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Dear writers of Sleepy Hollow,

Because it seems that you are too busy writing an awesome show to use Wikipedia, I have a few dates I wanted to share with you:

[spoilers for Sleepy Hollow through episode 1x05, "John Doe"]-Late 1100's-late 1400's: Approximate date range in which Middle English was spoken in England
-Late 1400's-mid to late 1600's: Approximate date range in which Early Modern English was spoken in England (and its colonies)
-1585: Roanoke colony founded
-early 1590's: Shakespeare starts getting his plays performed in London

So, as you can see, the Roakoke colonists would have spoken Early Modern English, not Middle English.  They would be harder to understand than Ichabod (because by his origin in the late 1700's fully modern English was being spoken).  They would pronounce some words weirdly to our ears (the Great Vowel Shift had already changed pronunciations of many sounds from their Middle English forms, but was not yet quite complete), and have some vocabulary and grammatical oddities.  But you certainly shouldn't be calling what they spoke Middle English, and I'm not convinced that an accurate representation of their dialect would need a translator.  Just as we can understand Shakespeare, who was writing very shortly after the Roanoke colony was lost, with just an occasional footnote, they would be intelligible.  (Look, I even found a video about a Globe Theater production in Shakespeare's original pronunciation on youtube.  First example of original pronunciation is about 2:30 in.  Note that you can understand the words just fine.)

Also, I would have liked it much better if Pestilence's attempt to bring a 16th-century plague back into the world was foiled with antibiotics, not the power of faith and the ghost of Virginia Dare or whatever.  Like, I know that this is a fantasy show, but I think that would have been some nifty trope subversion there.  Maybe we can have a scene in the future where Ichabod gets pneumonia or an infected wound or something and thinks that he's going to die, but actually he just gets to learn that modern medicine is pretty damn useful.

Y'all, I love this show hard.  I am 100% down with the headless horseman using the automatic gun, the answers in George Washington's Bible, the Boston Tea Party actually being a cover to steal a dark magic book/weapon, and all the other glorious ridiculousness.  But you have to stop knocking me out of the story with shit like the misuse of Middle English and the fucking Harris's hawk in the first episode.  (That species doesn't live anywhere near Sleepy Hollow, NY, or anywhere Katrina could conceivably have been!  They're from the southwest!  Why couldn't you have just gotten a damn red tail or something???  I know Harris's hawks are easy to train, but I am 100% convinced that you could have found a more appropriate raptor if you tried.  It's not like they're even native to the filming location in NC either.)

However much this show might give me the Nerd Twitches, I really do love the characters of Abbie and Ichabod.  I love Ichabod's ongoing adventures with the 21st century.  I love Abbie and Jenny's difficult sibling relationship and the beginnings of Abbie's attempt to make things right.  I love that even if the show gets its hawks wrong, it gets the diversity of people so very right.  Also, Ichabod/Onstar Lady OTP.


PS:  Buy Ichabod some new clothes already, at least a change of shirt and pants.  I can practically smell him through my tv screen.  He was buried in those clothes, for crying out loud.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2013 12:10 am (UTC)
I have not watched a single episode of Sleepy Hollow.

That said, I absolutely love this post. You are wonderful.
Oct. 16th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
Thanks! Since you also experienced Craig Williamson's classes, I thought you would be on board with my nerdy nitpicking here. :)

Inaccuracies aside, I really am enjoying Sleepy Hollow. It is super cheesy, but it understands that about itself and moves on with creating characters worth caring about, humor (for example, there is a great scene where Ichabod Crane, newly displaced from the Revolutionary War to the 21st century, sees the sales tax on a receipt for donuts and goes on an extended rant about this levy on baked goods), and some pretty effective creepiness. Currently the official website lets you watch for free.
Oct. 19th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
Craig Williamson-trained pedantry high-five! I had pretty much the same reaction while watching, minus the citations for sources.

I just picked up his Beowulf translation a few weeks ago, actually, but I haven't had time to read it yet.

How've you been?
Oct. 26th, 2013 08:03 am (UTC)
Whoops, I just realized I never replied to this. Sorry.

*high fives back* I'm glad to hear that you shared the reaction to them misusing Middle English.

Oh, I hadn't realized that Williamson had published a Beowulf translation. That's cool!

I have been okay, though not better than okay. I'm still in the same part of California where I've been for several years. How about yourself?

Your dragon icon is really neat, btw!
Oct. 27th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
He did! I'd had my eye on the (very expensive) hardcover, but then realized a paperback edition came out last year. Haven't had the time to read it yet, but soon.

I've been in Switzerland for the past few years. Been dealing with some chronic health problems, but for all that, not bad!

Thanks! It's from the cover art to the first Temeraire novel -- I didn't make it, but the maker should be credited in my icon comments.
Oct. 26th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
I did not know the language stuff (was less familiar on the dates, so didn't notice they were so wrong), but I spent a lot of this episode going "Germ theory wasn't presented until the late 1800s, how the fuck does Ichabod seem to have such a grasp of concepts like herd immunity?" like he seemed to know right away how and why a plague we had never been exposed to in the present would be a big deal, but really probably shouldn't have understood the significance.
Oct. 26th, 2013 08:49 am (UTC)
I didn't know the exact dates off the top of my head, only a very rough idea of the timeline of language transition, but I knew that Shakespeare was writing at about the same time as England's early attempts at colonizing the Americas, and he was definitely not using Middle English.

That's a good point about Ichabod's grasp of how disease works! I guess in Ichabod's time they knew a little bit about contagion (enough to understand that giving blankets used by smallpox patients to the Native Americans would spread the disease to them), and Ichabod does react strongly against all the plastic barriers and such in the hospital, which he might appreciate more if he understood how germs spread. Still, you are totally right that his understanding of what is going on is too sophisticated. Maybe after finding out about the genocide of the Native Americans a few episodes ago he did some research into what happened and learned about how diseases strike harder in populations that have never been exposed to them?
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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