Brow Beat

Did You See This? Downton Abbey Anachronisms

Downton Abbey. Series Two.
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley and Zoe Boyle as Lavinia Swire.

Photograph Nick Briggs. Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

If you’re as obsessive about Downton Abbey as the members of Slate’s TV Club, you may have read (or even noticed yourself) that the language used on the show does not always seem to be entirely historically accurate. Over in the show’s home country, the subject was actually covered in the newspaper—well, the Daily Mail, anyway, which ran a piece with the headline, “Get knotted! Downton Abbey talks its way into trouble with use of modern slang.” The piece quotes an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, who says that some of the colloquialisms on the show seem “quite wrong.”


Now Ben Zimmer, a Slate contributor, has created a video for the website he executive produces, the Visual Thesaurus, detailing all the seeming linguistic anachronisms from Season 2 of the show, from “just saying” to “I couldn’t care less.” See them all below, and check out the Visual Thesaurus in the days ahead for explanations as to why these uses of language are probably historically inaccurate.

Note: The video goes all the way through episode 8, and so may contain spoilers for American viewers. Each anachronism receives its own title card, so you can choose to watch just the first few.

Previously: Did You See This? Lana Del Rey’s “Hunger Games”