1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Inventing a new vocabulary and all new colloquialisms

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by GingerCoffee, Jul 29, 2014.

    I'm finding dozens of the phrases I would naturally use, I can't use on my new planet.

    "... face changed from bulldog to guilty puppy": They don't have dogs on the planet. If I say looking like a guilty [insert other named animal] will the readers relate?

    I'm reading Dan Simmons' "Endymion", the third book in the Hyperion series. He has an entire invented vocabulary of technical things: fat lines, Hawking Matt, fleshette guns, and so on.

    Anyway, I need to develop a whole new vocabulary including some new idioms. I'm considering creating a dictionary for my world building.

    Do we still use colloquialisms or idioms with past things no longer in existence in the present? I'm wondering if I can get away with old Earth colloquialisms 4-5 generations later on a new planet?
     
  2. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    But all kidding aside, we use terms from 300 years ago or more. The phrase "White as a sheet" was first used in the 1600's.

    Sorry I can't back that up, it comes from a etymology desk calendar. I'll try to find a link.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A lot of terms have very old roots, that's a good point.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    We do, but the phrases that stay with us and the ones that disappear can be next to impossible to predict.

    The car was rocking to and fro. Fro is a dead word in English save for this one instance unless one is talking about hairstyles, but we still understand the meaning of back and forth.

    Kit and caboodle. Caboodle ultimately derives from booty, as in a pirate's booty, loot. The meaning in the phrase is still clear, though the derivation is completely opaque to modern ears.

    Mad as a wet hen. People still know what a hen is, but how often do actual suburbanites have any contact with the reality that creates that saying.

    In for a penny, in for a pound. We don't say In for a penny, in for a dollar in America. And I would hazard to guess that the average Joe American who uses that idiom assumes that a measure of weight is being referenced, not a monetary amount.

    So, I would say yes, idioms would survive 4 to 5 generations later. That's only about 100 years.

    ETA: Some words might find new application as well. Bulldog is a bit too specific to hang on a new animal, but puppy could easily find a new use for a cute baby thingamadoodle on your planet. ;)
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Gives me an idea, think I'll change it to 'pup'.
     
  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have good taste in desk calendars.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    His face dropped like crap on a grav plate.

    His smile vanished and he looked guilty as Skinner. (No need to explain who Skinner is; Besides, it resonates of the anachronistic "guilty as sin."
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like that idea of name dropping as a way of showing the world is different.
     
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  10. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    William Gibson makes up words for some of his futuristic things ('slamhound' for example) and their definition (function) is apparent from the context. Same with Joss Whedon's 'crybaby' in the first episode of Firefly.
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    And lets not forget the penultimate "Smeg", the first sci-fi swear word.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That gave me an idea:

    Swearwords of Science Fiction and Fantasy
     
  13. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Sorry, but for me the list begins and ends with smeg.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Gems?
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No.
     
  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Somebody posted a list here at some point about using clich├ęs in fiction, so I'm just wondering is it even a good idea to use colloquialisms/idioms that have been more or less worn out to start with? Of course if it's in dialogue and the characters say them, then it kinda makes sense...

    Anyway, it seems it takes a while for some colloquialism to stick, so in that sense I could buy it that your characters use sayings from the old Earth. We still use expressions that Shakespeare coined back in the day. Then there're those catch phrases that live for a while, often popularized by TV shows or movies, and then disappear from everyday use, so maybe you can create a mix of sayings typical to your "new world" and then throw in some old sayings that are still in use even if your world's currency wasn't a pound or no chickens were bred on that planet.

    Also, if you've mixed different nationalities in your story, it's possible some sayings bleed from, say, Spanish to English. This can happen very fast -- for example, in a matter of years the English idiom "in the long run" entered Finnish. Sure, editors seem to recommend that you should never translate idioms and such, but I think a few select ones would work, like a Swiss friend of mine mentioned that they have a saying in Swiss German "to carry your heart on your tongue" to describe people who don't hide their feelings, but I think the meaning is still conveyed even though it's not used in English.

    I don't know if you'd really want to have a separate dictionary. Who reads those? Create a context that explains the meaning of your new word or colloquialism. Suppose the challenge is to find a balance between reader-friendly and not throwing them out of the story with too Old World-ish words.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Back in my early days here, I entered the Short Story Competition with a short story with a created slang. The story isn't anything special, but I'm happy with how I was able to incorporate the slang into the story without any special explanations.

    This is it: Recruitment
     
  18. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    I recall responding to a similar post recently. I believe that you should invent your own idioms. I have a flash fiction piece in which I create many alien expressions, that mirror earth like phrases. When the phrase you create has an obvious earth style cognate, the reader will easily interpret them.

    And for the record, Simmons did not invent 'flechette gun.' I recall reading that over thirty years ago, I am sure.
     

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