February 27, 2020, 04:45:46 AM

Author Topic: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?  (Read 972 times)

Offline Eclipse

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Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« on: December 31, 2019, 06:40:27 AM »
Too me the word sounds too American and I don’t know anyone in today’s Britain that would ever use this phrase.

Would it have been used by British folks in the past as an insult?

What word do you think would be a substitute for Jackass , would you go for fool?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2019, 07:30:32 AM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

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Offline Elfy

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in an medieval setting?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2019, 07:00:33 AM »
Too me the word sounds too American and I don’t know anyone in today’s Britain that would ever use this phrase. Would it have been used by British folks in the past?

What word do you think would be a substitute for Jackass , would you go for fool?
Possibly to refer to the animal, but I’m not sure that was in use back then. You could go with donkey as an insult.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2019, 09:45:50 AM »
I was wondering if this was a Tiffany* situation so I went and looked it up, and looks like jackass is indeed relatively modern Americanism.

* Tiffany is actually a medieval name, a shortening of "Theophania" for girls born on Epiphany, but it's generally viewed as modern so people don't use it for historical or fantasy literature.

Offline bdcharles

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2019, 10:28:02 AM »
Too me the word sounds too American and I don’t know anyone in today’s Britain that would ever use this phrase.

Would it have been used by British folks in the past as an insult?

What word do you think would be a substitute for Jackass , would you go for fool?

I like the creativity of reimagining modern terms in olde-worlde settings, so I say give it a try. I would. I do it in a few places in my WIPs as it is. A quick way to back-engineer much modern terms is to change them a bit; eg "jackass" may be hyphenated or called a "Jack's arse" or something, which does sound a bit more like something medieval Anglo Saxon types may have used, and who knows, maybe there's some truth in that.
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Offline Yora

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2019, 10:35:51 AM »
It really depends on the language of the setting. With a made up setting, the language can be whatever you want it to be. And in real medieval England, they were not actually talking modern English.
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Offline Matthew

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2019, 01:10:20 PM »
Don't forget donkeys were considered useful in medieval times, so I don't think it it would work as an insult - be like calling someone a car. If anything it might be fun to use as a substitute for the 'village bike' as a donkey would have been ridden around a lot too, so a 'jenny'?

After looking it up, prior to the 18th century, they'd just have called the animals 'ass' and 'she-ass' - seriously lol.

There's also mules, but they were worth more because of their crossbred traits which I suppose could be used to refer to a mixed race character, but with the positive connotations maybe a strong one?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2019, 01:22:33 PM by Matthew »

Offline Peat

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2019, 02:31:37 PM »
I am long beyond caring whether the word makes sense in a medieval connotation or not - I'm not writing Middle English, the characters aren't actually speaking English, this world never existed, and if it had I'd be a translator making it make sense for the readers and not someone passing on their manuscript - but Jackass is so glaringly modern American I'd never use it in another context.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2020, 08:54:18 AM »
Can someone summon mr Darewood , I can’t do it on my phone,As he be interest in this topic.
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2020, 09:01:56 AM »
You just need to write his username with the @ sign, even if it doesn't appear automatically in the dropdown menu :)

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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2020, 11:22:26 AM »
Hahaha

So, full disclosure-- I'm guessing this topic is directly related to my WIP, which is currently being beta-read by people in google docs.

When I got a review from HarperCollins long long ago it was not flattering, and one of their complaints was that my language was too modern.  They also felt like I shouldn't use the word shit, but seriously like a 100 fantasy books use the word shit and fuck and whatever.

Eclipse felt Jackass was too modern. Another reader disagreed with him (but that same reader felt that handshakes were too modern, as were forks). He also didn't like my use of italics, but that's a whole other can of worms. One of the unfortunate side-effects of google docs is that people who comment on your piece actually get an email if you decided to ignore their advice or not or other people made other comments. I reaaaaally hope the latest reader doesn't check and notice the times I'm planning to ignore his suggestions.... b/c I really don't want to change all that italics.


So at some point I really don't care about historical accuracy. Ii'm not writing historical fiction. Like to be accurate everyone would need to speak in Middle English. The goal I've learned was never historical accuracy. The goal is not to be overly jarring to the way modern-day readers falsely imagine a fantasy setting to be, meaning some historical inaccuracies are actually desired, while others are undesirable. Unfortunately readers are also all over the map in that respect, and theres not a whole lot of logic to what they find anachronistic. I'm guilty of this too: The Witcher annoyed the hell out of me whenever the bard sang b/c the style was super modern, for example, but no one else I know really cared. Meanwhile all of the shits and fucks didn't bother me at all. Weirdly, dwarves-are-scottish-people has become like a permanent fantasy thing as well, but that's a tangent.

Anyway, the word jackass perfectly encapsulates what my character was trying to say, with all the nuances, connotations etc that word entails.  I love that word, and it's one I was hoping to use regularly since my MC is, in fact, a jackass. Fool is far too highbrow for the person who is speaking, "Jack's arse" just really doesn't cut it.  "Arse" by itself is a maybe, but I use ass a few times in completely other contexts (at one point the prince says "you can paint an ass any way you like, but it's still an ass" at another point someone says "You ass") and it would suck to try to figure out when to change the asses to arses.  I'm wondering if just "ass" could work. But then again, I just really like the word jackass.  So does my love of the word outweigh the jarring effect it has on some readers? Idk, I'm still shopping for an alternative.

Offline Rostum

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2020, 12:10:01 PM »
There is a google tool that graphs usage of the word you input against time it was used in literature by occurance.
I know I have posted it here before but can't find it or my post.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2020, 12:12:21 PM »
There is a google tool that graphs usage of the word you input against time it was used in literature by occurance.
I know I have posted it here before but can't find it or my post.

Here you go:
https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=jackass&year_start=1500&year_end=2020&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cjackass%3B%2Cc0

Jackass first used in the 1760s :D
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Offline Rostum

Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2020, 12:29:44 PM »
Just coming back to edit my post. Ngram is indeed the tool many thanks Bea

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2020, 02:40:27 PM »
So what would be the British corollary of Jackass in the 1700s or 1800s?

how do you convey a word meaning "stupid person" both contemptuously and chidingly between two people of the lower class?

Given how you people use the word "pants" no answer would surprise me...

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Would you use the word Jackass in a medieval setting?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2020, 03:25:37 PM »
Hmmm what about "cad"? Actually, this one is more upper class.

Scoundrel
Rogue
Scumbag
Swine

Hmmm that might be more on the 'bad' sense than 'stupid'.
For stupid:

Thick
Daft
Witless
Fool
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