Three Little Words “fit the bill” in Wolf Hall

I am completely enraptured by the BBC production of Wolf Hall.  At times I call it Wolf Hall for Dummies as it is so easy to understand – I didn’t finish the book.  Much as I enjoy most historical novels and biographies this one wasn’t to my taste.

But that is beside the point.  It is the language  in the novel and the TV production  which interests me.  At no time in the written word or on the TV screen did I feel uncomfortable with the language.  It was so natural I didn’t even stop to think that this was not necessarily the type of speech that was used in the early 1500s.

So I found it surprising to read in English newspapers  the complaints about a word which nowadays is not acceptable in polite society but in the time of Henry VIII was in fairly common usage.  I didn’t even have a flicker of discomfort .  It was perfectly OK in a bit of man talk for those times.

But, and it’s a big but, I lost the thread and my jaw dropped when Jane Seymour said she would find a prayer which would “fit the bill”.  Fit the Bill.  To me that is completely out of character.  Modern English is used  in the novel but to me it is modern English devoid of any really quirky sayings which don’t really” fit the bill” for a story about Cromwell. This would have been used  in the second novel which I didn’t buy but I presume the saying was used by Hilary Mantel.  The saying  originally cropped up in a written work early in the 1800s but is still widely used today.

The Oxford and Cambridge English Dictionaries are a good source of information  for the using and  meanings of words  in classic novels or in  period pieces written more recently. .They do a wonderful job of getting back to the  original meanings of words instead of just parroting current usages as many of the contemporary dictionaries do.

And so back to the BBC and the wonderful portrayal of Cromwell, You see the story through Cromwell’s eyes and Mark Rylance’s subtle portrayal  is so good that you can almost tell what Cromwell is thinking.

So I will forget “fit the bill” and go back to adoring the BBC’s Wolf Hall.  I didn’t even notice the white teeth which niggles with some people as reported in The Guardian

In the meantime full marks to the designers and their choice of a  colour palette.  Combined with candles it is just  perfect.

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5 thoughts on “Three Little Words “fit the bill” in Wolf Hall

  1. I was so enraptured by the whole production that I didn’t even clock the offending word. What annoyed me were the comments that people couldn’t see what was happening because they used candlelight instead of studio lighting. This was an inspired piece of direction to me

  2. We just covered the Restoration period in English and explaining the constant changing government proved interesting. I will look into Wolf Hall for clips to use in class.

    • This is a poor piece of writing on my part as I didn’t identify the characters properly. I am speaking of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII. He was the great great uncle of Oliver Cromwell of Restoration times. Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry Viii. Actually I wouldn’t mind being in your Restoration class !

      • I don’t know much about Thomas Cromwell. Oliver certainly fare well in his attempts to lead the nation. As for my Restoration class–satire is our main focus, with a look at Gulliver’s Travels.

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