The premise here is that Elijah was an ordinary person1James 5:17 who spoke the ordinary language of the day, both formal and informal. So in telling his story, I try to use the language of our day, but I’m still learning how to avoid giving readers literary whiplash.
The language of the day
Because Elijah and his peers did not speak the English of Beatrix Potter (1910), Jane Austen (1811 AD), or King James (1611 AD) I switched on the flux capacitor and sent the DeLorean back 29 centuries.
I popped the hatch and stepped out into 850 BC,2BCE for my agnostic friends but even before I tapped Elijah on the shoulder, I heard everyone speaking the language of the day — not English, but Hebrew.
So, I tell this story in the language of our day — not Hebrew, but English. I think Miss Potter, Ms. Austen, and the king will understand.
Formal speech for formal occasions
- On the King’s Highway, Elijah tells the buyer, “You can pay my father, sir.”
- A few years later, when Elijah’s father pronounces the Aaronic blessing over him, Elijah says, “Thank you, my father!”
Informal speech for informal occasions
- A shocked Elijah looks at the Moloch priest. “Dad. Dad! They’re not going to burn that baby, are they?”
- A frustrated Elijah says. “But, Dad, you saw those little girls. It’s not right.”
Elijah uses both formal and informal wording, depending on the situation. Yes, it does make him sound undignified at times, and he seems okay with that.
I know better than to ask Elijah to discuss helicopters or syringes.
But “munchies” and “certifiable” did slip into early drafts. My friend, Ava, says the jolt gives her “literary whiplash.”
So, I try to avoid words that clearly do not fit the era. Partly because Elijah doesn’t know what to do with them, and partly to keep from injuring readers who forgot to buckle up.