Saturday, August 14, 2010

Was that correct, back then?

So I was reading Paul Cain's "Murder In Blue," which is the second story in "Los Angeles Noir: The Classics," when I saw this-

"Mr. Winfield reached up into the pockets of the dressing-gown, fished out a cigarette, matches. He lighted the cigarette, leaned back in the water, sighed."

Did you see that? In case you missed what I'm talking about, it popped up a few pages later with-

"They were silent for awhile and then Halloran lighted a cigarette and stood up."

If you still don't see it...

"The girl lighted a cigarette, sipped her coffee."

No, I'm not talking about all the smoking, that was par for the course back then. The "lighted" part instead of "lit." Mind you, "lighted" wasn't just for the cigarettes-

"The room was large, bare: somewhere around thirty-five by four. It was lighted by a single green-shaded droplight over a very large table in the center: there were other tables and chairs stacked in the dusk of the corner."

All right, I understand that back in 1933, it was acceptable to write "okay" as "okey" or "oke." I've also seen "girlfriend" written as "girl friend" or as "girl-friend" in more than a few stories from the first half of the 20th Century, but when was it ever okay to substitute "lighted" for "lit?"

Now, I know that you see this error.

Oh, and yes, "lighted" is a word.


David Barber said...

Surely it should be lit. It didn't feel comfortable reading it to myself and when you read it out loud it sounds even worse. Like you say though, it must have been acceptable back then for it to have been published.

Hey, maybe being too picky about editing our writing is where we're going wrong?? :-)

Have a great day, Cormac.

Alan Griffiths said...

Yes it does jar a bit when you read it through.

Is it just a case of of words changing slightly from one generation to another or is the author deliberately dropping this word into the narrative to get a reaction?

I’m not qualified enough to comment either way I’m afraid but an interesting post though, Cormac.

Kind regards.

SkylersDad said...

I have also seen lighted used in old books for things like street lamps.

Cormac Brown said...


The reason why I suspect it would be grammatically correct despite the fact that it doesn't sound right, was because Cap Shaw was the best pulp editors of his time.


"or is the author deliberately dropping this word into the narrative to get a reaction?"

That's what I thought to, but surely it would've righted in the editing phase, right?

Sky Dad,

I'm glad that you've confirmed this, because it's the first time that I've seen it.