked already: A comment about “mostly dead,” as well as “an old pirate said it was better than all dead” fit perfectly in with the dialogue and their behavior.

          In that regard, I think an occasional, well-done reference can be a wonderful thing. No one who reads that scene who hasn’t read or seen The Princess Bride is going to walk away thinking “What just happened?” because nothing that the characters did or said is out of the ordinary. And for a reader who does know William Goldman’s hilarious work, they get a nice nod to another fantasy adventure that doesn’t distract from what they’re currently reading.

          • Such easter eggs, when done well, assuredly add to enjoyment of a work. As with Tuckerization and Red-Shirting, the naive reader should not be distracted by, for example, not knowing who this person being excruciatingly killed in nearly every book bearing Baen’s imprint actually is.

            But that is a rule for fiction; works history, because of their pretense of factual documentation, need to avoid bumping against, much less breaking, that fourth wall.

          • But I believe that there’s a place for well-done, subtle references. By subtle I don’t mean that it’s not a catchable reference, but that it’s one that fits in with the story.

            My favorite kind of joke.

            It makes sense if you don’t get it; if you do, it’s hilarious.

          • Yeah, making it fit is necessary.

            There’s also the danger that they break the fourth wall.

            All right, not when the character could have made the allusion himself. “What has it got in its pocketses?” is fine for a modern day character, but in an alternate universe draws attention to the tale’s unreality. Which has its uses — for one it’s comic — but not for all stories.

            • To be clear, I don’t disagree at all, but I did crack up reading the example you gave because I actually did that one! There was a sect of philosophical monks in a story I wrote who, in order to reach a certain level of enlightenment, had to find a question that no one in the monastery could answer and then travel the world until they found an answer.

              The character who this was being explained to simply looked at the monk and said “This sounds easy to cheat. Couldn’t someone just ask ‘What do I have in my pocket?'”

              Again, I agree, with what you said, it just cracked me up that the example was something I’d already done. 😀

    • Not precisely the same thing, but… all my tech writing classes over the years always emphasized “knowing the audience you’re writing for”. Sounds like your author was – how shall I say it – writing for a very narrow audience.

  4. Is the historian writing to illuminate the topic, or is the purpose to be a critique of modern culture? A Bush quote makes me think the latter.

    • Ostensibly, according to his introduction and later in-chapter comments, he is writing to correct the historical record and to provide English-language readers with the “real” story of Romania. The Bush quote was a dig at Trajan more than a comment on current events.

      • Even so, it betrays an ignorance of the contemporary dispute over that carrier visit and a reliance on contemporary media reporting that discredits any claims to serious scholarship.

        The dig at Trajan would only be effective if the reader shared his interpretation of Bush’s visit, an expectation that puts the ass in assumption.

        • And that was what threw me out, hard. I stopped learning about Dacia and started grumbling about the modern media and the author’s shoddy research into the modern event. That’s not what you want to do if you are trying to persuade someone that you are telling the REAL story of [place/event].

      • And then there’s the problem that the dig at Bush means that the passage won’t mean nearly as much to someone who reads the book two decades from now.

  5. On the other hand, I have run into some slang expressions which turned out to have gone back a great deal farther than I originally assumed. For instance — I thought the expression “pack your trash” (meaning pack up your possessions and move!)was military slang of about Vietnam War vintage. Nope – found it used in a letter written just post-Civil War, with the same meaning. Another — “across the pond” (the Atlantic) I assumed was from the early 20th century. Nope – found it used in a letter written in the 1850s by a young American traveling in Europe writing back home to his family.
    Another website steered me in a the direction of a historical compendium of slang for sexual intercourse. Oh. My. Another collection of expressions which turned out to have a lengthier provenance than I thought.

  6. I don’t mind history writers editorializing too much, as long as they flag those little editorials and make it clear that ‘opinion follows here’ so you can skip it if you don’t like it, and they do their best to keep it out of the history parts.
    Because yes, history can be dry to read at times.

    • A lot of writers have trouble with their last chapters — when they bring it up to the current date, and can not rely on the verdict of history and must use their own opinions.

  7. The most interesting history reads like a story and not a thesis.

    • I agree entirely, but there’s a point beyond which “cute” and “on trend” start to detract from the story the historian wants to tell. That I only recall these two works in 20 years of reading says a LOT about just how far they crossed that line.

    • “Author Onboard editorial” is kinda neither…

  8. The pics would be interesting Sarah! You ‘should’ show off all your hard work! 🙂 Alma, I mis-read your lead paragraph, “consumer culture during the time of Louis XIV and XV” as consumer vultures… I can imagine that would throw one out of the story, and comparing history to current times stinks of revisionist/progressive attempts to ‘rewrite’ history to fit an agenda.

  9. I used current slang to illustrate the cultural changes for the chronologically displaced main character in the Sequoyah series. She’d say something like “I’m broke” and then have to explain she didn’t need to go to medical. It counterpointed the culture she was in *now* and was a sneaky way to dump information on the reader. And since she was the viewpoint character most of the time, her confusion about the future world’s slang could be used to explain it to the reader as well.

  10. When Larry Niven created the alien race Pierson’s Puppeteers he described them as having twin necks resembling Cecil the seasick sea serpent, a reference to an early 1960s cartoon show. You pretty much have to be of a certain age to remember Beany and Cecil as that’s one of those shows that seems to have vanished with the passage of time.
    Of course being of that age every time the news goes into a rant about Cecil the lion my mind immediately flashes to an entirely different Cecil.

    • It isn’t helped by the fact so many of the meat puppets talking heads news readers persist in mispronouncing Cecil, opting for the American “See-sul” rather than the British (and Zimbabwean) “Sess-ul”.

      The fact that the pronunciation derives from Cecil Rhodes, Founder of Rhodesia, the white imperialist colonialist oppressor of indigenous native tribes merely adds to the amusement.

      Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is harvesting and retailing (which, I suppose, is preferable to wholesaling) human fetal organs is ignored by the MSM and China “where Falun Gong and others are tissue typed, murdered, and harvested for a price in a $billion industry” is almost completely ignored even though it has been ongoing for at least two decades.

      What a strange world and how peculiar the outrages.

    • “I’m coming, Beany Booooooooy!”

      • Ewwwww. TMI.

        Years ago, impressionist Rich Little did a running gag on some summer variety show of celebrities sneezing, e.g., John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, etc.

        I later read about the daughter of 3 Stooges chubbo, Curley Joe, writing a memoir of her father which revealed he was quite the ladies man. Being the corrupted soul I am, I immediately imagined an impressionist doing a series of impressions of various Hollywood stars climaxing.

  11. Christopher M. Chupik

    Yeah, it can be annoying when historians go too far trying to connect ancient and modern events. If I had a dollar for every time in the past decade where a historian crowbarred a hamfisted War on Terror reference into their work . . . well, I couldn’t quit my day job, but it would be a nice income supplement.

  12. Are you sure that ancient Irish queens weren’t pining for chocolate and just didn’t know it? 😀

  13. Christopher M. Chupik

    Related is something in historical fiction that drives me nuts: when a in-period character “predicts” the path of future events with the stunning clarity of hindsight. It almost always rings false and it reveals the heavy hand of the author.

  14. and I will never, ever, ever imply that a historian with whom I disagree is a poopy head. At least, not in print.

    Clarification requested:
    you won’t call them silly names for disagreeing,
    you won’t call them silly names at all?

    I can see justification for both, so I’m curious.

    • I won’t do it in the written record. I have certain very vehement opinions of some of my fellow historians and their theses, but I do my best to confine my disagreement to factual rebuttals and the use of previously unstudied documents. 1) It’s more dignified, 2) It’s professional and adds more to the field, 3) It’s less likely to get me punched in the nose by one of their grad students. Grousing quietly in private to one’s peers about So-and-So’s lack of research/lousy interpretation of the documents/ pandering to his department chair (or financial patron) is an old and honorable tradition.

    • “I will never, ever, ever imply that a historian with whom I disagree is a poopy head. ”
      Because if that historian is Howard Zinn, we will use much more appropriate words not suited for polite company.

      • Howard Zinn was not a historian. A fauxstorian, perhaps, but truth inpackaging laws forbid calling his [stuff] “history.”

        • Howard Zinn’s writings are— ‘Scuze me, phone’s ringing. Yes? Good morning. Yeah, oh, OK, yes Ma’am, can’t say that on your blog, yes Ma’am. Sorry. Have a quiet, unexciting rest of the day. Thanks. *click*

          Where was I?

        • Oh, I certainly agree. But he’s shelved as history, taught as history, and is required reading for many history classes.

        • Yeah, if you want to read wild flights of fancy in the past, may I suggest you go steampunk instead? It’s more accurate, more realistic characters, and tends to hang together better, too.

  15. I have a real problem with the current fashion in historical fiction to make the good guy “progressive”–meaning, agreeing with the author’s pet cause of the moment–and the bad guys “reactionary”–meaning typifying the author’s stereotypical ideas of the bad old days when women and minorities were downtrodden and stuff.

    How many times have we seen this scene? It’s the olden days, you know, when men carried swords and were stupid, and the bad nobleman is going to kill a peasant because in those days you could just kill people at random if you were rich and nothing would happen and then the good nobleman intervenes because even though he was raised in the exact same culture, he believes that “peasant lives matter”.

    Because, you know, goodness.

    And stuff.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I’m not sure if that’s always Progressive Nonsense per say.

      It can be just ignorance of the time period.

      Margaret Frazer wrote a series of mysteries set in England just prior to the War of the Roses.

      She included bits of info about the time period, normally at the end of the book but in a few cases before the story started in which she writes about “what everybody knows but are wrong” about the time period.

      In one story, one of the Abbey’s guests has been murdered and the Prioress is nervous because she *knows* the death will be investigated and the investigation might turn up things she’d prefer to be kept quiet.

      Yes, sometimes attitudes get inserted in Historical Fiction that don’t belong in that time period but some writers (and readers) don’t know what “attitudes/actions” would exist in a given time period.

      • The problem is that if you are writing historical, you have a certain duty to your readers to know inasmuch as possible what people thought then. If you’re using a modern attitude of any sort, you better triple-check that sucker. What my great-grandparents thought pre-WWI is different enough to sit poorly with moderns, even those of shared political affections.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          No argument Holly. Of course, there have been plenty of posts here complaining about idiots who write Historical Fiction. [Smile]

        • Then of course there is artistic license. I have seen a person have hysterics at the notion of having dozens of executions in a French Revolution novel before the Reign of Terror. She got quite snippy about how before then the average number of executions per day was two.

          The thing is the mass executions, shifted a little earlier, help the drama of the scene.

        • Yes, please – as a reader of such, I know plenty of unconscious modernisms are likely to creep in despite your best efforts, but please believe it’s worth the effort to keep them to a minimum!

      • What I am thinking of is less simple ignorance than blind faith that progressive is always good–that in any time period the most “modern” is the best, most compassionate, and (usually) the most scientific and least religious. Thus there is a background in which the prevalent attitude that of the time period (or some exaggerated version of it) and the hero–for no good reason–has a worldview of an early 21st Century liberal.

        • This suggests a “displaced person” time travel story — a la A Connecticut Yankee or Lest Darkness Fall — in which the person shunted into the past is an SJW Progressive True Believer who attempts to introduce 21st Century liberal ideals into, say, 3rd Century Rome, 15th Century France or Tsarist Russia at any time. (Might be fun to drop them into the reality of Lenin’s revolution …)

          Probably have to be a short story, or anthology of such. All written in highest literary style, of course. Sure to win Hugo recognition for enlightening of the masses, don’cha think?

          • #[cause] meets Shaka Zulu? or Tamerlane? 😀

          • Orson Scott Card has a bit of fun with this in his Sleeping Beauty time-travel story, ‘Enchantment’. Non-living material doesn’t go through the time portal. Clothing, for instance. And the male lead views public nudity as a bigger problem than covering up with clothes of the opposite sex, while the female lead views things exactly the opposite.

            They have a brief argument over the matter when they go back in time at the start of the book, but he eventually acquiesces and goes into town completely naked. Later they go forward in time to the modern era, and they have the same argument all over again. Except that this time it’s him trying to convince her that wearing his t-shirt is better than walking down a rural road stark naked.

          • sounds like a very short story…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Don’t worry, I’m sure the media will follow this very closely, at least until a more important news story, like a Republican mispronouncing “nuclear”, comes along.

      • Well, Rules are Rules, and the current AP style rule pamphlet indicates that actual stories like this, if accidentally allowed to run in the first place, are only allowed to persist until something with a sympathetic animal comes across the wires, unless a person who identifies as a (D) is the one who has done in and/or eaten said sympathetic animal, in which case the “reporter” has to roll for a save to avoid a Style Section assignment, and if they succeed there, they must immediately find a story that invokes racial animus in the approved direction.

    • Saw that. Makes one think military families need some self-defense training, mutual support, and support in this from their local LEOs.

  16. Since you were looking at Romanian history –

    Just as an FYI, a good English-language book (and possibly the only English-language book) on Romania in World War 2 is Mark Axeworthy’s “Third Axis Fourth Ally”. Unfortunately, unless you happen to look for it when the publishers are doing a softcover reprint (which is what I did), it gets a bit pricey. For some reason, Romanian history during World War 2 isn’t a hot topic. Can’t imagine why…

    Transylvania gets a brief discussion due to its part in the events that played out.

  17. A True Story of the Importance Of Knowing Slang:

    During WW2, three B-29 Superfortress bombers wound up interned in the far-eastern Soviet Union (the Soviets had a peace treaty with Japan following the Khalkhin-Gol campaign of ’39, so were “neutral” in the Pacific Theatre). The Soviets, being the opportunistic bastards they were, stripped down the B-29s and copied them part-for-part; this included copies of the manuals found onboard.

    One instruction had the Soviets flummoxed for months — “start the putt-putt”. They looked through the manuals, and the aircraft, and could not find anything labeled “putt-putt”. The mystery was finally solved when a technician started the Auxiliary Power Unit, a two-stroke gasoline engine used to keep the batteries and electronics alive while the main engines were shut off — and heard the exhaust note of the APU: “Putt-putt, putt-putt, putt-putt….”

    • When they stripped down the planes, the Russki engineers were puzzled by several holes in the wings that seemed to serve no purpose. They were prepared to leave them out, but Stalin insisted they copy the superior American techology faithfully.

      So the Russian engineers faithfully copied the Japanese bullet holes in the B-29 wings…

    • Also of knowing common jargon (not quite slang…) – my ex-boss, a pilot instructor type, told of an instructor with a ESL student who was learning touch-&-go’s. Last one for the day was for the instructor to keep his hands completely off the controls and just cue the student verbally; they touched the runway, instructor called for “take-off power”… and the student took off the power, all the way. Damn near didn’t react fast enough to get the plane airborne again before end of runway!

  18. I’m caught by the reference to Cartier. Did the writer mean merely a jeweler? Because there were many other aspects that might apply . Think the Louis Jordan character in GiGi. One of his mistresses (known as the Panther) had a competition with another as to which had the most and best jewelry. Each night they’d appear more heavily laden. Finally Cartier’s mistress came wearing no jewelry at all, followed by her made wearing everything she owned. When her romantic relationship (if that’s the word for it) with Cartier ended, she designed jewelry for him. The Cartier panther was named got, and I believe designed by, her.
    So what of all that might the writer have been referring to? You can’t just drop a name.

    • If I recall correctly, the author was referring to the modern jeweler. She was talking about court jewelry leading up to the infamous diamond necklace during Louis XVI’s reign. But you have a good point about the author perhaps assuming too much about her intended audience’s mental reference collection.

  19. “Nerts!” said Hitler, “That giboney Stalin is horning in on my action! Well I ain’t gonna stand for it, see?” WWII, the Warner Bros. version, starring James Cagney

  20. I could not get through even one chapter of Clockwork Orange because of this.

    • Clockwork Orange vs Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – discuss.

      • In what way? The slang?

        For me, it was that, usually by the end of the sentence, I knew the meaning of the slang used in “Moon”, Certainly by the end of the paragraph.

        In “Clockwork”, there was no effort made to put the slang in a context that would let people outside of that demographic understand what was being said. It felt like it was intentionally made a foreign language in order to keep people out.

        Heinlein’s slang was used to draw people in.

      • There was one bit of slang I didn’t get on first reading (I was nine or ten when Moon came out, and I was allowed to read it, as the parental units judged it safe enough.) That was the apparently Russian ejaculation “Bojemeoi!” Which I had no idea of its etymology until a few years ago I was trying to pretend a character could curse in French and came across the expression baise moi, (literally: “kiss me” — idiomatically: “let’s f***”). And all of a sudden, a whole LOT of Heinlein became very much clearer to me.