1

Suppose I've written a story that is set in ancient times. And I refer to something quite modern in it. Like I'm writing about the roman empire suppose, and I write 'He looked at the time in his watch...'. We know they didn't have watches at that time. So is this called something? I remember a teacher telling me that many authors used this and it was called something, but I don't remember what. I think even Shakespeare used it somewhere...

  • Shakespeare certainly did it—whether intentionally or not, I can't say. The example I remember from high school is the exchange between Banquo and Fleance at Inverness Castle: Banquo: How goes the night, boy? Fleance: The moon is down; I have not heard the clock. According the textbook I was reading, there were no clocks to hear in Inverness Castle—or anywhere else in that part of the world—during Duncan's reign as King of Scotland (1034–1040). So Fleance's reference to a clock (chronometer though it be) that he has not heard is anachronistic. – Sven Yargs Jan 5 '15 at 7:48
  • 2
    @SvenYargs: and yet, not hearing it does not make his statement false, as hearing the clock certainly would have ;) – oerkelens Jan 5 '15 at 8:17
  • What you are describing is not a figure of speech. It is a literary device, when done deliberately, but says absolutely nothing about the way in which you use the language to describe the anachronism. – itsbruce Jan 5 '15 at 11:05
5

That sounds like an anachronism. Here's a wikipedia page about it.

Merriam-webster says this about it:

something (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc.

  • The other important instance from Shakespeare is when the clock strikes in Julius Caesar. – WS2 Jan 5 '15 at 9:57
  • @WS2: But that clock must have been brought by the unicorns! (The ones that were betrayed by trees.) – oerkelens Jan 5 '15 at 10:00
  • Yeah I was thinking about the clock example. – user104084 Jan 5 '15 at 16:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.