Have you ever read a novel that is set in an earlier time period – say the 15th Century (1490’s)? As you read along, do you ever encounter words or phrases that are confusing, uncomfortable or simply don’t make sense – words that just don’t seem to fit or align within our modern vocabulary and understanding?
This happened to me during a recent reading – for fun, for a change – of Tracy Chevalier’s book The Lady and the Unicorn. As I immersed myself in this book – I stumbled upon a few words that challenged me as I’ve shared above. Although distracting, it was relatively easy, in most cases, to determine the definition or gain an understanding of these words simply by stopping to re-read the passage or page and allow the context – surrounding words, the setting, etc. – to reveal or unfold the meaning of the word. One word in particular, however, caught my attention as it jumped from the page and embedded itself in my psyche. Initially, I was horrified – actually appalled – that a fine and painstaking piece of artwork could be replicated and relegated to the term “cartoon.” As one who appreciates the company of other artists, I was consumed by strange feelings of sadness for the artist (Nicolas des Innocents) in this story.
Not wanting to jump to any conclusions (or demonstrate my naiveté), I embarked, as I usually do, on some research. As captured and shared below, the word revealed itself…and demonstrated its progression over time. As words morph and drag us through their past, new understandings or ways of looking at and considering those words occur. I stopped to wonder…if I ever write a book that takes place in earlier centuries, I will be certain to include a Glossary within the book…to help reduce the reader’s distraction and maintain their focus on the story.
The word comes via French ‘carton’, which meant literally ‘strong heavy paper’. In due course, its meaning was transferred to the preliminary sketches made by artists on such paper, the original and for nearly two centuries the only sense of the word in English. Its application to comic drawings in newspapers and magazines began in the 1840s. Source: Dictionary of Word Origins
Obviously, Ms. Chevalier’s book was filled with much more than this solitary convoluted word. So, for those who might have an interest – as I did – in the story behind the creation of this book, I’ve included a few items below that came to light during my research into the word “cartoon.” I hope you will enjoy and appreciate this information as much as I did.
Til next time…
Crafted, researched and written by: | LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock