If you're a viewer of Downton Abbey — and, really, at this point, how much more do we have to pimp out the amazing BBC series before you give it a chance? — every now and then a certain aura of incongruity hits you. It could be a strange tossed-off line, a certain missing accent, or just the way someone holds a phone. The motion or choice-of-phrasing seems a bit too... contemporary.

There's an inherent risk when you set a series in the past. (People are still arguing about how accurate David Milch's dialogue in Deadwood was for the time period — The Great Cocksucker Debate.) Luckily, for the most part, this anachronistic behavior is quickly glossed over and viewers are right back in the thick of period drama.

But that wasn't enough for Ben Zimmer over at Slate, who compiled all the iffy lines spoken in Downton Abbey's second season into one easy-to-digest short video. (Spoilers for the second season of the show, obviously.)

Commentarium (7 Comments)

Feb 10 12 - 8:02pm

Uppity first in use in the 1870's in the US so not unlikely that over 30 years later it would be in use in the UK.

Rematch first appears in the mid 1800's.

Other than "logic pills" and possibly "step on it" most of the words and phrases don't sound all that out of place being used in the early 1900's.

Feb 26 12 - 2:18am
Simply CO

"Step on it" seems very reasonable since cars had been in use for quite some time and telling some one like a chauffeur to "step on the gas" if they are going too slow seems more than likely. Then shortening it to the colloquial "step on it" over the course of almost 2 decades seems fairly logical.

Feb 10 12 - 8:09pm

Well some of those are definitely out of their period, but what on earth is wrong with, for example, "couldn't care less"? If she had used the late 20th century American "I could care less" that would have been off, but as she said it it's perfectly of its time. I don't think the "I'm just sayin'" is meant in the same way as the modern usage. She said it, people have reacted as if she swore in church, and she's defending herself. Also nothing wrong with "get knotted", an old British euphemism for "fuck off".

Feb 11 12 - 2:41pm

This is totally bogus. It's like trying to identify spelling mistakes in a Thomas Hardy novel using the New Webster's Dictionary as a reference. Someone needs to award Ben Zimmer the Clenched Sphincter Award for services to anality.

Feb 11 12 - 9:57pm

"Couldn't care less" makes no sense. If one truly could not care less, they would not even take the effort to comment on it. By saying that they "couldn't care less," they are in fact showing that they care.

Mar 02 12 - 7:37pm

"couldn't care less" = i could not care less because the amount of my caring is already not at all. you are confusing it with "i could care less", which is the modernized expression that makes no sense.

Feb 21 12 - 12:42pm

what about "sucking up"? None of the lists of D.A. anachronisms includes this one. It was a jolt to hear it (from 2 different female characters!) not only because it sounded too contemporary, but also vulgar.