love the English language. I love its flexibility, the way you can make up words that work in the context of story. And I love that, with all the reading I’ve done, I have access to words and phrases dating back to the Napoleonic Era, even older. It’s a blast, when a character slips out of town without a forwarding address, to say they slipped their cable.
But as I work with millennials, I’m beginning to find out just how short their awareness-horizon is. Recently I used the word “powder keg.” Emptiness. And “goldbricking”. “Featherbedding”. Blank looks at “Snipe hunt”. Pained expressions at “daisy-cutting”.
It would seem the generation that trick-or-treating in safe auditoriums with controlled candies and dietary restrictions is not well-read or chronologically aware. And you can’t just say that this is a practice of youth across ages. There haven’t been powder kegs in a hundred and fifty years, yet the phrase carried forward until twenty years ago (possibly with the rise of video playback technology and the discarding of books as entertainment).
Sour grapes? Perhaps. But aside from that, as a writer I need to be aware of it. If I’m targeting younger readers, I’d better consider my audience. For Tubitz and Mergenstein, I’ll have to consider that I included ironclads (what?). And uniforms with epaulettes. Shakos. I assume they still know what a waltz is, but a conservatory? Is that a nature preserve?
If your writing is very creative, if you like to color your story with Victorian/steampunk references, you might need to keep in mind that, rapidly, the new generation is leaking phraseology like a punctured wineskin (a what?). Otherwise, context will have to carry your audience. All you can do is shove the Johnson bar forward and highball.