1. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    Anachronisms in Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Rosacrvx, Jan 6, 2019.

    Anyone else is bothered by anachronisms in works of Fantasy that are supposed to happen in ancient times?
    The worse example of all, characters saying “OK" in medieval inspired Fantasy:
    “Boy, go fetch me my horse and make haste of it.”
    “OK, my Lord.”
    I notice this a lot in inexperienced beginners but it really makes me cringe when I find it in books acclaimed by critics and published traditionally.
    I’m reading “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier and though I‘m enjoying the story and the writing the anachronisms are beginning to annoy me to distraction. It’s a first person narration (to make it slightly worse) happening in 9th century Britain. I was aghast when I read words like “manicured” hands and “picnic”. In first person. As a non-native I even checked the etymology of the words. Maybe these were long forgotten Celtic terms and I didn’t know about it. But that’s not what etymology says. The words weren’t used until the 18th century and there was no need whatsoever to use them to make things clear. “Well trimmed nails” and “a meal outside” would have worked just fine. I’m surprised that this got past the traditional publishing process and didn’t seem to bother anyone involved.
    I’ve noticed more anachronistic words and idioms, but nothing so offensive. Picnic was indeed the last straw. Hence the rant.

    Anyone else hates it as much? Why aren’t beginner writers more advised against this? That, for instance, there was no such thing as a “bathroom” until, I don’t know, the 19th century, in some cases later? That people used a chamber pot and bathed in their sleeping quarters, when they did bathe? (This example is not from the same book.)
     
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  2. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Occasionally. But what I dislike even more- trying to read Old English or most other older forms of writing.

    Yet you knew what was going on in the story I am guessing, so it worked.
     
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  3. Artifacs

    Artifacs Active Member

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    Yeah, I'm with you. Why to read an medieval setting when you keep finding the same modern speech which one can hear from the radio, TV or the grocery store down the street?
    I believe this (error?) breaks the mood of the scene and makes you think: "Right, what didn't the author just write an emoji here? At least, it would save me some time."
    However, I find interesting modern speech in medieval settings (fantasy, sci-fi, etc) that are conceived to be different or humorous. IMO, this use has to be go along with the world and characters.
    One of the things that surprised me from the Geralt's de Rivia Saga (medieval fantasy for grown ups) was the voice of the characters. The speech is full of ancient modisms and precise words that I've never read before. I learned a lot of new Spanish words. ("What??? We have a verb to express ALL of that?")
     
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  4. Artifacs

    Artifacs Active Member

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    I rather to read: country meal or something descriptive, so I can translate in my head as a modern picnic.
     
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  5. Nariac

    Nariac Senior Member

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    I remember one example in Game of Thrones where a character is described as falling onto his "butt" or "ass". One of those two. And I was instantly drawn out of pseudo-Medieval mood and into that of contemporary American slang.
     
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  6. Tristan's Opa

    Tristan's Opa Member Supporter

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    They didn't have asses in GoT? I read about quite a few..... ;)
     
  7. Nariac

    Nariac Senior Member

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    That's what threw me, to be honest. They're mentioned a lot, but George Martin usually uses the words "arse," "backside," or bottom." The use of ass/butt just stuck out like a sore ... well ... ass. :p What was worse was that it was Tyrion who thought in that term and he's supposed to be the intellectual one.
     
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  8. Tristan's Opa

    Tristan's Opa Member Supporter

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    I may have missed that or just passed it by. Good catch! I'll be watching a little closer now when I finally pick up Fire and Ice.
     
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  9. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    Sorry, no it didn't. It distracted me completely from the story. Made the reading experience worse. Much worse because the word picnic was not needed.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Doesn’t bother me in a made-up world unless the author is violating what they’ve established as the rules of the setting. There are no real anachronisms in made up fantasy apart from those.

    If it’s set in the real world it is a problem.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    This doesn’t bother me. It’s a made up world. The dialogue is all in modern English, or at least prominently so.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t like language in this sort of fantasy for which the origin is too obvious—unless it’s a clear conscious design decision, like in the TV series Britannia. But “picnic” wouldn’t have bothered me, because I had no idea that it was a relatively modern word. Actually, “manicured” wouldn’t either.
     
  13. AbyssalJoey

    AbyssalJoey Member

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    No, by that line of logic the entire book is "anachronistic", last time I checked I wasn't able to understand old english and only a few words in middle english.
     
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  14. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    Arse is Old English. Apparently from Middle Dutch "ærs"

    As others have said, I struggled enough with Chaucer let alone C9th Britain when anything written would almost certainly have been in Latin anyway!

    That said a bit of care is nice. A friend writes high fantasy, and when one of his characters tells another to fuck off it throws me right out.
     
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  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Doesn’t make sense to me. Are you saying you’re ok with all of the magic, creatures, supernatural, and other elements that a high fantasy world has but if the speech of the world has the phrase “fuck off” that’s suddenly too much for you?
     
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  16. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    yes
     
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I suspect you are an anomaly as a reader.
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Obvious language anachronisms definitely bother me, too, though I don't regard that particular one as an obvious language anachronism.

    Imagine that someone in that fantasy world were, say, wearing Air Jordans. It would bother you, right?
     
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  19. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    Good. Nice to know that I stand out at something.

    To be quite honest in this particular book profanity stood out anyway, it was like Bilbo Baggins calling you a wanker
     
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  20. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Active Member

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    Not only would "ass" not pull me out of a medieval fantasy world, I would likely prefer it over "arse."
     
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  21. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    Absolutely - it obviates any confusion when talking about donkeys
     
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  22. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Active Member

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  23. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, but it's fantasy. Given the world doesn't technically exist, why is it more plausible that they speak pseudo-Early Modern English rather than Post Industrial English. If you wanted to get rid of all the linguistic anachronisms based on it's medieval European setting, the characters should mostly be speaking Middle English or Old French.
     
  24. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    :)

     
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  25. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    I tend to agree - if we as writers are asking our readers to suspend their disbelief when it comes to wizards, invisibility spells, and portals that take us to another universe, then the occassional fuck or wanker should be neither here nor there, BUT we are trying to create an atmosphere. It is more than conceivable that a fantasy world would discover electricity before the internal combustion engine, but if Gandalf turned up and popped his dinner in the microwave I think it would detract from that.

    The whole experience is about immersing us in a world seamlessly and some things seem to create seams. It's purely subjective, so there is no right or wrong but a "fuck off" in a 120,000 word novel with nothing stronger than a damn or bugger did grate on me. Your mileage may vary, as they say (c:
     
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