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Victorian Era English

My teen-age daughter wrote a psychological thriller novella, “Keeping Her in the Light” last summer that Canada-based Eternal Press published last November.

She wants to finish another psychological thriller that she started writing 2 years ago. The setting is during the Victorian Era. She stopped writing this novella because she feels that the conversations in her novella should be in the style of the Victorian Era.

Kindly advise if there is a software or method of converting modern day English to the Victorian Era English.

Thank you.


Jomel Fuentes Manila, Philippines

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As far as I have experienced, there really aren't any guidelines or methods for rewriting something into a different form of English. I have never done this specific exercise, but I have rewritten blog posts & personal press releases originally drafted by non-American English speakers. It seems simple, but you would be amazed at how different your own language can be in a different part of the world.

I know less about Victorian Era English than I do more modern variants, but there are a couple suggestions I can offer. I am sure that she has read a few books written from that era.
• Be very keen for culture-specific expressions--words, phrases & idioms.
• Be conscious of subtlety. Back then, many things we find commonplace were immoral and taboo to talk about, so adopting the language of someone like Chuck Palahniuk might not be the best idea.
• Look for any patterns in sentence structure; people spoke much more elaborately and eloquently back then, so you might need to write more than 140 characters per sentence.

I hope this helps!

scottsagancreative May 10, 2010, 10:33am

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There is no easy shortcut to just reading a lot of victorian english, and getting to know the lingo, I'm afraid.

evanherk May 25, 2010, 4:35am

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Good Afternoon,

Perhaps one would obtain a reasonable grounding in Victorian English vocabulary by reading a Victorian English book. May I be so bold as to suggest any book by one of the Brotë sisters or even a Dickens novel. Victorian English really was a beautiful language; however it is now very much in decline. Some purists still speak it around this beautiful country and it is wanderful to hear. Sadly, English has become 'polluted' by numerous colourful Americanisms - No offence intended.
Kindest Regards

Sara.dee72 August 2, 2010, 6:44am

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Hahaha. "Perhaps one would obtain a reasonable grounding in Victorian English vocabulary by reading a Victorian English book. May I be so bold as to suggest any book by one of the Brotë sisters or even a Dickens novel. Victorian English really was a beautiful language; however it is now very much in decline. Some purists still speak it around this beautiful country and it is wanderful to hear. Sadly, English has become 'polluted' by numerous colourful Americanisms - No offence intended."

--- "blah blah blah watt eva"

It goes from intellectual to just another stupid internet blog in 0.6 seconds.
Congratulations, moron.

Niceone October 13, 2011, 2:39am

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@Niceone ... Actually, it was over a year before that comment was made and while I agree with it, I usually ignore broad and unfounded accusations like the one by Sara.dee72. It's better to let those benighted words stand for themselves.

AnWulf October 14, 2011, 3:17pm

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I was hoping for a similar app, im writing a story for english, its in the 1700's but i just cant seem to write in victorian english. Hopefully someone will make an app for this.

Nergis October 16, 2011, 4:07pm

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AnWulf, I think you missed Niceone's point. Clearly, he was criticizing shotgun's comment, not Sara.dee72's.

porsche October 19, 2011, 11:03am

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@Porsche ... Yea, I know Niceone was criticizing shotgun's remark ... I guess it depends on how you look at it. Niceone's "it" was referring to the blog (not just the post) that went to just another stupid internet blog in 0.6 seconds. ... My remark was that it was over a year before shotgun post his remark (a lot longer than 0.6 seconds).

If Niceone is saying that 0.6 seconds after reading shotgun's post that "it" (meaning the whole blog) "went to just another stupid internet blog" then I would still say that Niceone is a year late because sara.dee72's benighted, unsupported, snotty remark had already done that. ... So Niceone is still behind by a year and not sharing the wite, just putting it all on shotgun.

AnWulf October 20, 2011, 5:00pm

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Hey yall, I'm writing an Victorian era book. It's very interasting and sure i'm not the best at it but after reading some i got used to it. I also watched some movies about it.

@niceone... Us americans didn't do nothing. I'm from Texas and i speak dixi and it's a real languge also sure we have our own languge it's how we talk get over it. I don't appercate that because i'm sure you sometimes speak like us "Americans" and there was affencise. Us country folks don't appercate it when someone talks about other languges! And "polluted" no we didn't! If you want to talk about pollution look around! Trash everywhere, air being polluted, water bein polluted, and all that! So don't even say we are polluting languges!

Dixigirl November 26, 2011, 11:47am

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I do not agree with certain cultures being responsible for "polluting" other cultures language, grammar, etc. I'm not American, nor do I blame American's for my own cultures language. That would be ignorant to say the least. However, I do agree that the level of expectation has rotted down to a level of near filth.

Devyn July 8, 2012, 9:50am

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Up has been in the English tung as a verb since Old English:

uppian - To mount up, rise :-- Ðæt wæter, ðonne hit bið gepynd, hit miclaþ and *uppaþ* and fundaþ wið ðæs ðe hit ǽr.
*þ=th, thus uppath = uppath.

AnWulf July 11, 2012, 4:24pm

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Can someone post a website that I can translate Victorian English to Modern English?
I hate ones that are not giving me the translation and just says "word not found".

Chimberola December 6, 2014, 6:54am

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You could start with, which checks the word in a lot of dictionaries. It found definitions for 6 out of 9 words I found from a collection of curious Victorian words and sayings at Wordnik is also usually quite good, but seems to be having server problems at the moment.


Two out of the other three were easy enough to find with Google, leaving only broading - 'not found'

There is also a dictionary of Victorian slang -

Warsaw Will December 8, 2014, 9:39am

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I would like to add suggestions. For exclamations and responses, say things like: Oh dear! Bless me! Fancy that! What the devil....and when a character is talking about their opinions, things like: I rather think...I quite like it....It was most (insert adjective here). In dialogue, use adjectives like frightful, dreadful, beastly, queer. Tell people things like "Do stop (insert verb here)!"

Anhelm December 17, 2014, 6:27pm

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One must strive to imitate the language of the Bronte sisters and others of that ilk. Using a dialect is more likely to be credible.
Use the "thou" forms instead of "you" when addressing one family member or lover.
Use modals like shall, may, will instead of some continuous forms:
eg Will she come? <==Is she coming?
Here comes the carriage <== The carriage is coming

Be wary of familiarity : inside lower class families yes; servant to master never

jayles the unwoven December 17, 2014, 8:57pm

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@jayles - You're no doubt right about 'will' and 'shall' instead of present continuous with future meaning, but I'm not so sure about 'here comes':

Charlotte Bronté - Jane Eyre

is coming 1 - Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming
here comes / there goes 0

Emily Bronté - Wuthering Heights

is coming - 4
Don’t make more mischief; my brother is coming: be quiet!
Ah, he has caught a glimpse of us—he is coming in!
‘I’ve prayed often,’ he half soliloquised, ‘for the approach of what is coming
Catherine is coming, dear master!

here comes / there goes 0

Anne Bronté - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

is coming 2
He is coming to see me soon
But death will come—it is coming now—fast, fast!

here comes 2
and here comes my aunt to scold me
Ah, here comes one that will not rejoice at it!

'shall' is certainly used a lot, but mainly as an alternative to 'will' - in Jane Eyre there are around 260 instances, mostly in the first person, a couple with 'he/she' and around 20 with 'you'.

But the real way to sound Brontéesque is to have your characters ejaculate a lot:

Jane Eyre - 'he/she ejaculated' - 7
Wuthering heights - 'he/she ejaculated' - 5
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - 'he/she ejaculated' - 3

Warsaw Will December 18, 2014, 10:13am

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Short though she was, Victoria ascented the throne in 1837; so at the start of the Vicotorian Era "shall" may have been used as oft as will.

Present continuous seems to have grown during her long regnum.

You are right about 'here comes' ; what I meant to imply was that putting the adverb of place first will allow the use of a simple verb instead of continuous without breaking modern verb patterns : eg Into the station pulled the train. Whether this is a good idea or not hinges on the context of course.

You might wish to review my late ramblngs on the Anglish thread; I was much surprised at how seldom future continuous crops up, and the fact that "have been wanting" was relatively common a few hundred years ago. Not quite sure that Headway etc get the right emphasis on what matters.

jayles the unwoven December 18, 2014, 1:55pm

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Just trying to get a handle on when present continuous became so widespread in English and began to be used instead of will/shall

Taking "comes" vs "is coming" as an example, and beginning with Chaucer, I have not so far found instances of present continuous. Looking at another source:

the present continuous is again not used.

Again looking at the KJV (which sometimes reflects older usage from Tyndall's), we find present simple: ()not the night is coming)
John 9:4:
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Similarly Revelation 1:7
OTOH "is coming" is found in Pilgrims's Progress and later in Pride and Prejudice

So the question remains: was present continuous somehow not as common at the beginning of the Victorian Era as toward the end? Or was the changeover complete before Vikki got on the throne?

jayles the unwoven December 20, 2014, 9:30pm

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According to David Crystal, in 'The Stories of English', present continuous (with present reference) started being used in the Middle English period, at much the same time as the auxiliaries started to be used in much the way we use them today.

On the other hand, passive continuous didn't start getting used till the nineteenth century. It doesn't appear in Jane Austen apparently, and its use was controversial.

I checked the KJV (at Project Gutenberg) for 'coming'. Most instances are of participle use, or after see, as here:

'I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub'

but there are a few past continuous and a couple in present continuous:

5:6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 5:7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

And a few with future reference:

44:7 And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.

6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

23:29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

At Google Books I found an instance of 'future in the past' from 1688:

'And Mr. Green said, He knew of Twelve that were coming next Morning to vote for Sir Eliab Harvey.' - Journals of the House of Commons 1688

And these, with future reference, from 1800-1849:

'We'll agree that way,then,” he says. “Kit's coming tomorrow morning, I know.' - Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841

'Sound the gay rebeck, and banish all sorrow,
For Christinas, King Christmas, is coming tomorrow ! '- The Living Age, 1845

'... you must not go tomorrow, for William is coming tomorrow evening' - The American Review, 1846

'Miss Kirkpatrick is coming tomorrow.' - Cornhill Magazine, 1854

' "Oh, yes," he said, " they are coming tomorrow." ' Dickens, 1870

But there also quite a few with 'comes tomorrow':

'O! my dear master, wait but this day — the Marquis of A—— comes tomorrow, and a' will be remedied.' - Sir Walter Scott, Tales of my landlord, 1823

'Her name is Miss Hilton, and she comes tomorrow.' - The Living Age 1850

and only one for 'will come tomorrow' where we might use continuous today:

'Upon the morrow he was there again from sunrise until night ; and still at night he laid him down to rest, and muttered, " She will come tomorrow !" ' - Dickens, Master Humphrey's Clock, 1847

It looks to me rather as though present simple was earlier used with this meaning rather than 'will'; most of the examples of 'will come' I can find do not have this idea of a future arrangement.

Warsaw Will December 21, 2014, 5:31am

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@WW thank you; most interesting.

I am not sure how representative the verb "come" is. Here are some others that show contrary patterns of usage:

I can't quite believe that the growht in the incidence of present continuous was due to some spin-off from teaching English in Welsh schools after 1847. Would be nice to pin it all on the evil influence of Latinate grammarians, but that doubtless wouldn't stack up either.

It does seem though that modern English usage of present continuous (a la Murphy) is very much a 20th century thing, and that in the Victorian Era usage was either less consistent or just slightly different

jayles the unwoven December 21, 2014, 8:40am

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I thought using present simple when referrring to the future was a hang-over from OE; but here it looks as though it only began with the coming of railways and timetables. One needs however to be mindful that "tomorrow" was more oft spelt "to-morrow" before 1930.

So the question is how did they say "She/He/They is/are coming tomorrow" before 1850?
Or did they never say it?
I get no results

jayles the unwoven December 22, 2014, 3:55pm

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Ah I meant before 1840.

jayles the unwoven December 22, 2014, 4:03pm

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Just because I stumbled upon this looking for some answers myself, I will share what I found. This website helps a TON! Hope someone else finds that helpful.

Ravyn April 6, 2015, 8:13pm

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Yes     No