Downton Abbey has enchanted millions of television viewers with the goings-on of the fictional Crawley family of the 1910s and 20s.

But some of the language they use is decidedly post-post-Edwardian, and language fans are having fun turning up words and phrases that are too recent for Downton.

Linguist Daniel Midgley ruins television forever on this episode of Talk the Talk.


Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk


Which phrase was too early for Downton Abbey in the 1920s?

That’s for sure!” or “I’m bushed!

Well, just click on the links, and you’ll find yourself at Google’s fabulous Ngram Viewer, which has scads of information about books over hundreds of years.

There are some other resources you can use though, and some people have even taken it pro. It’s all in the podcast. As Violet Grantham would have said, “Check it out, dudes.”


Show notes

The incomparable Ben Zimmer’s blog ‘Word Routes’, talking about the ‘steep learning curve’.
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/a-steep-learning-curve-for-downton-abbey/

and again in the Boston Globe
http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/02/11/linguistic-gotcha-downton-abbey/vn5clfcXR5uHwnZCbLsfFM/story.html?camp

This Language Log post has a video compilation of Crawley clangers
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3767

You’re going to be busy for days with this link. Google Ngram Viewer answers: When was that n-gram popular?
http://books.google.com/ngrams

And the OED is invaluable for listing first mentions, but paywall.
http://www.oed.com/

If you don’t have access to the OED, then the Online Etymological Dictionary is sometimes just as good, and free.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=floozy&searchmode=none

Try looking up specific instances in books
http://books.google.com.au/books

And while you’re at it, here are the Downton Abbey scripts. (May disappear without notice.)
http://scriptline.livejournal.com/

Geoff Nunberg makes the case that maybe we can excuse lapses in authenticity, if it makes the show work better for modern audiences.
http://www.npr.org/2013/02/26/172955182/historical-vocab-when-we-get-it-wrong-does-it-matter

Ben Schmidt’s Anachronism machine does the work of twenty men. And it gives us clues as to where to look for words out of place.
http://sappingattention.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/making-downton-more-traditional.html
http://sappingattention.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/downton-abbey-anachronisms-season.html

The same, in blog format.
http://www.r-bloggers.com/the-anachronism-machine-the-language-of-downton-abbey/


Show tunes

‘Out of Time’ by Blur
from the album Think Tank

‘Weekend’ by Ladytron
from the album Witching Hour