The other day as I was writing in my work-in-progress, I hit a spot where my heroine’s mother is pushing an eligible man toward the heroine (metaphorically, or course, LOL), and my heroine reminds her that she is all but engaged–to which Mama says, “It never hurts to have a backup plan.”
But wait–a warning bell went of in my mind. Backup plan. Was that too modern for 1861? A quick hop over to www.etymonline.com and I knew that, yep, it was way too modern.
Back up dates from 1767, but in the sense of “stand behind and support.” This is the verb use, what someone does for you or that you do to corroborate facts, perhaps. Evidence will back up a theory, that sort of thing.
The noun form meaning “standby, reserve” didn’t come to us until 1954.
But this was one of those that left me staring at the computer with lips pursed and thoughts racing. How in the world could Mama phrase this, then? I ended up using “secondary.” But it’s obvious I need a better backup plan for when I can’t use “backup plan.” 😉