An anachronism in The Mitford Murders

Being a fan of Nancy Mitford, and having read the Mitford sisters’ entire correspondence  (ed. Mosley 2007) as well as their biography by Mary Lovell (2001), I was naturally curious about The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes, the more so since its translation was  favourably reviewed in the Dutch press. So I decided to buy the 420-page book and take it with me on holiday. What a disappointment.

Not only did it read like a Young Adult Novel, the characterisation of young Nancy Mitford in no way matched that of the real person in as far as I had become acquainted with her.

What also irritated me was its linguistic anachronism, evident from the regular use of snuck (for sneaked) in the text, as in

He had snuck out wearing a tweed cap, which Nancy had snatched out of the boot room (p. 272)

The story is situated in 1919-20, when snuck would not have been common usage in British English yet. In 1988, Greenbaum and Whitcut  in the Longman Guide to English Usage label snuck as “American English only”. It is not until twenty years later that, according to Jeremy Butterfield (Oxford AZ of English Usage , 2007), snuck is “sneaking into British English in a big way too”.

I’m afraid I’m not looking forward to the next three novels in the series, each featuring one of the remaining Mitford sisters.

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