|British 15th Division, Sports Day 1917 - From collection of the Imperial War Museum, © IWM (Q 2360)|
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
One of the challenges of writing historical fiction is not only understanding the mindset of people from a different era, but also having them speak the lingo of their time. Many slang words and colloquialisms survive decades, but others are fleeting, and colourfully help to define the age.
Something good is surely more fun when it’s “crackerjack”. If you “talked wet” in 1914, someone might have responded with “Applesauce!” or “Flapdoodle!”, as my characters do to what they consider nonsense.
|A fly boy and his bus|
In WW1 military slang, a “fly boy” often got the “wind up” when he flew missions over the front lines in his “bus”, because the “Huns’” “archie” would be out to get him. Pilots had to contend with these “ack-ack” guns from the ground as well as machine-gun fire from enemy aircraft, including the Red Baron’s “flying circus”. Being a bit “windy” or scared might actually have helped a pilot make better choices to survive.
Traumatized by the horrors of trench warfare, many men hoped for a “Blighty” that would get them shipped back to England without being too badly wounded. But those who “copped a packet” often ended up “going west”, sometimes into an unmarked grave. The men in the trenches feared the usual morning and evening “hate” when they were bombarded by “blind or flying pigs”, “moaning minnies”, “whizz-bangs”, or other artillery. For soldiers, “chatting” meant de-lousing, while “swinging the lead” could land them in serious trouble with “brass hats” for shirking their duty.
“Tommies” and American “Doughboys” appreciated a good bottle of French “plonk”, but too much could result in becoming “squiffy”, “pie-eyed”, or “spifflicated”.
Words are such fun, aren’t they? I use several sources in my research, but the Oxford Dictionary of Slang is “the cat’s pajamas”!
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The skiff on the cover of The Summer Before the Storm is a Disappearing Propeller Boat, also known as a Dispro, or more affectionately, “Dippy”. It’s basically a motorized rowboat with a cleverly designed propeller that works in very shallow water. If the protective skeg hits an obstruction, like a log or a sandbar, the prop automatically retracts into the housing – handy when you want to beach the boat for a picnic or a swim.
|18 men in a Dippy|
The Dippy was the brainchild of Wm. J. Johnson, a boat builder in Port Carling, Muskoka, in 1914. These sturdy wooden boats were roomy, as you can see in the ad above, apparently unsinkable, so easy to use that a child could drive one, and relatively inexpensive, starting at $300. By the early 1920s, the Disappearing Propeller Boat Company was the largest manufacturer of motorboats in Canada.
People still putt-putt around the lakes in these lovely vintage craft - at about 6 to 9.5 mph – as you can see in this video. Of course some of my characters own Dippies.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
“It was the whisper that started their war. That’s how many at the table that evening would recall the summer of 1914.” Thus begins The Summer Before the Storm, 100 years ago this weekend.
|The dining room of the "Grand" Muskoka Hotel, where the novel begins|
With temperatures already soaring over 30° Celsius, it was little wonder that Victoria had abandoned her encompassing and suffocating wool bathing costume - which included black stockings, slippers, and cap - for the freedom of “skinny dipping” in a secluded bay on her family’s Muskoka island. She hadn’t expected an intruder in her privileged world, especially one who seemed to be the catalyst for dramatic changes.
|Lake Rosseau, Muskoka - photo © Melanie Wills|
You can read the first two chapters of The Summer Before the Storm on my website, where there are also reviews and other info.