When I was a child, every time my grandma talked about her favorite receipt for fry bread, I wondered why she mispronounced the word. It was recipe. Didn’t everyone know that? Well, my mother didn’t. They were receipts to her, too. You can guess where she got that. Imagine my surprise when I learned that historically, receipt is just as correct as recipe.
In Hiram’s Girls, Ella and Jennie go in search of their mother’s cookbooks. They find Miss Beecher’s domestic receipt book by Catherine Beecher, as well as Seventy-five receipts of pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats by Eliza Leslie, and The American economical housekeeper, and family receipt book by E. A. Howland.
So Grandma and Mom were right. For a little more on the history of receipt vs. recipe, check this dictionary entry and this article on the history of the two words.
Saga update: I’m working hard on Hiram’s Girls, trying to get all the details worked out. I have an ending. It’s what leads up to it that is still in limbo.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
What I’ve always heard
As a woman who has always been interested in the women’s rights movement, I thought I knew the right word for the women who fought for the right to vote in the United States: suffragette. It was repeated in everything I read and heard over the years. Then I read Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler and came upon the word suffragist for the first time. Because the word was new to me, I had to learn more.
What was true
A quick search on the term revealed Fowler was right. On learning that suffragette as a word did not exist until the early 1900s, I was embarrassed that I had used it in reference to Hannah True, the aunt of the Pierce siblings, in all the novels set in 1855 and forward. If you’d like to know more about the origin of suffragette and how it differs from suffragist, go to this article on the National Park Service site.
When you write historical fiction, or any fiction that contains facts, you run the risk of being wrong, and often it is what you thought you knew that turns out not to be true. However, if you spend time investigating the origin and meaning of every word and detail of every event you want to include in your story, you’ll never get the story written. Research what you know you don’t know, and when you see something at odds with what you believe to be true, look it up. In the meantime, keep writing. The world needs more stories that touch our hearts and minds and challenge our beliefs. And if you do use an incorrect word, sooner or later, someone will let you know.