I should stop reading novels set in the 18th century.
The other dark evening I went to join a group of family and friends at a pub on our local common, a little way from the road and reached by an unlit path lined by bushes on one side. On arrival I announced that I had arrived safely, unmolested by footpads. None of the seven people present knew what I was talking about; none know the word ‘footpad’. Was I referring to something bought in the footcare section of the local chemist?
Had I said ‘mugger’ I’d have been understood but my announcement would not have had the intended jocular effect. (Not that being a footpad’s victim would have been any less unpleasant than being a mugger’s …)
So, repeating the question Maggie asked last week in her posting https://ninevoices.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/does-historical-fiction-need-purple-prose/, should a historical novelist use a word contemporary with her or his setting but unknown to most readers today? Would they look the word up, or skate over it and guess at the meaning; or would its use be off-putting? Hmm.