A friend asked me what, as an Anglo-Saxonist, I thought of Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, which I hadn’t previously heard of, but is set in 1066 and written in a “shadow tongue” of Old English (i.e. modified somewhat to be more readable for a modern audience with no training in OE, while still feeling difficult and exotic to the untrained reader). I thought, “I’m generally skeptical of language gimicks, but sounds potentially interesting; I’ll check it out.” I read the first few pages on Amazon. It’s 100% possible that the story and characters and culture are compelling and well-researched; I really only read enough to get a feel for the language. And the language grated on me like crazy. There are phrases that read like Old English, but a lot of it feels very sloppy and phony, both grammatically and semantically*. It seems to be written by someone not very immersed in the language who is using the language to evoke an exotic-yet-quaint world and who doesn’t expect his audience to be able to tell how sloppy his handling of the language is. And you know what, most of his readers won’t be able to, and maybe that should be fine and I should just be happy that people are taking an interest in a culture that I study. That would probably be the generous and healthy attitude to take. But instead, right now, I’m mostly feeling grumpy.
*I say this realizing that some things (mostly spellings and words) must be changed for comprehension by an audience that doesn’t read OE. I think it’s pretty clear where and how that kind of updating is happening, if you do know OE. I think I could deal with that, although part of me still would find it more gimmicky than interesting or fruitful. What I’m complaining about here is a whole different issue, where grammar neither resembles OE nor modern usage and words are thrown around carelessly.