Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sky Pilots - and Other Words

Words! As writers, they are our tools to communicate with our favorite people, readers. Most of the time we get them right, sometimes we don't. But we are always striving to get the correct word.

As writers of books about days gone by, we are presented with another wrinkle. Dated words. We can all see how words have changed just in our lifetimes. 

Meanings change. New words are invented for today but not to be used accurately for the past. Yet, our readers live in the 21st century - so sometimes a compromise is needed.

For instance, receipts vs. recipes. I'm sure those well versed in history know that recipes used to be called receipts. I choose to use recipe because I think it conveys the correct meaning better than the old word. Right or wrong, I'd rather err on the side of communication.

Today, I was watching an old western on Turner Classic Movies, and one of the characters said that he was a sky pilot. Well, that got my attention. Did they make an error? This was clearly cowboy and horse days well before the airplane.

So I got my trusty IPhone, and looked it up. They were correct. The big meaning is a preacher, but why sky pilot? Back in the day, pilot was attributed to a ship's pilot. I'm not sure I would use that term, but maybe I will just have to sneak it in a story.

Once, I almost wrote that my character was taking a nosedive off their horse. I stopped and looked it up. Sure enough, nosedives didn't happen until the airplane.

For fun, think of things that have changed in our lifetimes. Do you really hang up a phone? Roll up your car window? Buy a record to listen to?

Words are fun and changing. 

Nice used to mean silly and foolish
Silly used to mean worthy or blessed
Clue used to be a ball of yarn
Here's a good one - spinster - used to mean a woman who spun
Hussy used to refer to the woman of the household

Our changing meanings can lead to much laughter. For instance, One of my good friends wrote a line about her cowboy tying something with his leather thong.  Yes, we laughed, and laughed some more, and we still laugh about that not so western cowboy mind picture.

So have fun. Enjoy reading the wonderful books all the authors in our group are busy writing for your enjoyment. 

My latest is Cassidy.

Patricia PacJac Carroll


  1. I guess I better be more careful with my word choices. :-) I have been known to refer to the strap that holds a cowboy's hat on his head as a leather thong, which is where my mind went first as I read your post. However, if the other is where minds tend to go, I better refer to it as a chin strap or stampede strap. I enjoyed the history of words you shared. They were fun and some of them downright "nice."

    1. It is funny, technically it is a leather thong, but today that makes a different picture in people's minds.

  2. First of all Congratulations on your new book Cassidy, it sounds and looks like a very good read. I really love the cover, it is Beautiful! I enjoyed reading your post, and oh yes so many words have changed, they have a different meaning that it used to be. I guess we need to watch out what I say. I just had to chuckle on what you said your friend had written about the cowboy trying something with his leather thong, :) . We just need to watch out for our word choices. I really enjoyed reading this post, Thank you so very much, it is an eye opener! :) Have a Great day. God Bless you all.