Overshare from an Edit

In a novel I recently edited set in 1930s, the main character asks another to stay in his home with a young girl while he is out, and is asked what they should do:

‘… “I don’t know,” he said sardonically. “She’s a girl. Overshare your feelings.” …’

Me, as editor: It is a good line, indeed. However, the word apparently dates from internet and social media times, so doesn’t quite fit the period.

Author: I did check the origin of the word (I was curious, myself), and it seems to have popular roots in the early 1800’s, as well as a strong reassurance in the online age.

I did more research without running to earth the earlier roots, but I did find:

1. Webster’s Dictionary Chooses “Overshare” as the 2008 Word of the Year.

     2. Described as “beautifully British”, the “subtle yet devastating” put-down “overshare” was today named word of the year 2014 by the Chambers Dictionary.

Note the irony of the ‘beautifully British’, when it was chosen six years previously by an American dictionary!

In view of the likely popular perception that the word is modern, I reluctantly suggested either that it be dropped, or that there be a footnote (not recommended, Terry Pratchett notwithstanding), or that something appear in the front or back matter to the effect that some words have been in currency for much longer than one realises. The writer decided to remove it.

Had you written that passage, would you have stuck to your guns? Or, had it remained, how do you think you would have received it as a reader?

© June 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble
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18 thoughts on “Overshare from an Edit

  1. LordBeariOfBow

    I’m English and I’m old and I’ve never heard the word before and personally I don’t care if I never hear it again.

    It has all the earmarks of the pseudo sophisticate a complete meaningless load of drivel.
    Beautifully British I don’t understand either; there is no British language,

    There is, as you know and appreciate, the English language, the Scots & Welsh & Irish have their own barbaric tongues, but the common language for the countries that make up Great Britain is English! If the clown that coined the words beautifully British thinks that ‘word’ is ‘b B ‘, then he /she/it obviously doesn’t know, and understand, that the peoples of the 4 countries making up Great Britain, have not really that much in common; except for sending representatives to the House of Commons & Lords.

    If Bretix goes through theres a good chance that the Scots and the Irish will secede and the Welsh will all join together and sing “Land of our fathers” . to thunderous applause from me!

    Oh by the bye, I would NOT have written that passage in the first place so the question does not apply. But thank you for asking. 🙂 🐻

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    1. colonialist Post author

      Ha! You would argue about the meaning of a word — against a DICTIONARY? Brave man. It’s gotta be British; Chambers sed so. Mind you, being in chambers they could be a little potty.
      Actually, ‘overshare’ is most descriptive of modern social media where one gets all the details of messy affairs or matters of personal hygiene and so forth.

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  2. disperser

    There are a number of “modern” words that go back way farther than people realize, but as to your question . . .

    I would have left it in there, and done so for two reasons.

    One, it’s unlikely the author got all the words, idioms, sayings, attitudes, etc. etc. correct for the time, and because . . .

    Two, I think the majority of readers can look past such things and just enjoy the storytelling. It might be different if it’s something specific to later times (iPods, portable phones, nylons, etc.). That’s certainly true in movies (Westerns are an excellent example) where inaccuracies are routinely ignored by all but the most pedantic of viewers (again, within reason).

    Bonus reason . . . we write to modern audiences and within reason, you need to keep the story anchored in things they can understand, accept, sympathize or hate, and consider under the modern interpretation of the human condition. That’s as true for Shakespearian plays as it is for the Bible, and pretty much most written records.

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    1. disperser

      Well, making the recommendation is an expression of sorts. Were you concerned that it would throw readers out of the story?

      Also, do editors bring their considerable background with them when evaluating a manuscript? I ask because it seems to me that most readers might not be as well-read and knowledgeable either about the mechanics of the language or its modern versus older usage.

      I should also qualify my answer. If I hire an editor, I would follow their advice (within reason). My answer relates to what I would have suggested had I been the editor and not the writer.

      Unless specific and important to the plot, as a writer, I would have changed it if the editor suggested it (most likely, but not 100% because I was not involved in this particular case.)

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      1. colonialist Post author

        My concern was that the average reader (who would condemn without bothering to research) would regard the term as an anachronism, and thus lose faith in the writer. Many other words used could be equally so without being noticeable, but this is one which would stand out.
        Little things can put one off. I read a book by a well-known and successful writer where the characters, while camping out, drink wine out of mugs — but a page later the moonlight glints from a wineglass. It shouldn’t have destroyed my enjoyment of the story, but the fact is that it did.
        Narration for a novel set in the past can be as modern as one wishes, as long as not told in the first person. Quoted speech with modern terms, however, is to be avoided.

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  3. Scottie

    No , not if I was paying you. Why pay you for the job you are doing , that I felt you were the best at so I hired you, and then not take your suggestion. 🙂 Hugs

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    1. colonialist Post author

      Actually, though, editificators are paid to point out pitfalls, but final decisions must always remain with the writers. As Disperser has pointed out, there could be good reasons for overriding such suggestions.

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      1. Scottie

        OK, I admit I don’t know the protocols not being an author. Still I really would have to think hard to go against the advice of a professional that I paid for that advice. 🙂 Be well. Hugs

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  4. roughseasinthemed

    I’m with you, I’d have done the same. One of the things I notice is authors using American slang in British novels pre-internet days. It just wasn’t around, with the exception of a few words. Ours to advise, athors’ prerogative to decide …

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    1. colonialist Post author

      Exactly so. I must admit, though, I was taken aback to discover that this particular word could, conceivably, have been used in such context at that time. Thus, the overriding issue became: would the average intelligent but particular reader realise that?

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  5. valeriedavies

    I’d have dropped it… not a word that appeals anyway… a bit like overkill and others of its ilk… anything that even hints at being an anachronism is anathema to me… oh dear, Latin pomposity getting the better of me !!!!

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