Anachronisms in Fantasy

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

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes, unless you were doing something with a humorous bent to, that phrase is such a well-know phrase of modern retail that it is almost cliche. It would seem strange in a fantasy work without a good reason for it. I could see it in a humorous story--hobbit wanders into comedy version of Bree, sees the sign in the window of the Prancing Pony and leaves, muttering "fuck you." :D
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's the crux of the matter. It's not that an author 'can't' use anachronisms or slang, it's that they are in danger of flipping the reader out of the story. Maybe only momentarily, but the moments do add up.

    Using an intentionally archaic language can have the same effect, unfortunately.

    Probably best aim for a neutral tone. "Yes," or "as you wish" is better from that perspective, than "OK." Neither of those first terms will seem out of place in a medieval fantasy setting. "OK" will definitely jar. There isn't any reason why an author writing medieval fantasy can't choose to use modern slang, but it's a good idea for the author to be aware they are making that choice. If the choice just slips out by accident, it's going to stand out—and not in a good way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019 at 12:59 PM
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds like we’re not nearly as far apart on this issue as I originally thought, then.
     
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  4. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

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    If it’s in a secondary world, details like the language and technologies will be up to the writer. So I would be willing to give slack so long as the phrases and technologies are justifiable given the world.
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It's back to Colbert's "Truthiness", I'd say. It's not a question of what's ACTUALLY accurate, it's a question of what people FEEL is accurate.
     
  6. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

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    I remember reading that in the movie gladiator, historian consultants suggested that the gladiators carry advertisements for Roman products out onto the field with them, because real gladiators actually did that. But the movie makers decided not to filn that, because audiences would have felt it was an anachronism.
     
  7. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    This exactly. The "fuck off" wouldn't bother me because they would have equivalent words for rude profanity. I'm betting that "fuck" has been around forever. Maybe it's the complete idiom "fuck off" that bothers you, but my knowledge of English is not enough to be annoyed by it. But now that you mention it I can see how it sounds too modern.
     
  8. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    A random bit of LOTR with an extra line from Pippin. It might just be me, but, personally, I don't think it fits. Even in a few short paragraphs it's impossible not to become absorbed in Tolkien's world, and it's just as easy to be chucked out by a potty-mouthed Pippin

     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    That’s a rather poor example of inserting the phrase into a work where it clashes with what the author has already established. Not relevant here.
     
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  10. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    I really didn't want this thread to be about the F word. It's more about the use of "picnic" in the 9th century.
    So, suddenly, it makes you think of people with picnic baskets and umbrellas setting table cloths in green lawns. Silverware and all.
    This was the time when Vikings were invading Britain. If you have watched the show Vikings this will be particularly amusing. Vikings always ate outdoors while they were raiding. Lots of picnics between rape and pillage.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    If your story is set in the real world in the 9th century, the use probably won't work. If it is set in a wholly-made up fantasy world that incorporated elements of the 9th century world, then it may or may not work depending on how you've established the story world. There's no reason it can't work in such a fantasy story, but it's up to the author to ensure that it does.
     
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  12. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    I thought it was rather a good example of certain words and phrases being absolutely anachronistic. I picked a bit of the highest of fantasies totally at random and inserted a word that clashes with the mood

    Apologies @Rosacrvx - I didn't mean to derail the thread, I merely cited something in a novel written by a good friend of mine in agreement with your original point that some words can absolutely jerk me out of a story and it got rather jumped on by the collective as if it were a single issue thing, which it was never meant to be.
     
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  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    To me, it's more of a cherry-picked example taking a work where you know the phrase will be out of place in contrast to the rest of the work, and then throwing it in there. You could have a high fantasy setting like Tolkien's, but where the phrase works, so long as the author established the world in that manner. Tolkien did not. Pippin's words would also be out of place if he suddenly started speaking Spanish, but that doesn't mean you can never have Spanish dialogue in a fantasy novel.
     
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  14. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like we may be trying to draw general rules that are far too broad to actually be useful?

    Like, hopefully no one is saying there's absolutely no time, ever, that a modern swear word wouldn't be appropriate in historical fantasy, and hopefully no one is saying that modern swear words are absolutely always appropriate in historical fantasy.

    So the LOTR example is an example of a time when a modern swear word wouldn't be appropriate, but that doesn't mean there are no times when it's appropriate. And finding an example of a time when a modern swear word does work wouldn't mean modern swear words always work.

    As with everything else in writing - if it works, it works; if it doesn't, try something else!
     
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  15. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    I agree wholeheartedly!
    As my WIP is Gaslamp/Historical Fiction I'm careful to be neither too modern with dialogue, or too overwrought. My aim is to evoke 1792, France. Not to beat the reader over the head with 1792, France. As such, I use the C word, probably just this once. Though in the passage below it's a ghost who's doing the talking. But as she appears flesh-and-blood real to poor Rose, I think it still counts as vulgar language that's probably not true to 1707 when the woman was last seen alive.

    “Madame, you have a lovely voice, if I may say so, but I can’t place your accent," said Rosemarie. "Are you from around here?”

    The woman eyed Rosemarie with curious intent, then let slip a gossamar-thin smile. “My, such an innocent question. True, it is from other lands that I return, though they are not as far away as you may think. In fact, it’s right under your very nose where the winds of Limbo roar. It’s all coming back to me . . . A league of extraordinary ladies took me into their fold, sins and all, and cast me as the tragic heroine — a part I was born to play, I’m afraid. And so I gladly did their dirty work, and had my fun too, drank the wine and invited many lovers to my bed. But like any well-kept mercenary, I was soon called on to earn my keep. Off I went that bleak autumn night, down to where the good ladies hide that abomination. Three of the Devil’s most prized swordsmen came calling, and thus the stage was set for a battle royale. The first two I made quick work of and cut them down like sunflowers. They dropped to their knees with their stupid grins still on, and me with nary a scratch. How swiftly three became one. But alas, the last duelist proved to be my equal. He announced with a superfluity of bravado, ‘I am d’Artagnan! I will forgive you for taking those men, who’re dearer to me than life, right after I carve up your cunt!’ Now that was a wonder, how a man called back from the grave could still harbor brotherly love. Who’s to know? God has his mysteries, then why not Lucifer? No matter. We crossed blades, then got down to the nasty business of killing. Every parry — every retreat, advance, lunge, and thrust— we matched move for move, cutting each other to ribbons, until finally, with every ounce of our being spent and in a god-awful bloody mess, we stumbled back to our corners to catch our wind. It was then that we both seemed to realize how things were going to end, and all that was left to us was the doing of it. I could not let him take what he came for, nor could he leave without it. So he gave me a rakish bow, at which I blew him a goodbye kiss, and with all pleasantries dispensed, we charged at each other like two brainless bulls! I ran him clean through with my rapier as he did me, and together we bit the dust as the curtain fell.”
     
  16. Norfolk nChance

    Norfolk nChance Member

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    I agree with the OP and as for the RULE of law...

    Fornication Under Consent of the King... A rule that evolved into a phrase to express forced subservient obedience with no way out of a situation.

    Poor or out of sync language Historical, Fantasy or Sci-Fi can kill the mood. Using the wrong military ranks to “OK” or “Frak” breaks the attention and flow in my opinion. Maybe the need for a research book into different language expressions is called for...



    Norfolk
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I can’t tell if you think that’s the real origin of the word...?
     
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  18. Norfolk nChance

    Norfolk nChance Member

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    @ChickenFreak

    Whether it is or not is not important. How the swear word is used, to identify a negative boxed situation that’s out of our hands is. Is it the real origin? It’s a good a guess as any, and probably wrong... but feels old in usage

    OK – probably was the cut down version of “orl korrect” ... but feels modern in usage...

    The BSG use of FRAK is very annoying to me in the similar way it doesn’t sit right within its universe...



    Norfolk
     
  19. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is the problem/challenge of the "truthiness" approach or the "do what works" system I advocated earlier. It's really subjective.

    I mean, if I read a historical novel that seemed to suggest the origin of "fuck" was any kind of acronym, whether related to "carnal knowledge" or the "consent of the king" I'd absolutely be taken out of the story, because I know that's an urban legend (see https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/what-the-fuck/ for discussion).

    So for ME, that would pull me out of the novel. But for someone who doesn't enjoy amateur etmology and/or Snopes as much as I do, it might seem silly of an author to include any other understanding of the word origin.

    How does an author decide which reader to write for? What does she do if she wants to write for ALL readers?

    I've read historical fiction with footnotes outlining the research the author put into various aspects of the story. I think it can be interesting, when done well, but once you start footnoting I imagine it's hard to know where to stop, and it did certainly turn the reading experience into something less emotionally immersive. I like history, so I was okay reading a history-book-with-some-characters, but that might not be universal.

    Are there less intrusive solutions people can come up with? I think we had a thread a while ago about times when truth is stranger than fiction, and what to do when the actual reality of a fictional situation would feel false to a majority of readers. Anyone remember that thread? I can't think of words to use to search for it.
     
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  20. Norfolk nChance

    Norfolk nChance Member

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    @BayView

    One of my main interests is the Age of Sail and the Napoleonic era especially. The amount of nautical terms and phrases in common use today is amazing. Looking behind the phrases again is interesting as they can derive from the foreign term that the ordinary seaman adopts...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_(ship)

    https://www.crewseekers.net/notices/three-sheets-wind-nautical-slang-common-usage/

    The book Jack Tar and the Baboon watch is a real eye-opener.

    https://www.amazon.com/Jack-Tar-Baboon-Watch-Landlubbers/dp/0071825266

    and for a fantasy world, which for the most is Tolkien’s Dark Ages of Middle England where can you go for any reference... What the Mordor is that...? it feels false as well right...

    Another way would be to deflect the language and slang/swear words all together. This is part of a short I did with two sisters talking, not sure it works but you get the idea... any fuck or other references would actually fit in...

    Norfolk



    Both spoke to each other in a cheeky girlish creole accented pigeon only they understood...

    “My Baby Shia what are you going to ask Petro-Loas for tonight...?” Tai cheekily giggled as she re-filled the tankards.

    “I will ask our Dark Lord Petro-Loas first to protect my beautiful sister. Then I will tell him to rip the British Fleet Admiral’s heart out...” she viciously spat the words with venom then moved rolling her arms starting to dance round the outside of the chalked ring. Both girls with swaying arms, sang moving anti-clockwise with the wind, ‘round the circle... as the witching hour struck.
     
  21. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    Following this bc I'm writing a medieval-based fantasy and anachronisms in language are definitely something I'm going to have to handle in the editing phase.
     
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  22. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    Meanwhile, found another one in the same book.

    "Why don't you take the day off?"

    Yeah, why doesn't she book some well deserved vacations while she's at it?
    This would be so easy to avoid: Why don't you rest for today?
    The concept of a "day off" in the 9th century boggles the mind. It would also boggle the mind of 9th century people. There simply was not a concept of a "break from work" as we know it. Work was all people did, every day, no exception.

    I'm not as fundamentalist as that. Previously in the story the character uses the word "stoic" and it made me laugh because she couldn't have known the Greek philosophers. I let that one pass. She could have used "brave" and it would mean the same thing. But whatever, let's pretend "stoic" doesn't have connotations the character couldn't possibly know about.
    But lately in the book the author is revealing that she never thought about this at all.

    Hence this thread. Doing my part so that writers do at least think about it.
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like you're kind of looking for trouble with these. I mean, if you think the phrasing feels too contemporary for the rest of the story, that's one thing, but... they had holidays (Holy Days) in the 9th century, and I don't see a big distinction between "day off" and "rest for today"... they both suggest that the character won't be doing any work that day, right? So it's a language issue rather than a realism issue.

    And in terms of...
    ?

    All of our modern words have histories and changed meanings and etymologies, and it seems really strange to pick on this single word when the rest of the dialogue has already been translated, presumably, from Old English. Hardly any of the words in the book would have been used by someone actually living in 9th century Britain, right? According to at least one translator (https://www.oldenglishtranslator.co.uk/), a possible Old English word for "stoic" would be "bald"... but if you had your character actually calling someone else "bald" because you wanted to be authentic to the historical period, I think you'd have some confused modern readers!
     
  24. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    I did let "stoic" pass. But recently the examples are accumulating. The more they accumulate the more I notice them. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed "day off" if it weren't for "manicured" and "picnic" (twice for "picnic").
    I'm not looking for them. They just keep jumping out at me.


    EDITED: I originally wrote "They just keep jumping on my face", but that's all wrong. Phrasal verbs and prepositions are the bane of the non-native English speaker. Hope I have the right phrasal verb now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 6:06 AM
  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well...there were festivals, which of course involved work but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a group effort and a day off from more conventional grinding work. And women gave birth and were therefore "off" their usual work. And people got sick. And I'll bet that there were optional could-do-it-tomorrow parts of work and gotta-do-it-today-or-the-fire-goes-out parts of work. And I'll bet that occasionally Middle Son could do Older Son's non-optional tasks for the day. And that when Dad and Son were rebuilding the rock wall that surrounded the sheep grazing, they might occasionally take a day off from that task while their hands healed.

    And my understanding that there was a good deal less work in winter, in many cultures.

    So I'm not so sure about "all people did, every day, no exception". The phrase may be modern, but I'm not sure about the concept.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019 at 7:57 PM
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