1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Nictate or peel

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Wreybies, Oct 21, 2014.

    In the context, they mean the same thing. I like the image of nictate, but naggingly over-question higher register words in my writing all the time.

    In the scene, a male of an alien species who is tiny compared to the female (think hedgehog size compared to a human, but still looking like the female), walks across the expanse of a control dashboard on the deck of a female commander's ship. The male has a membrane across the top of his head instead of a complete skull that pulls back to expose his brain, which he then sticks into a correspondingly shaped depression in the dash, delivers the data he holds in his brain, and then dies, brushed aside by the female down an adjacent slope into a disposal chute. It's a way to deliver private secure messages.

    So, back to the question: the brain flap. I like the quick action, the speed, implied by nictate, but I worry that it's overly "look at my big word!" compared to just peel or pull back.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    While the word nictate seems to exist, its usage is rare enough that you may as well have made it up, and i'm generally against creating new words in fiction unless there meanings are obvious. I'd go with peel.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I doubt I'd use nictate. It does carry that stigma of an author just showing off for the heck of it.
     
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  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I came across "nictitating membrane" in a sci-fi story a long time ago (to nictitate means to wink, as does to nictate) but there was a point...which was to prefigure - subtly - that this was a species of humanoid that had a "third eyelid" indicating that it had been genetically engineered from a lizard. Sadly, dogs have nictitating membranes, so the lizard connection is not cast-iron.

    Incidentally, the meaning of "wink" strongly implies a connection to the eye, and a movement which, whilst under control, is fairly rapid...unlike being held open whilst a data transfer takes place.

    My point is, if you want to make a point such as the above, use nictate...otherwise stick to peel back.
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the input. :) I guess I was after something that sounded as alien as it is, but if the word isn't in as general play as I had thought, then no image will be conveyed in the mind of the reader, which is not the goal. ;)
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, i'd stick with peel just because I know most readers would probably have no idea what image to summon along the word nictate.
     
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  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I guess I'm in the minority. Nictate is an uncommon word, but not all that obscure. An occasional uncommon word is not a bad thing, if it is apt to the context. You aren't inundating the reader with "fancy lingo", you're seasoning the soup with a subtle savor.

    Assume the reader has a brain, and may also not be averse to consulting a dictionary.

    Any day you learn something new is a good day.
     
  8. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    This isn't much, but, possibly because of my idiocy, I immediately thought of nicotine, due to vague sound and appearance based connections. I only bring this up to consider the possible associations that may come up in a reader's head.
     
  9. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @Swiveltaffy
    yeah I did the same a few times.
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    And that's how malapropism comes about
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quite like when I learn new words as I'm reading. It's easier on Kindle because I can just look it up. If the flow of the sentence and rhythm supports 'nictate' use it. If it sounds like it's trying too hard, it doesn't fit.

    I don't know how often your characters are 'nictating' but you can couple that word with that action only, so it would add to the mystery if the sci fi concept. If you know what I mean. :)
     
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  12. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    If one follows through, yes.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, and that was my initial impetus. It's a one-time use and I like the alien, biological sound of it. I don't have little male aliens nictating their brain flaps here, there and everywhere. Just the once in the scene that introduces the character of the ship commander, Akhmaha. I have the same communication (data transfer) happening in a different scene where I wrote the exchange in a much more normal, "our human technology", kind of way. When I flipped to the next chapter that picks up the tail end of the last chapter, but tells it from Akhmaha's side and then continues on into the subsequent events, I pictured Akhmaha having appendages that she slips into correspondingly shaped inlets in the dash of her ship, that this was their direction of technology, that she's quasi-connected to the ship on a biotechnological level, but not trapped as a permanent part of the ship. That's when the idea of the little (sadly disposable) male (following the angler fish trope) came to mind. Also, frankly, nictate was away around peel, which is common enough, but is so often used to describe the action of a foreskin, which could easily be how someone sees it, and that's not how I see the brain flap at all. It's more like a thin translucence single eyelid.
     
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  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol, you know, glans and foreskin was exactly what it reminded me once I tried to picture it using the word 'peel'. I really like the 'nictate' but it's difficult to say not seeing the sentence. I'm also always fascinated by what the aliens look like, and sometimes it's so vividly explained, but I still want to see how the author sees it. It's one thing that drives me nuts about Peter F Hamilton, I wish his books came with illustrations because I'm not very imaginative :D

    ps. The membrane could 'recede' as well, just occurred to me.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I can't find any definition for nictate except: to blink. That doesn't translate to peel?
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, since it directly invokes the idea (at least in my mind) of a nictating (or nictitating) membrane, the picture in my mind of the structure was akin to this:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I was after the implied translucency as well.
     
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  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "Keep your eyes peeled" means keep your eyes open, i.e. the lids peeled back. But with a nictitating membrane, you can blink and still not miss a thing.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Thank you both for that enlightening information.
     

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