March 15th, 2008

Snippet Saturday

Snippet Saturday! I caught it from difrancis.
The batokaru took them to the kind of restaurant that didn't have prices on the menu, located on the twentieth floor of a high-rise downtown. Cade's tie didn't entirely match and his shirt was wrinkled; but if Cade looked somewhat unkempt, Rand made up for it in a sharp charcoal grey suit with a blue silk shirt the exact shade of his eyes.

“You do realize you're slumming, right?” Cade quirked one eyebrow, gesturing up and down his striped shirt and cheap slacks with both hands. “I'm barely house trained, and I don't know which fork you use for salad and which is for self-defense.”

“It's not too late. We could go eat out of a trough at Denny's,” Rand replied.

“No!” Cade laughed, glad that Rand was going to make this easy. “I just remembered the fork on your left is for stabbing people. The one on the right is for combing your hair.”

Through the walls of the glass elevator, a cloud of lights blinked, swooped and glittered beneath them, trains and buildings far below, and Cade was sorry when they reached the restaurant until the maitre d' led them to a table by the window.

...Now your turn!

Inconsequential question - but curious nonetheless

In my novel Island of the Ghost Seals, a Victorian-era fantasy, the characters are admiring a painting of an underwater scene:
“I like it too,” Isetta said. “All them seals playing—this one's my favorite,” she added, pointing at one in a lower corner, nosing a distempered octopus protruding from under a rock.
When I read this aloud at a critique session, all three of the listeners immediately stopped me to tell me that I'd used 'distempered' incorrectly. I argued with them a little, but they were adamant, so I gave up. I was editing earlier and came across it again, and sure that I was right, I looked it up.
dis·tem·per (dĭs-těm'pər) n.

1. An infectious viral disease occurring in dogs, characterized by loss of appetite, a catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, fever, lethargy, partial paralysis caused by destruction of myelinated nerve tissue, and sometimes death. Also called canine distemper.
2. A similar viral disease of cats characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, and sometimes death. Also called feline distemper, panleukopenia.
3. Any of various similar mammalian diseases.
2. An illness or disease; an ailment: "He died . . . of a broken heart, a distemper which kills many more than is generally imagined" (Henry Fielding).

3. Ill humor; testiness.

4. Disorder or disturbance, especially of a social or political nature.
I just read too much archaic literature, I guess. (I knew 'distemper' was something against which puppies are vaccinated, but I mistakenly assumed that was the lesser-known definition).

So here's the question: Should I use the word or should I replace it?

I'm inclined to leave it because it's correct, it fits the era in which the story takes place, contextual clues probably explain it, and as my housemate brought up, readers are more likely to assume they are wrong than critique partners, who are more likely to assume they are right ;) However, it's not like I'm hurting for synonyms--irate, annoyed, cranky, grouchy, and grumpy, and of course ill-humored and testy. I don't need that word, I just want it. Am I justified?