Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Medieval Acrobats???

Historical research is tough. Even tougher than finding the right information sometimes, is knowing the right questions to ask. For example, in my first medieval novel I assumed they would have cards and coffee. But when I actually thought to check on those issues, I found out my setting was 50 years too early for either of them to have made their way to England. On the coffee issue, I just changed the drink. On the cards issue, I had a crusader bring them back from the Holy Land.

Dauntless has a fun acrobatic twist. I can't tell you how many times I've read about medieval "acrobats" in historical text books. So, I never thought to ask if the word acrobat actually existed at the time. But right before sending out my final version of Dauntless, my daughter's skepticism about the acrobats prompted me to do a little more last minute research. And...I found out the word "acrobat" actually did not exist in English at that time. They would have been called "tumblers" or possibly "aerialists" if they worked off the ground. When used in military training, acrobatics would have been referred to as "agility skills." Mind you, since they spoke Middle English in 1216, I'm fairly lenient with myself on using words from as late as the 1600s when the language stabilized. But "acrobat" wasn't around until the 1800s. 

In my last minute research I also found this cool video of medieval "tumblers." If they claim to be "acrobats," don't you believe them!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I noticed the use of the term tumblers. I heard of them, so it made sense- though I doubt I would have noticed any issue with the word 'acrobats' unless I looked it up- and I likely would not have done.
    I did English at high school and college though, so I am interested in words and how they can change. One word I wondered about the the Middle Ages was 'fun'. It seems it did exist, but did not necessarily mean what it does today- the definition I saw was to 'befool' someone or something.

    One word that does stand out is 'Okay'. I have seen that in a couple of Medieval novels though I'm fairly sure it did not exist at that time.
    One person tried to assert that the Native Americans used it, and Europeans bought it back wit them from the Americas. so it was used in Europe by the 1500s, but I fear I didn't believe them.......

    I do recall an armourer at a Medieval encampment seemed rather offended once when I referred to him as a 'blacksmith'- there's a difference as a I now realize....