-----s in books

As I was recently perusing Pride and Prejudice, I was reminded of the technique that authors (older ones in particular) use of replacing proper nouns with -----s. For example, that book makes references to -----shire (where a militia is stationed), certain people are referred to as Mr. L----, etc. This also occurs in more recently published books like The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Why do authors do this? Why not just make up a name?

Please forgive me if this topic already has a thread. I tried searching but as you can imagine the terms were pretty vague. (Covers face and runs the newbie guantlet.)

Well, you know, they wouldn’t want to print it if the militia is stationed at Motherfuckingshire.

I think it is to lend an air of authenticity to the story. It makes it seem like the author must be saying a real place but could not say it for legal reasons. (names changed or omitted to protect the innocent) So the fiction seems more real with those blanks.

I remember seeing this used in some of Poe’s short stories and in those the idea was that the narrator was telling a true story. So leaving out a bit kind of made it seem more realistic.
For a newbie you sure code very well.

OTOH, Dostoevsky used this device as well, and, armed with a good map of St Petersburg, one can trace Raskolnikovs movements around the city based on it. He at least did use real places ans imply blank the names - perhpas so as not to offend anyone actually residing there?

If the purpose of a ---- is to make the story seem more authentic, wouldn’t more than just a select few names and places be blanked out? Austen mentions many places, such as Meryton, Derbyshire, etc. by full names, so I can only suppose that those are actual places or that they are entirely made up. Why would she choose to blank out some names and not others? Also, her novels don’t carry quite the same idea as Poe’s that what is being recounted is a true story.

Zebra - I’ll take that as a compliment. I’ve been lurking on the boards long enough to take to heart the importance of good coding. And I previewed the post at least five times, lest I be wholly devoured by the grammar sharks. :slight_smile:

Hugo did it too, in Les Miserables. We never do find out exactly what diocese the good bishop was ecclesiasting over.

I always thought that some names were blanked because at the time of the writing it was still controversial, or someone/some place was still to be protected. That other names were not blanked meant that it was either obvious who or where they were or were no longer needing of anonymity. Fiction or not, it made it seem very mysterious, serious, and/or juicy.

It was


You also see the phenomenon in old English newspapers. In a biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, several newspaper articles were quoted. The articles were talking about scandalls in which the Duchess was involved, and identified her as “The Duchess of D--------e.” Royal watchers of the day would have instantly known whom the article was about, but the newspapers avoided libel by this tactic.

You can argue about it all you want, but the reason why she used it was to make it seem like she was hiding a real place. It was her choice and she could do whatever she wanted for whatever reason she wanted.

If you think otherwise, complete the sentence, "A foolish consistency is . . . . "

Many many moons ago in a college English Lit class, I asked that very question of my professor. It had me very confused that J. Austen does it for some locations and not for others.

Sadly, I never got a straight answer. So I have nothing to share. But I do thank you Babelon for asking the question, I feel better knowing I’m not the only person confused by this.

Point taken. I simply asked because it seemed strange, not because I was arguing about an author’s creative license. I guess I’ll toss this into the pile of things I’ll never fully understand and move on.

The final word.

I talked to John Edwards and he talked to Ms. Austen and she said the reason she did that was because sometimes she t____ P___ would th_ ____ing to H.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, so I may be off, but… Aren’t the location names Austin blanks the ones that concern where the story primarily takes place? When they discuss the younger sister running off to London with the officer from town, the name “London” isn’t blanked because that provides no clues as to where exactly the family lives, and the same with the various not so close places that they visit or are otherwise mentioned. But when they discuss the regiment in the nearby town, the name of that town is blanked out, so as to hide the setting of the story, and protect the local townspeople that are mentioned in detail. (Except, of course, it’s all fiction so no one needs to be protected, but blanking out the name creates the feeling that it is real.)