MD Series: How to talk like a Victorian

victorian woman 1

Possibly the biggest challenge with this Soundscape is how to write the script so it both reflects the language that the Victorians spoke but is also understandable for you and I today. Saying something was “well cool!” is a phrase that would be as foreign to the Victorians as the invention of the internet. So, how am I going to do it? More research!

darcyWhen I think of the Victorian language I think of authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters etc. But is the language used in literature similar to the language used everyday? Or was it the polished version of the everyday language? Meant to sound more poetic than it was to be practical?

When I was in high-school I read Mary Shelley’s fantastic work which is of course, Frankenstein. Apart from the amazing story, the thing I remember from the book is learning the word ‘melancholy’- not a word that is used in everyday conversation now by any means. But previous to this I hadn’t come across this word in any other literary work. It’s not a weird word but it is uncommon by today’s standards. People are much more likely to say they’re sad than melancholic. This just goes to show however how the English language changes and adapts through time. What is normal today is not necessarily what was normal in the Victorian period. I need to watch my words!

frankensteins monster

Nor are words I learnt from Church such as ‘thee, thy and thou’. This seems too formal for casual conversation but is that how I view those words from today’s perspective rather than how those words were used during the period?

So now for a week of classic Victorian literature and binge-watching period dramas await. Let me know in the comments your favourite Victorian book/TV adaptation or your favourite period drama. Next week I’ll let you know how the script is coming along!

jane austen books

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