Regency Rug Rats

I’m trying not to be so critical of anachronisms — or at least, not so vocal — but ‘rug rats’ in a Regency romance is trying tolerance too far.

Did Jane Austen say ‘rug rats’? Did Georgette Heyer?

They did not.

According to the Dictionary of American Slang, no one said ‘rug rats’ before the 1960’s. How does an author justify plopping 1960’s American slang into a novel set in early 1800’s England? How did her editor let it pass?

I surely can’t be the only person who notices this sort of thing.

Reviewers used to notice. One of my novels made it to the Los Angeles Times Book Review — a big deal, because the Times Book Review concerned itself with Serious Literature, not Amusing Bits of Fluff. (Some arm twisting was involved.) The reviewer said absolutely nothing about the story itself. The entire review focused on nailing me for using ‘throw a spanner in the works’, and my editor for missing two conflicting descriptions of a house.

At least ‘throw a spanner in the works’ sounds like it might date to the early industrial revolution. I’ve discovered since that the phrase is usually attributed to P.G.Wodehouse, 1934.

‘Rug rats’ doesn’t even vaguely sound like it belongs to the English Regency.

The problem with anachronisms is that they distract the reader from the story. This one annoyed me so much I almost didn’t finish reading what was otherwise a very enjoyable book.

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 9:24 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My reaction is the same as yours, which is why I just looked up the origin of the term.
    Did you e-mail the author to complain?

    • No, I didn’t contact her because (1) it’s really just my opinion (and yours and probably any number of other people) and (2) Heaven knows I’ve made enough mistakes of my own. I also didn’t mention the book by name because (see number 2) and when I’m not being annoying by anachronisms I enjoy her stuff.

      I’m glad to discover I’m not the only one with that pet peeve — thanks!

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