Monday, April 08, 2013

Gadzookery is the use of archaisms in literature  It is also the name of a game app but, we are not discussing that here today.  The word is coined from gadzooks, once used as a mild oath, which may have been an alteration of God's hooks, a reference to the nails of Christ's crucifixion.  It's okay to use an archaic expression to bring out a certain effect if necessary, but their overuse leads to gadzookery. Legal terminology can be an excellent example of gadzookery as in:   to wit and hereinbelow.

Hereinbelow are some from Victorian and Edwardian times.
beastly (as in 'so beastly critical')
capital! (as an exclamation of delight)
very civil (of you)
confound you!
damnable cheek
pray (come in)
(you) rotter

In my lifetime I have seen technological terms become archaic very quickly.  Among the technological archaisms we have to explain to children are what a 'record' is, why they call it 'dialing' a phone, the fact that, once, you couldn't rewind TV shows....
James Poniewozik, "Wake Up and Smell the Cat Food in Your Bank Account." Time magazine, May 2, 2007

If you are a writer of non contemporary stories as I sometime am, you will want to write about your gentle ladies, knights, and heros without slipping in to Gadzookery.  You would want to give the flavor of the words used in another century without being too "overwrought and intensely atmospheric." as critic Mary Cadogan once stated about Countess Orczy author of The Scarlett Pimpernel. Orczy's novels were  pure melodramas.   "In The Nest of the Sparrowhawk (1909), for example, a malicious guardian in Puritan Kent tricks his beautiful, wealthy, young ward into marrying him by disguising himself as an exiled French prince. He persuades his widowed sister-in-law to abet him in this plot, in which she unwittingly disgraces one of her long lost sons and finds the other murdered by the villain."  Wickipedia It certainly sounds melodramatic and Bodice Ripping.


  1. I'm pretty sure if I tried to write anything historical, there would be a gadzookery overdose

    Capital post! :D

  2. O my goodness! Its not hard to guess what happens next.

  3. Bodice ripping...almost an archaic term itself, but that it's the label for an entire genre.

  4. Readers have no idea how much research goes into a story set in another time period. I admire those writers.

  5. Ha, fun word. I would think that it would be very difficult to write a period piece without too much of it. I guess it would be a fine line between using and overusing while not reverting into more modern language that wouldn't fit. Interesting.