Captain Livingston has Beowulf’d and Chaucer’d “Shades of Milk and Honey”
My friend and Medieval scholar, Michael Livingston — for whom I named Captain Livingston — has written a post about the language in Shades of Milk and Honey. In it, he translates a few lines of the novel into Old English and Middle English
Anyway, at one point Mary and I were talking about voicing and language patterns, and I told her (not for the first time) that I loved how she’d worked so hard to maintain the “Austen voice.” She thanked me, smiled, then mentioned that more than one reader has complained about how she wrote “Old English.”
We found this no end of amusing. Jane Austen, you see, wrote in the early 19th-century, and people stopped writing Old English around the 12th. The reader’s accusation was thus twice-wrong: (1) I think Mary does an excellent job within the linguistic constraints she set upon herself; and (2) Austen-speak is some 6 or 7 centuries away from Old English. Austen doesn’t sound a whit like Old English. For that matter, Austen doesn’t even sound like Middle English, which predates her by only a few centuries.
To illustrate, let’s look at a couple lines from Mary’s novel and see what they might look like in previous dialects.
Go read the full post, with his notes about what words he chose and why at: Kowal Beowulf’d and Chaucer’d: Shades of Milk and Honey « Michael Livingston. It is fascinating.