I'm designing an exhibition for the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam where I'm currently writing several dialogues between Dutch citizens in the year 1940. The problem is these dialogs would also need to be translated into English for tourists. I'm Dutch and, though I wouldn't call my English bad, I'm having a hard time coming up with English words/phrases that feel like they're from that time.

Does anyone have tips, words or phrases I can use to make it feel more authentic?

To get an idea, here is an example of a dialogue in its current form:

Johan: Goodday Theo, I'm here to help you with organizing those books.

Theo: Oh thank you Johan.

Johan: So, how is that ancestry form coming along.

Theo: I haven't filled it out yet. My wife and I both have our doubts.

Johan: Why? It is not a big deal, most of us already handed it in.

Theo: The library never cared about my Jewish ancestry before, why now? I don't trust it.

Johan: Why not? Aren't you proud of your heritage?

Theo: Of course, but what about my family? What if they use it against us.

Johan: Just fill it in, refusing will only make the situation worse for you.

Theo: I don't think I should do it.

Johan: Look, this will not only cause serious problems for you and your family but also for the library and its board.

Thanks for any help at all!

  • 1
    Let me just go and find a 1940s Englishman. Be right back.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 23 '18 at 15:44
  • What class are these people? Upper class and lower class would speak very differently. Well, rather differently at the very least.
    – JDF
    Jan 23 '18 at 16:06
  • The trickiest bit for accuracy may be what we do with 'forms', nowadays in the UK we quite often 'fill them out', when I was growing up we always 'filled them in' and according to the OED in the mid to late 1800s people were busy 'filling them up'.
    – Spagirl
    Jan 23 '18 at 16:57
  • No native English speaking tourist would have any problems with the dialogue as you wrote it. If you made it completely authentic with respect to British English in 1940, people might have trouble with some word or expression. As for fill out, fill in, fill up, Spagirl raises a valid point, but not one you should overly worry about. You have done a good job of translation and of capturing the looming disaster in a prosaic conversation.
    – ab2
    Jan 23 '18 at 18:00
  • Thanks! I think I should've elaborated more. I'm not trying to be historically accurate. Rather, I just want to have the dialogue 'feel' a bit older.
    – J Fernig
    Jan 24 '18 at 10:27

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