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15 October 2013 @ 08:43 am
oh dear.  
Oh, Sleepy Hollow, we were getting to be friends...until you made a plot point out of having the people from the lost colony of Roanoke - people from the late sixteenth century - speaking Middle English. What the heck, guys, really.

...It wouldn't have been *so* bad if it had just been an offhand mention; I mean, if you're doing a show with a lot of historical facts, you ought to make heavy use of a(n) historical advisor, or at least, you know, Google and basic history books, but a lot of people seem to be under the impression that Shakespeare wrote in Old English, I guess because it is English and it is old, so whatever. But when you go through all the trouble of making Ichabod the only person who can communicate with these people because he can speak Middle English (don't even ask; that is my motto for this show), and therefore including dialogue supposedly in Middle English, then shouldn't you, I don't know, check to make sure you actually know what Middle English is and when it was spoken, before going ahead on that path? I'm trying to imagine the situation where they asked some expert how to say these particular lines of dialogue in Middle English, and didn't ask for any other info from the expert, and I *can* imagine that (although it is a *terrible* idea), but I can't imagine just not looking it up in the first place. I mean, at a certain point during the writing of this episode, when you look up Roanoke on Google, and the *first* sentence in the Wikipedia article that I didn't even have to click on because I could read it from the Google page says that it was a late 16th-century colony founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, someone should be able to go, "...you know, I don't think they were speaking like this in Queen Elizabeth's time? On account of how I can totally understand the words in stuff like Shakespeare and the King James Bible?" And the extras were wearing relatively appropriate period clothing (I...may have started yelling "Why is that child speaking Middle English and wearing slops, this is ridiculous" at my screen at one point), so, just, you know, WHAT. Why get that research right and then just bail on the linguistic stuff, when it totally wasn't necessary in the first place? How did you write a line where Abbie says "This kid looks like he just stepped off the Mayflower," and not go "...you know, I also do not think that the Pilgrims spoke like this? On account of all the US History classes ever?" What even, Sleepy Hollow. What even.
the most saint-obsessed Jew you'll ever meetrymenhild on October 15th, 2013 12:58 pm (UTC)


Excuse me while I laugh very hard.

There was the appalling excuse for a King Arthur film where the fifth-century priests spoke in Latin but nobody else did. There was The Passion of Mel Gibson's Bizarre Religious Choices where occupants of the eastern half of the Roman empire were speaking "authentic Latin" (with a modern Church accent) instead of Koiné Greek. And I've definitely heard something about Old English in Merlin, which, well, demonstrates that the BBC writers did not understand the politics of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

But sixteenth-century Middle English? Help, I've fallen through two time shifts and a Great Vowel Shift!
tempestsarekind: don't get clever in latin! [donna]tempestsarekind on October 15th, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
It is SO ridiculous! Because it's like they went out of their way to get it wrong, when - unlike fifth-century Britain or the Roman empire - the people they were talking about spoke recognizably modern English, albeit with some extra features. Why???
pink for pterodactyl: cherry blossomsignificantowl on October 15th, 2013 09:07 pm (UTC)

I haven't seen this week's yet, but I have a feeling it's going to hurt my soul. (The Lost Colony is usually a thing I'm really interested in, too, so that's just going to make it worse!)
Neaneadods on October 15th, 2013 10:51 pm (UTC)
I thought what they did with the Lost Colony was kind of interesting. How the colony spoke...

... but then again, I don't take the show remotely seriously, so I found the wrong English hilarious.
tempestsarekind: cheveril glovetempestsarekind on October 16th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
I can't actually remember *what* they did with the Last Colony, because I kept getting distracted by the linguistic thing! It's not like I expect perfect historical accuracy; I just don't understand how they went out of their way to do extra work, when it was the wrong work, and a really easy error to avoid. (There are so many things on the internet about Elizabethan English!)
viomisehuntviomisehunt on October 16th, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
Oh I understand. Nothing irks me more than stories about the Four Horseman and the Apocalypses as caused by Satan. What Bible are these people reading? It is G-d who unleashes both. However, I shamelessly admit I'm watching the show because of the eye candy, a woman of color in a strong lead, with a richly diverse cast and it's fun.
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on October 16th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely enjoying the show, especially the leads! I just...don't get why they went with Middle English at all, really. Normally people avoid historical accuracy because it's harder to do - but here they've done *more* work, when it would have been more accurate just to use modern English!
viomisehuntviomisehunt on October 16th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but it's Fox not HBO who probably would have put more thought into accuracy. And the lead is a fictional character--one who usually is depicted as a lot less--well a lot less.... :-)
tempestsarekind: very few dates in this historytempestsarekind on October 16th, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
That's my point, though - I could understand just throwing accuracy to the wind and not putting any thought into it; I wouldn't necessarily like it, but I've seen it before. What I don't understand is putting in a lot of extra effort on something that a simple Google search could have let the writers avoid. I don't understand the attempt to appeal to historical "reality" but not actually doing a quick check to make sure you were remotely in the right ballpark.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on October 16th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
I consider shows like this very much the Western version of Asian "historical" dramas where people fly and fight on bamboo branches--and every Good King and Queen as handsome and beautiful as gods and goddesses. Then again I grew up in the fifties-sixties where shows depicted Doc Holliday and Billy the kids as A gentle hero and Leonard Nimoy and Bill Shatner costarred as Native Americans, so this show is actually an improvement.
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on October 17th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
The thing is, though, that this isn't a "history - plus magic!" decision; it's a straight-up mistake. Which is...not great if you want to suggest (as they do) that the events that happen in the show are the real-but-secret history that we just don't know about. Having the answer to the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke be "...demons? I guess?" (I don't think they explained that very well) is one thing; that's the nature of the show. Saying "this is the real lost colony!" but then having the inhabitants speak Middle English when they wouldn't have actually works against what they're trying to do on the show. They don't behave as though they're knowingly playing fast and loose with history, in an "inspired-by" or deliberately anachronistic kind of way. They're saying that this stuff was really happening, and we just didn't know about it because it was kept secret. That means that your people from the 1580s need to speak like people from the 1580s.

I mean, I'm still going to watch the show, because I like a lot of things about it, but it's a really sloppy error. It's not like "you got this minor detail wrong by a year"; it's "you're hundreds of years off the mark." That's a problem.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on October 17th, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
I'm not certain what you mean as the show is not History Plus Magic, although I see it as Magic, fantasy, a little horror with a dash of history. The Colonist are portrayed as a bunch of 400 year old ghost colony pursued by by the Horseman of Pestilence who rescue a man who in literature was a cowardly schoolteacher chased out of town by his rival. Suddenly Crane is a spy for Washington and knew Jefferson and Adams.
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on October 17th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, sorry - I meant that this *mistake* wasn't a mistake that fell under the license of "history plus magic." The show is very much in that vein, absolutely - but that wouldn't affect whether or not the 16th-century colonists should have been speaking Middle English. The premise of the show is that history is real, but so is magic. But that does mean that they should try to get the historical backdrop right. Or else do something deliberately unrealistic, like Shakespeare in Love or A Knight's Tale, which are wildly silly and anachronistic on purpose.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on October 18th, 2013 06:15 am (UTC)
Or else do something deliberately unrealistic, like Shakespeare in Love or A Knight's Tale, which are wildly silly and anachronistic on purpose. I get what you mean, (Like I said, I feel the same way about the Four Horsemen, mainly because wild things going around in the political arena these days.) I believe these guys are taking history about as seriously Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer. The language angle, however had less to with history and more as it did showing Ichobod as multi-talented. Maybe if they wanted to use another language they could have gotten one of the old German colonies or something.
tempestsarekind: pilgrimagetempestsarekind on October 18th, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah - I can see that the goal was probably to show how many languages Ichabod knows. It's just that for me, it had the exact opposite effect: I'm watching this character who is supposed to be a professor and an expert in history, and he looks at a child speaking Middle English and says that that child must be from the late 16th century? Even though obviously it's the writers' error rather than the character's, it nevertheless felt like it ate away a bit at his credentials. :)
La Reine Noire: Epic Faylelareinenoire on October 16th, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
I heard about that. I was seriously considering watching the show, but that's the kind of howler that's likely to put me off before I start.
Magistrix Texan: You da man!erstwhiletexan on October 17th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I'd still say give it a go because it's so hilariously campy and the good things about the show, character- and plot-wise DO balance out the hilariously bad things about the show. It's like an actually better version of Supernatural!
tempestsarekind: very few dates in this historytempestsarekind on October 17th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I love the leads already, and would watch an entire hour of Ichabod failing to open plastic casing or understand the existence of Starbucks, while Abbie laughs at him, with no problem at all. I just want them to step up their game in the history department!
Magistrix Texan: John of Gaunt gives no fuckserstwhiletexan on October 17th, 2013 12:29 am (UTC)
My laughter throughout that entire episode was so exceptionally unattractive.

I mean, Tom Mison speaking Middle English WAS kind of hot, but the entire reason for him speaking it SO OUTWEIGHED THE HOTNESS.
tempestsarekind: pilgrimagetempestsarekind on October 17th, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
My feelings exactly! A plot where Tom Mison actually *should* have been speaking Middle English would have been so, so great. But I kept getting distracted by the sheer "what are you DOING" of it all.