Anachronisms are sneaky. They can creep into a narrative when you aren’t looking. From the Greek word anachronous (against time), an anachronism is something that wasn’t around during a story’s time period—like if Lady Grantham summoned an Uber to pick her up at Downton Abbey.
In our Val & Kit Mystery Series, anachronisms aren’t likely to rear their devious heads. Because our books are set in the present, surely we authors know what’s what. But many of our blogs do take place in the past lives of Val and Kit, so careful research is needed to be sure we don’t make any slipups. Fashion, music, and film figure greatly in the young lives of our protagonists, so we cautiously ensure that things like bell-bottom pants, Farrah Fawcett’s hairdo, and Easy Bake Ovens are in in their respective and correct decades.
Not everyone gets it right. It can be fun to watch a period-piece TV show and spot examples of anachronisms, like a show set in the thirties or forties featuring a modern jet airplane flying overhead. Amazon’s Prime Video very kindly does the work for us, pointing them out in the description of the show. They call them goofs.
Anachronisms can also, of course, occur with language, which continuously evolves. Keeping up with the latest idioms can make a person cray-cray. Back in the day, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that “clothes make the man,” but today he might just say the guy looked sick, or even dope (as in awesome), unless, of course, these up-to-the-minute terms have already returned to their original meanings of feeling unwell and being a moron. (We need to check the Urban Dictionary.)
So, keep an eye out for offending anachronisms. They are sometimes easy to spot. If your copy of Wuthering Heights boasts that the house has Wi-Fi, then hmm . . . If you notice the lead actor of the hit Broadway show Hamilton checking his bank balance online, that could be a problem. And if Mad Men’s Don Draper is caught streaming The Bachelorette on an i-Phone, raise the alarm.
And remember, George Washington did not communicate with his generals via Snapchat. Jane Austen was never an Amazon Prime member. And Romeo and Juliet definitely did not meet on Tinder. Stay woke, people!