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LearningTwoWrite
10-12-2011, 11:27 PM
Say someone kills a deer but they call it x. If you opened your story with so and so killed... Would you put the "x" for their language or would you say deer? I mean this in the Omniscient limited narrarator, so it isn't they character saying it.

Or should I have the characters call it what they do but put it in english with the narrarator voice? Or just call it the whatever the whole way through. I'm afraid if I use the lingo entirely people will get confused unless I describe every little animal or whatnot.

Thank you.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-12-2011, 11:30 PM
"omniscent limited" is a bit of a contradiction in terms...




The common rule is "Don't call a rabbit a smeerp." If there is an exact, or even relatively close English equivalent, then that's what you should use.

LearningTwoWrite
10-12-2011, 11:41 PM
"omniscent limited" is a bit of a contradiction in terms...




The common rule is "Don't call a rabbit a smeerp." If there is an exact, or even relatively close English equivalent, then that's what you should use.

so you mean the fantasy word should be close to sounding like the word deer?

pov is probably wrong. I'm not sure but it's where you have the narrator in everyone's head but only one head in a scene.

Shadow_Ferret
10-12-2011, 11:46 PM
If its a deer, call it a deer.

Faide
10-12-2011, 11:49 PM
If it is a deer, call it a deer. Think about it. If you call your deer a Rädir, you need to be consistent with everything--a horse's a pfest, a house's a gignsar, a bow's a kleeb, a man's a rotoar and a woman's a heepo, except for when she's black-haired because then she's an iyymf. Do you see how ridiculous and awfully complicated you make it?

But if your deer's different from a normal Earth deer--say, it's got fangs, a line of spikes running down its spine and a long, lion-like tail, then yes, you're free to make up a name for it.


ETA: Ninja'd by Shadow Ferret.

LearningTwoWrite
10-12-2011, 11:52 PM
If its a deer, call it a deer.

What if it is an animal fantasy book? I thought Watership down had special names for things, like lendri for a badger.

thothguard51
10-12-2011, 11:56 PM
The language and terms are from who ever is telling the story.

In omniscient, the unknown narrator would know that a x is called a deer to the reader so he will us deer.

Now, some writers will give you a word you have never heard of before, but use in such a manner that you know this word is the equivalent for deer. Some writers will use unknown terms for feet, inches, miles, etc, but they are used in such a way that the readers understands.

Again, it will all depend on the narrator, the world the story takes place in and a few dozen other factors. Meaning, there is no single factor to say do this or do that...

Dave Hardy
10-13-2011, 12:21 AM
The original of the "smeerp" came from the Turkey City Lexicon (http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/).



“Call a Rabbit a Smeerp“

A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. “Smeerps” are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)



Now, I have my own critical beef (beeves even, perhaps a whole herd) with Blish. He was a Hard-SF guy who failed to understand fantasy, perhaps willfully so. I don't know what he made of Watership Down.



Notwithstanding, consider the implications of Blish's dictum. Do you really think your reader will enjoy a bit of smeerp-hunting? Or is it time to say this is a thoat of a different color?

CrastersBabies
10-13-2011, 12:31 AM
People are going to "go along for the ride" when you use common terms.

I'd prefer to read, "he was 6 and a half feet tall" as opposed to "he was X number of hands tall and blah blah some strange weight."

I'm okay with miles, years, pounds, inches, deer, mice, sheep, dragons, wolves, lions, beer, mead, etc.

I would think most people are.

I mean, it's not like you're saying, "Gruff whipped out a giant Ipod and slapped me upside the head, disturbing my Pink Floyd hat."

DeleyanLee
10-13-2011, 12:40 AM
Say someone kills a deer but they call it x. If you opened your story with so and so killed... Would you put the "x" for their language or would you say deer? I mean this in the Omniscient limited narrarator, so it isn't they character saying it.

Or should I have the characters call it what they do but put it in english with the narrarator voice? Or just call it the whatever the whole way through. I'm afraid if I use the lingo entirely people will get confused unless I describe every little animal or whatnot.

Thank you.

If you're limiting the POV in a scene to a single character, you're using Limited Third, not Omni, FWIW. Even if you're more external to the character than internal, the limit comes in the number of characters per scene. Omni is when the POV is on a bungee cord and can move anywhere in the scene (sentient & non-sentient critters) at any time (within the same paragraph, sometimes in the same sentence). when it's done badly, it's called "head-hopping".


The use of conlangs is fairly standard in Fantasy, even if it's just a few words instead of an entire language. Most Fantasy readers expect that. Even if they're not thrilled with it, they accept it as well as it's done well and it's always clear what those words really mean.

The trick is how you introduce the word. If you just state "Steirn killed the purmi with a single shot" as your first sentence, I don't have any reference. However, if you introduce Steirn moving through the brush, seeing the spoor, thinking dinner or protection or whatever his motivation is, gets a glance at the beast so I can see that it's deer-like but so not a deer (without using the word deer--he wouldn't know that unless there ARE deer there too), and then he kills it, I not only get to know what the beast is, but I get to share in the event of the kill.

There is no right/wrong answer except the one you, the author, decide to do. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work."

Torgo
10-13-2011, 12:49 AM
What if it is an animal fantasy book? I thought Watership down had special names for things, like lendri for a badger.

But what is that intended to do - and in context, does it add to the book or detract from it?

In writing there aren't any rules. You'll see all kinds of rules of thumb and advice around the internet - the one I'm particularly allergic to is 'show, don't tell' - but if you do something that works, it doesn't really matter if you've broken one or not.

I like 'don't call a rabbit a smeerp', but you have to put it in context. There's a lovely short story by Philip K Dick called 'Roog' which is told from the POV of a domestic dog. The dog is very anxious about strangers stealing from his master - these thieves are, in the dog's language, 'Roogs'. So you get the garbageman showing up and, in the dog's POV, 'stealing' the garbage, and the dog responds by barking 'ROOG! ROOG!'

The point of the story is to show something familiar from an alien perspective, so an alien vocabulary is appropriate. I'd say a similar thing is going on in Watership Down. It's fun to get into a different mindset via a different vocabulary, and decoding stuff which is familiar to us might be something you want the reader to have to do. But if your POV characters have a mindset substantially like ours, what's the point?

I seem to remember Brian Aldiss's Helliconia books take place on a planet quite like Earth, with Earthlike people and animals; convergent evolution at work. But it's not exactly the same as Earth. Still, Aldiss chooses to call something that is basically a human a human.

Pthom
10-13-2011, 12:50 AM
I want a giant iPod.





Just sayin'.

amergina
10-13-2011, 12:53 AM
I want a giant iPod.

Erm... Wouldn't that be an iPad? :tongue

thothguard51
10-13-2011, 12:54 AM
I want a giant iPod.





Just sayin'.

Won't fit in you pocket...

Dreambrewer
10-13-2011, 12:56 AM
What about works that do it on purpose? America 3000 the movie comes to mind. It's about a post-apocalyptic world where words have become corrupted, so different words are used for clearly mundane things. Now, since it's not a book it's clearly different because there is no one to describe it to a reader, so the characters use the words when talking to each other. Personally, I thought it fit perfectly because it illustrated the decline of mankind quite well, with the corruption of language and technology, as well as society at large. Now, I don't remember the exact words used for things, but it is very much akin to calling a rabbit a smeerp.

I guess my point is roughly: Sometimes it's a good idea, especially if it fits the theme, but most of the time it isn't and will seem foolish.

Dave Hardy
10-13-2011, 01:08 AM
One of the things I like about ERB's Barsoom stories is the alien creatures & the oddball names they get. Since John Carter is a Earthman on Mars & the narrator, his character is the reader's access to the strangeness of ERB's Mars.

Sola motioned me to be seated upon a pile of silks near the center of the room, and, turning, made a peculiar hissing sound, as though signaling to someone in an adjoining room. In response to her call I obtained my first sight of a new Martian wonder. It waddled in on its ten short legs, and squatted down before the girl like an obedient puppy. The thing was about the size of a Shetland pony, but its head bore a slight resemblance to that of a frog, except that the jaws were equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks.

Only later do we learn the thing is named "Woola" and its species is calot.

I've been working on a Sword & Planet story with a fair number of weird critters. Introducing them without info-dumps & differentiating them from smeerps is turning out to be quite a chore.

LearningTwoWrite
10-13-2011, 01:11 AM
Won't fit in you pucket...

It might:

http://www.gearfuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/ipad-pocket.jpg

richcapo
10-13-2011, 04:22 AM
I use what fits the story and move on. No restrictions; I just go with the flow.

Rachel Udin
10-13-2011, 06:04 PM
I'd prefer to read, "he was 6 and a half feet tall" as opposed to "he was X number of hands tall and blah blah some strange weight."

I'm okay with miles, years, pounds, inches, deer, mice, sheep, dragons, wolves, lions, beer, mead, etc.
Hands is an actual measure...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_%28unit%29

Just pointing it out. (Mostly used for horses...)

Plus there is metric too and historical measurements that exist that might not be familiar to the reader. A ri. 10 tatami mats wide. A pyong. Medieval times also had measurements we don't use much anymore. "I will be gone a fortnight to get my Baker's dozen of bread."

http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/ <-- Mostly European.

In which case, the best thing to do is avoid exact measurements and go with general ones. "I had to crane my neck back to look at him." "I was surprised to be the shortest one in the room."

But generally, if it is a deer, stick with a deer.

Ardent Kat
10-20-2011, 09:28 AM
I would call it a deer and describe what's different about it. If you mention the deer in a clearing and then go on to describe its fangs and vestigial wings (exaggerated example here), we get a clear sense of what this animal mostly looks like and still understand this is something otherworldly and unique to the world setting.

Elise-K-Ra'sha
10-20-2011, 09:33 PM
If you're limiting the POV in a scene to a single character, you're using Limited Third, not Omni, FWIW. Even if you're more external to the character than internal, the limit comes in the number of characters per scene. Omni is when the POV is on a bungee cord and can move anywhere in the scene (sentient & non-sentient critters) at any time (within the same paragraph, sometimes in the same sentence). when it's done badly, it's called "head-hopping".


And head-hopping can be quite annoying, giving the occasional reader a headache.

Kelkelen
10-21-2011, 06:15 AM
What if it is an animal fantasy book? I thought Watership down had special names for things, like lendri for a badger.

Yes, it did. I think it managed it successfully for a few reasons -- often, the thing being given another name *needed* another name, if a word for it didn't exist in English. The other things, like badgers and foxes, we were given the rabbit names for; but strictly within the rabbits' own dialogue. The narrator didn't use the words, the rabbits did.

Some of their words were Frith (a word for the sun, but also God, as they saw them as synonymous...ish), El-a-hrair-rah (which I know I misspelled... anyway, that was the name of their ancestor, the first rabbit of the world, a sort of trickster character whose name meant something like "he with a thousand enemies"), and silflay (a word for the first meal/foraging/venturing forth in the early morning). These terms were necessary because they didn't exist in English.

I think that even in the case of the lendri and the... um... something?... the narrator called them the common words.

TheRob1
10-23-2011, 02:34 AM
I gotta quick smerp question.

I make a polar bear reference in my current wip. I call it "the white bear". Here's my thing. The tribe that hunts them doesn't have magnetic compasses or know what a magnetic pole is. I know that the Inuit and russian translations for what they originally called it basically translated to "white bear". Is this a smerpism? Should I just call it a polar bear?

thothguard51
10-23-2011, 04:45 AM
White Bear is very justifible as is.

Xelebes
10-23-2011, 09:40 AM
If its a deer, call it a deer.

What kind of deer?

/archaic English nerding

Xelebes
10-23-2011, 09:56 AM
I gotta quick smerp question.

I make a polar bear reference in my current wip. I call it "the white bear". Here's my thing. The tribe that hunts them doesn't have magnetic compasses or know what a magnetic pole is. I know that the Inuit and russian translations for what they originally called it basically translated to "white bear". Is this a smerpism? Should I just call it a polar bear?

The Inuit word is "nanuq" and as far as I can tell is a basic word like the English word "bear." The Brown and black bears are called by a more complex word, the "atiqpuq."

SPMiller
10-23-2011, 10:32 AM
When writing in English, I always prefer to call a thing by the name we know it in English, if that thing exists in our world. Polar bears exist in our world. Therefore, I would call them polar bears.

I will use non-English words in the two following cases (possibly more, but I can't think of any): 1) the thing doesn't exist in our world, or 2) the difference between the English name and the non-English name is plot-relevant.

starscape
10-23-2011, 04:27 PM
Just think about this:

Does Bilbo Baggins write THE HOBBIT in the Hobbit language?:D

Filigree
10-24-2011, 12:39 AM
Use the English equivalent unless it is too jarring. Native words are great when used for 'flavor', or when they illustrate a concept that takes too long to explain in English. (After you've given one explanation, of course.)

Single words, English or not, can develop strong, plot-intrinsic meanings this way: Pat Rothfuss and 'sympathy', Lynn Flewelling and 'tali', 'knack' in China Mieville's KRAKEN. It's part of worldbuilding, and if you do it well, it becomes an amazing tool.

badducky
10-24-2011, 01:34 AM
Inventing new words is something Shakespeare did with reckless abandon, in a time before standardized spelling, standardized grammar and dictionaries, for an audience of folk who were hearing the words instead of reading them.

You can do this, too, of course, in your fantasy fiction. You just have to be sure you're doing it as good as Shakespeare. Otherwise, it is ill-advised.

Anyone can break a "rule" of writing, but not everyone can get away with it.

Personally, this is one rule I try very hard not to break.

Kelkelen
10-24-2011, 02:45 AM
I gotta quick smerp question.

I make a polar bear reference in my current wip. I call it "the white bear". Here's my thing. The tribe that hunts them doesn't have magnetic compasses or know what a magnetic pole is. I know that the Inuit and russian translations for what they originally called it basically translated to "white bear". Is this a smerpism? Should I just call it a polar bear?

Sounds fine to me -- it's just a normal description, not like you're calling it a "she'nardi" or something. Also, have these people ever been exposed to a different kind of bear? Maybe they'd just call it a bear. Where I live, black bears are common. If you see one while driving (or, ahem, raiding your garbage cans), you'd normally just say "There was a bear in my front yard! Aaaah!" without specifying what kind of bear it was.

seeker_nomad
10-24-2011, 02:59 PM
I am leery of smerpism but "the white bear" works for me. Maybe be aware of echos of "the white whale".

Luwain
12-13-2011, 02:57 AM
Just think about this:

Does Bilbo Baggins write THE HOBBIT in the Hobbit language?:D

This makes me think that when I recently re-read the Lord of the Rings, I read also all the annexes and there it is "stated" that the book was originally translated from Westron to English... I sort of like the idea!

As for the subject itself, I was talking about words with my mother and she said that if I want to use horses in my stories, I should call them horses and do the same with all other animals from Earth, or otherwise I would have to create new words for all of them (and all the plants and whatnot too) and as a result no one would understand what I was talking about. I think it's a good advice, although I still do have an issue with all that. I try to tell myself that many people have written about humans and human-like creatures and animals in other worlds already and that it's OK, but I still feel like I'm just taking the easy way.

Anninyn
12-13-2011, 03:37 AM
If I write a fantasy set in a different world, they wouldn't be speaking in or experiencing life in English. I am translating their experience into English for the purposes of the story, so I do it with animals too. The exception is with animals unique to that world, which I name.

The way I see it is if I was going to use 'fantasy' animal names for real animals I might as well write the whole thing in a made up language.