On a side note to the latter, if I'm reading on my NOOK, it's not as big a problem because if I touch the word, I get a pop-up menu that will display the definition. But if I'm confident I understand the context, I don't bother.
A lot of times, when playing Words With Friends, I'll toss letters on the screen and see if they're accepted. Sometimes they are, which usually surprises me.
If you're reading an historical, the language will be different from a contemporary romantic suspense, or a fantasy novel. How many Americans do you know living today who use the words mayhap, whilst, thee or thou? I was reading a book recently set in the Golden Age in New York, and the vocabulary would never work in a contemporary action-adventure. I looked up a lot of words since I was reading it on my NOOK.
Recently, while looking for a Words With Friends word to take advantage of a triple letter/double word score using my 10 point Z, I (laughing to myself at how ridiculous it seemed) stuck zarf on the board. To my surprise, the word went through, so of course I had to go look it up. Anyone here know what it means? I'll guess most of you have experience with it in some form or another. But no, I'm not going to define it here. If you're reading this on your computer, you have access to a dictionary program.
As language evolves, it's important for characters to use the right vocabulary for the time, and equally important, their age/social status/education level. Once, early on when my writing was more me on the page than my characters, I'd locked a teen-aged boy in a dark basement and had him searching for a method of egress. Not only that, but he was walking transects of the room as he searched. Definitely not a typical teenagers vocabulary, and even though it was in narrative, it needed to be the kid's thoughts, not mine.
Slang is something else to deal with. If your characters use current slang, firstly it has to be accurate, and secondly it's likely to be out of date before your book has been published. Have you heard anyone say groovy lately? And somewhere along the line when my kids were in middle and high school, bad meant good.
Brand names have become part of our generic vocabulary (although as writers, we need to know which ones are trademarked). Did you know Dumpster is a trademark (Dempsey Dumpster), and if you're using it in your writing, it has to be capitalized? Likewise, Kindle is coming to mean any e-book reading device, which I'm sure pleases Amazon to no end, yet must irritate the heck out of Barnes & Noble, Sony, and all the others. If your character has a NOOK, don't call it a Kindle.
Technology has created an almost light-speed shift in vocabulary. If I ask my father what Google means, he'll say "Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly eyes." On the other hand, not long ago, my mother (who's old enough to be my mother, mind you) sent me an email with a reference to something, and said, "You can Google it."
I learned to type on an old manual upright machine. We still call "typing" anything we do on a keyboard, although I did have a temp job once where my supervisor handed me a document and asked me to "key it in." I confess that although I knew how to use a computer and word processor by then, I didn't know what she meant. And we still "dial" phones, even though the rotary phone is virtually obsolete (my brother has one, so I can't say they're extinct).
What new technology words have you included in your vocabulary? When you run across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up? If so, are you likely to use it? What old words are you using even though their meanings have changed?
Terry is the author of the popular Pine Hills Police Series and the Blackthorne, Inc. Series. You can find out more about them, as well as her stand-alone romantic suspense novels HERE. Her newest release, Nowhere to Hide, can be found here. You can find her at her Web site. If you've followed her blog (or want to start!), note that it's moved and is now HERE. You can follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.