beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
A minion was a sort of cannon.
It's from a French word for cute, according to wiki.
By etymology online it's "a favorite; a darling; a low dependent; one who pleases rather than benefits", or a probably homosexual term of abuse.

look at my big gun, isn't it pretty

beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Some time in the small hours of the morning I ended up looking up assorted words for monks.

... I started out looking up gender neutral terms for sibling, because sister brother sibling doesn't sound like they're a matched set, mother father brother sister all match and yet you can't say parent and sibling and have it sound the same, does this not bug anyone else at three in the morning?

... smartphones have some odd perils.

But the more I looked the more I got annoyed at fantasy books and their imprecise worldbuilding. Like D&D uses Cleric and Monk as more or less gender neutral terms that cover a really wide range of religious roles. Or fantasy worlds have multiple religions but half of them call their ladies Sister and men Brother. And why would they do that? What is the religious underpinning of that phrasing? What theological basis has them calling some people Father? Father and brother and sister and mother of who or what? And are any of them married? The widespread assumption of religious celibacy seems purely weird to the C of E, let alone the rest of the world's religions.

Wiki wandering got me to distinctions like 'nun' and 'sister' not actually referring to the same thing, since nuns are cloistered and sisters work in the community. Monastics is currently used as gender neutral, and is quite different from monk, which differs from friar, usually used for mendicant orders. There's a difference between monks, owning all their property in common between them, and mendicants, who in theory don't own anything at all at all and have to rely on asking the laity nicely every single day. Monk derives from monos, alone, because originally it referred to hermits or solitary ascetics. Hermits are eremites, and eremitic orders exist. Anchorites and anchoresses are kind of like hermits but different. Sometimes a lot of hermits get together and share a canteen and church, and such orders are probably where communal monasticism began, but there's a great big argue about who was first doing what, so only probably. Sketes or Lavras are that sort of thing. Different forms of monasticism include sketes, lavritic, eremitic and coenobitic. Cenobites, before that one guy wrote that one thing, just means monastics living in a community where they don't all mostly hide in their cells, which is the usual sort people mostly think of when you say monk.

They live in monasteries and abbeys and minsters, and that's just words I recognise off the top of my head. They're slightly different kinds of communities even at any given point in history. Due to constant/repeated monastic and religious reforms they're very different if you look at them a few hundred years apart. I mean at some points there were communities where men and women lived together being religious, and at other points there's big frowning about the very idea, and now we don't have a proper word for those sorts and say 'dual house' and make vague noises about monasteries and nunneries next door to each other when really? We don't entirely know how they sorted themselves out.

And that's just in English. At some point I (accidentally) downloaded a 125 page MPhil thesis on the different words used in the Anglo Saxon era, in Latin and Old English, and how they get translated into English. I skimmed like a chapter but it seems like every time a thing gets translated it uses less variety of words to describe the religious people it's talking about, which erases consistent distinctions in the earlier texts, distinctions that probably had a meaning, though for all we know now it's some dude doing the monk equivalent of 'the fair haired man' and 'the brunet' because everyone they're talking about is basically going to be a religious dude so maybe they were just trying to keep them distinctive.

And that's just in Christianity. Buddhism has a lot of slightly different traditions of people living in community to do religion, and those traditions have different levels or paths with different sets of vows, and once they're talking about them in English they're all just 'monks'. Even some of the nuns sometimes.

And of course there's religions that mostly don't do the thing that looks quite like being monks, and possibly do have friars, but mostly have their very own distinctive traditions that we probably shouldn't translate, except for the thing where several hundred years of confident English have just been calling them 'priests'.

And where does the D&D cleric come into all this? Depends what you read. It's another distinction that gets complex.

And I haven't even started on religious ranks and roles, where there's as many words for monks-that-do-the-thing as there are for civilians-that-do-the-thing, being far as I can tell separate words even for the same things.

And then there's the ways Roman religion and Roman Catholicism got their terms all over each other, as well as the ways they didn't and times where you have to get your head around a very different way of doing things just to properly translate in your head a word usually rendered into English as 'priest' just like all the other 'priests'.

And the etymologies that leave words meaning their opposites, or the particular journeys through language a word has taken that tells you a lot about conquest and missionaries and how civilisations layer on top of each other.

And yet you get fantasy books, or rarely science fiction, that just plonk in a few 'Sisters' or 'Fathers' and act like that sufficiently explains anything.

... I think from this we mostly learn that I can get thoroughly wound up about anything, especially at three in the morning, but there you go.

Words. Especially titles. More complex than you think.

And once we start messing around with the worldbuilding, shakier than they seem and all.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So much of my time over my life so far has been spent feeling kind of sick that it's actually starting to bug me that there aren't more words for feeling kind of sick.

Read more... )

It's just weird to me that some sorts of common human experiences have more distinct words for them than others.

but I guess mostly people don't talk about feeling sick, especially while feeling sick, and mostly what they need to convey to others is urgh don't want to swallow might upchuck. feeling sick covers that communication.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Writers, please stop trying to be Tolkien.

The things you noticed about how Tolkien used language were the sticking out bits, the ones that didn’t just blend into the world he was making. Trying to copy him tends to amplify his worst tendencies. And without the linguistic knowledge that underlies a lot of his language choices the logic is lost and things just get clunky and inelegant.

Same with trying to make everything sound old fashioned formal all the time. Shakespearean English, like every era, had formal and informal modes, language appropriate to nobility and commoner, but most writers aren’t familiar enough with them to see the differences. Everyone just sounds ponderous. The more formal and rigid the language the more distanced the characters, and the harder it is to make a reader feel connected to them.

Fantasy AUs of modern fandoms are hit hardest by attempts at fantasy language. Once we’re using text to describe these guys the one and only thing we have to work with is the words they would use. Getting their voices right is the hardest part of any fanfic. Trying to crush them all into stilted mock-period formality irons them all flat, and suddenly they resemble themselves not at all.

Once you’ve messed with the spellings on their names, changed all the insitutions they belong to, and given them all the same monotone voices…

Yeah, no.

Please, make the characters the ones you love, bring the setting to life, find all the ways it’s very much like home, and then add dragons or swords or magic if you feel like it. Breathing beats conventional in characterisation every time.

There’s a whole seperate whine about AD&D-esque character classes and how their ridiculously restrictive rails have distorted the entire genre, but that is for another time. Some people like it anyway. Whatever.

But the effect of your language on the reader is waaaaaay more important than some awkward perceived genre limits. Reach your readers, then smooth the infelicitous anachronisms out. Works way better.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Am currently frustrated by trying to look up a half remembered thing I read about twenty years ago. I know which library I was in but it seems unlikely they’d have the same books by now even if randoms were allowed to go dig for things. And I can’t remember if it was a book or a magazine anyway.

I think I remember reading about words that don’t translate easily between languages, specifically words for feelings. Like, there are languages where there are more or less words for love. But I was looking for words for anger.

I remember reading there was a word for the feeling of being angry at an ill person for something they only did because they were ill. It was part of a list of words for anger, and each word seemed to have a different appropriate response. Like, you can’t modify behaviour caused by illness without them getting well again, so it’s a particular sort of frustrated-angry that leaves you only trying to get them medicines or chicken soup or something.

I do not know if this was a real word, or indeed a real thing I read, and I don’t know where I’d start looking for it anyway.

But it seems like it would be a useful word, if it did exist.


Feb. 9th, 2013 07:14 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
You know the words like Mr Mrs Ms / Rev Dr, the ones that go in front of names? Like the most important thing to know about people up front is gender, marital status, and those extras for professional status that are not much like gender and marital status except in particular religions.
Those things are annoying. Half the reason I decided to be Rev is so :-p to gender, people can go guessing, why they need to know? Except then mum called me a cow and thinks it's not proper and it turned into a thing.

But I was randomly thinking, if it's possible to be different species and still introducing yourself, would a society decide to put species up front like that, ahead of gender and marriage?

I was writing a fic where Ai replaced Mr or Mrs for persons of an AI nature. It's short and you can pronounce it and they might not identify gendered anyway, so, Ai.

But if you had uplifted cats and dolphins and visiting vulcans and wookies and all sorts, would there be words to sort them out, or would they all be stuck with Mrs and Mr and Ms, even the ones who need more or less words than that?
Diane Duane's cat wizards kind of sort of have 4 genders because cats get their bits chopped so much they have distinctions between two sorts of female or male, Queens as well as just girl cats. I think. I haven't read them for a while. But they'd need more words than Mr and Mrs.

Are people using those words less anyway? I keep on getting letters to My Full Name, with no title bit on it. My credit card has the title bit but lots of letters don't. And on all these internet places the thing that goes in front of your name isn't a Ms it's that little user head or the DW swirl. The service you're using, not biology or education or whatever. Is different.

We have names now for cats and dogs that aren't introducing themselves but get introduced. They're Miss Kitty or suchlike, but they're not Kitty Miss. It's not routine to indicate species when talking about speechless furbeings.

Which is on occasion confusing.

If aliens visit will they use things like Mr and Mrs and have totally different differences in mind? Like, translators thing they mean genders because they're all the way through all the words, and then they find they mean political affiliation or if they like chocolate or if they can digest milk.

I'm being random. I'll go do something more useful.
... okay, I'll go play computer games, but I'll think very hard about doing something more useful any minute now.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Dear fanfic writers:

Briefings and Debriefings are not the same thing.
I checked with dictionaries. In military context they are distinct.

If your agent is getting information from his boss, that's a briefing.
If your agent is giving information to his boss, that's a debriefing.

Briefings usually happen before an op.
Debriefing usually happens after.

Your agent can also run a briefing, informing people of things they're going to need on an upcoming op, or in general being the one with the knowing.
Or they can run a debriefing, where someone else has the knowing after an op and your agent is asking all the questions.

Yeah they kind of blur together around the edges, but you don't get debriefed about an op that hasn't happened yet, or in a meeting where you know nothing and are going to get informed. Those are briefings.

I realise this shouldn't bother me. But it reads to me like a typo every single time. The urge to go around correcting other people's typos is always great.
... in the unhelpful yet large sense.


BBC Voices

Feb. 19th, 2012 04:48 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I found a page with lots of voice recordings. They all want you to install realplayer but if you launch it as a standalone player VLC can handle it, though it saves a weird lot of files to do it.
It's all people from all over the UK talking, and some of it is talking about words or phrases, like local words or what they call their mother or something. I've only listened to a couple so far, but it looks full of interesting. All the different sounds. And it's navigated with dots on a map, so you can pick a place and listen around.

Still not sufficient to write someone proper, but more interesting than making it up from actors.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Does anyone here happen to speak Swedish?
Actually it's only Google's auto translate that tells me that's the language I'm after.
I was reading a thing on made up nerd words and it included Card's hierarchy of foreignness. I typed it into Google because I vaguely recalled they're not made up words, they're made up meanings. Which would make bringing them into wider use, er, potentially problematic. But google, as usual, presents me with a whole bunch of possibilities I can't make sense of. So, potential Scandinavian speaking people:

utlanning, framling, raman, varelse, djur

what do they mean?

because google reckons utlanning means alien, which is a bit of a pickle when it's meant to mean human you don't know.

Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
People say 'crazy' a lot. Usually about people they disagree with, or ideas they want to trash. And what they say 'crazy' to mean is something like 'don't bother thinking about that no more', with a side order of 'don't listen'.

Once something is 'crazy' then it is beyond understanding, it is rejected as an idea, it isn't something you need to spend brain power on. It's just crazy, that's its whole reason, all done.
Once someone is crazy? Same difference. Just crazy, all done, move along, nothing to see here.
It's a one word dismissal of meaning and value.
And it isn't said to mean 'I don't understand', it's said to mean 'there's nothing to understand'. It's a way of deciding there's nothing wrong in the hearer, no gap or ignorance that's the problem, it's just that other dude is crazy.

This makes it a completely useless word.

If 'crazy' can't be understood or reasoned with or handled or dealt with then what is there left to do with it?

Just turn your back and pretend its not there. Somebody elses problem. Just more crazies.

Ignorance is poison and 'crazy' is a word that encourages user and listeners to stay ignorant.

Everyone makes sense from the inside. Even actual 'crazy' people. Even mentally ill people. You maybe need to understand their illness, rather than the specific words they're saying, but you still very much do need to understand.

So every single use of the word 'crazy'? That's another drop of ignorance poison.

Never listen to the stuff that tells you to stop listening.

Always is better to understand more.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
You know this morning I decided to have a character be from a muslim space station?
So I spent the day poking websites and getting a better feeling for the depths of my extreme ignorance.
Then I thought, hey, I skip all this, I go name the character and get on with it.

... yeah, that's... not so simple. Makes complete sense in its way, but inventing one of those names? Oh, that would take some doing.

Names: Not just first and last, around the world

... I should have realised this earlier cause I know what Alexander Siddig was called before he simplified for an audience and made it Alexander Siddig. He was Siddig El Fadil on credits for a while, but his official site says:
Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig El Abderahman El Mohammed Ahmed El Abdel Karim El Mahdi (he goes by “Sid”)

funnily enough none of his characters on wiki have that much name.

so does a new made up character only need the one name? the one syllable? out of all that all?

And all naming convention massively complicated by the way there isn't a standard transliteration for Arabic so the exact same person's exact same name can have a huge great list of ways of writing it.
... apparently this has been screwing up US intelligence databases something awful for years...

I can make up a name simples, but it's a worldbuilding choice. If I make the names that sound easy to my British ears then I've made Arabic-via-Britain at best. If the migration didn't go through Britain then it sounds different.

Read more... )

Naming and language has so much history tied up in it.

Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I've been inventing interstellar empires in my head again.

You know how if a new planet is called Alpha you know it was first and Beta was second?
Or it could be Terra Nova.
They're the intuitively obvious 'neutral' names, the Greek and Latin sounding names that seem obvious from a British background and presumably USA too cause they use them a lot.

What's the obvious names in India?
Or China?
Or New Zealand?

Because we're not naming them Planet A and B and colony New Land, so it's not as simple as looking up those things in other languages. (And India has a lot of languages. I don't know where to start.)

So what are the names of the first places going to be, when India or China or some other hugely populated part of Earth gets there?

I don't even know where to ask.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Read more... )

But I don't go saying this stuff directly to people. I don't know where the line is between 'needs saying' and 'background irritation'. It's just one word, in one quote, which made sense in context, in an annoying kind of way.

But you add it all together and you get language where the insults are about making bad words out of neuroatypical, disabled or queer.

I could really live without that, you know?

I tried once reworking insults for a future SF setting, reworking the swear words so they made sense in context. If you take out the religion swears as totally irrelevant, and the sex swears because sex isn't a bad thing, and the sexual orientation swears because everyone can do who they want, and the race swears because race is just neutral, and the disability swears because there isn't any disability any more (or there is and nobody puts moral weight on it), you very nearly run out of swears. You're left with words for body parts or body fluids or excrement. And a PG rating for language. And a language only suitable for utopia.

Which, you know, I could live with.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I'm interested in this partly because it overlaps so much with what we're doing in class this year: how meaning drifts over time.
We've studied Chaucer English and Shakespeare English and obviously we talk Now English.
There's better words for all of that but I don't rightly know them because class isn't from that angle and I hadn't found an interesting way in yet.
So everything I write down here I learned from trying to look stuff up in the backs of books or on Reliable: I no has it.
But I found interesting:

There's word uses in there that are incredibly insulting, war starters, in one era, the common useage of another, and just not used now. Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I had an idea about using Janus words as chapter headers / episode titles in a Janus themed story.
is the wiki page
but right now it won't load
gives some error message about using an unsupported form of compression.
So I write it here and see if I remember later.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So I was thinking Torchwood lines in my head
and thinking how there isn't a correct way to refer to someone in a sentence without knowing their gender
because 'they' isn't correct (I get told) and so you need he or she

except, that's in English
and also there are other words sometimes used
a bit new and not generally agreed on maybe, but existing

but I was wondering about other languages

specifically Welsh and Japanese, most relevant for the scene I had in mind

Jack's first language might be English - the whole universe speaks English, and there's all this TV that might, possibly, keep the language pinned down a bit - but it won't be the same English because people keep needing to use it for new things. The way there's words in use for bloke-that-fathered-this-child that is not the word for husband or boyfriend or even ex, because the relevant relationship is still existing. Language gets shaped by what people need to use it for. So the language in Jack's head would be shaped by whatever his culture uses it for.

So now I'm vaguely poking at language, and realising I don't have the tools. So I ask the internets in general.
... only so vaguely I'm not even sure *what* I'm asking.

Maybe... if Ianto or Tosh were talking to their parents about their new lover, how easy would it be to play the pronoun game if they weren't speaking English? It's a bit obvious in English even. So they'd be talking about a special someone... can they say someone in a neutral way?

I don't know. My thoughts are vague and fuzzy.


beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)

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