Ben Zimmer has a Visual Thesaurus post on the language of Lincoln (see this LH post) with some good examples of anachronisms that I completely missed, like “imagine the possibilities,” “I like our chances,” “patronage jobs,” and “lame-duck Congress.” Even “the Thirteenth Amendment” is a term that would not have been used by politicians of the time.
But what really excited me was this:
Benjamin Schmidt, a doctoral student at Princeton University and a fellow at Harvard University’s Cultural Observatory, has reached many fascinating conclusions by comparing scripts from period dramas with historical language use as reflected by the digitized volumes on Google Books. Check out his Prochronisms site for more, as well as his appearance on the Lexicon Valley podcast.
One thing that is clear from Schmidt’s work is that while screenwriters (and audiences) may have a good ear for discerning when individual words are anachronistic, it’s less easy to pick out when combinations of words are unlikely to have been used in a historical setting.
I’m not a podcast kind of guy, but I’m bookmarking Prochronisms, because that’s my kind of site.