There are some anachronisms that could also be jarring, the worst was a character saying ‘It boggles the mind.’ – which made me laugh, but could annoy those who are purists. There are others, but I find if I am enjoying the rest of the book, I can accept them.
After the man had left, Khonsu turned to Seti. “Lord Achtoy,” he said. “Nothing less than a hero of Egypt and a Commander of Five Thousand, sent to carry a message all the way north from Thebes to a wrecked city in order to tell us to leave His Grace alone.”“The mind boggles,” Seti agreed. “Well, now we know what His Grace had waiting for us.”
The verb ‘to boggle’ dates from around 1590, per Webster.Definition of BOGGLE
Intransitive verb1: to start with fright or amazement : be overwhelmed2: to hesitate because of doubt, fear, or scruplestransitive verb2: to overwhelm with wonder or bewildermentOrigin of BOGGLEFirst Known Use: 1598
My thoughts turned to the various things that I consider ‘anachronisms’, per the definition. Let’s look at them in the context of that bit of conversation:
Here’s one type:
After the man had left, Khonsu turned to Seti. “Lord Achtoy,” he said. “Nothing less than a hero of Egypt and a Commander of Five Thousand, sent to carry a message all the way north from Thebes to a wrecked city in order to tell us to leave His Grace alone.”
“The mind boggles,” Seti agreed, reaching into the breast of his tunic, extracting his cigarette pack, and shaking one loose. He tapped the cigarette against his palm to settle the tobacco, Setting the filter end in his mouth, he struck a match against his sandal, lit the cigarette, and took a long drag. “Well,” he said through the smoke that curled from one corner of his mouth, “now we know what His Grace had waiting for us.”
You can have anachronistic speech:
“Good grief!” Seti agreed.
‘Loud and clear’, a radio term, is a different matter. Wireless telegraphy was proven to be possible in the late 1800’s; Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio in the early 1900’s. The expression was used extensively by the military during World War II to acknowledge radio messages. An ancient Egyptian would not have used such an expression, though he might have said “He couldn’t have made his message any clearer if he had shouted it.”
We tend to assume that what is normal for us was normal throughout time. Hollywood tends to make this mistake. We have Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) shouting “Saddle my swiftest camel!” in Land of the Pharaohs (screenplay by William Faulkner, whose grounding in early history was sketchy, but who wrote a heck of a good story)
Some people perceive anachronisms in things that are in their proper time and place. One friend, reading one of my manuscripts, told me quite seriously that “They didn’t have beer in ancient Egypt!” Well, there’s some doubt as to whether the Sumerians or the Egyptians invented beer (my money is on the Sumerians), but they sure had it. Someone writing in the time of classical Greece likened the quality of Egyptian beer to the best wines.
What is the point of this discussion? I have two of them.
First, and most importantly, research is crucial if you are writing of a specific time and place. Secondly – and this is often unrecognized – the reader is the ultimate judge of fitness (for himself).
My reviewer, to whom I am very grateful for a well thought out and meaty critique that will be very useful when I do revisions, felt that a specific expression was out of place. I don’t agree, but it’s something to consider, and maybe to adjust. Writers tend to live within their own minds, and it’s easy to forget the audience.
That is a big mistake.