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  1. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Language to Use When Writing High Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by jjwiggin, Jan 3, 2017.

    Is it okay to use common words when writing high fantasy? For example, expressions like, 12:00 (written this way) instead of using the word "noon" or "high noon". High Fantasy writers like Tolkien use old English even when narrating their stories, but it can get tedious.

    So, need help - this is for a friend who is currently writing a high fantasy story.
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    It'd have to be on a case-by-case basis. For instance, saying "twelve o' clock" wouldn't make sense in a setting with no clocks. But if it's high fantasy with clocks, then sure, why not? You just want to avoid anachronism.
     
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  3. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Agree - there are no clocks, I think. This is very helpful. He also uses expressions like, "her baby", referring to a weapon that the character liked particularly. I think it is not appropriate given the setting of the story (which is similar to LOTR).
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I think that one's more down to tone. It doesn't strike me as out of place for that type of setting, necessarily.
     
  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not to be pedantic, but Tolkien uses Modern English. The average person would neither be able to read nor understand Old English were they to come across something written in it.

    The first section of Beowolf in Old English.

    HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
    þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
    hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
    oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
    monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah,
    egsode eorlas, syððanærest wearð
    feasceaft funden; he þæs frofre gebad,
    weox under wolcnum weorðmyndum þah,
    oð þæt him æghwylc ymbsittendra
    ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
    gomban gyldan; þæt wæs god cyning!
    Ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned
    geong in geardum, þone God sende
    folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat,
    þe hie ær drugon aldorlease
    lange hwile; him þæs Liffrea,
    wuldres Wealdend woroldare forgeaf,
    Beowulf wæs breme --- blæd wide sprang---
    Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.
    Swa sceal geong guma gode gewyrcean,
    fromum feohgiftumon fæder bearme,

    Even Middle English leaves most contemporary readers cross-eyed. A snippet of the Canterbury Tales By Chaucer in Middle English:

    To telle yow al the condicioun,
    Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
    And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
    And eek in what array that they were inne,
    And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

    What Tolkien and those who came after do use is simply a quaintly archaic rendition of Modern English, a fabrication meant to intone olden days because there's nothing precise or historically accurate about it, and as a writer who expected his work to be read by a contemporary audience, it was never his intention to give a precise rendition.

    As to the question, there is defo high fantasy that lacks that Prithee tell, Goody Smith, whither goest thou? sound. The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan immediately comes to mind.

    As mentioned by @izzybot, just try to avoid anachronism, things that wouldn't exist in their world, thus wouldn't be referenced. It's harder than you think. ;) Even Tolkien anachronistically references potatoes, which are a New World plant, and weren't imported to his whereabouts until 1588.
     
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  6. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Oh good points! Thanks. Yes, I think I was pertaining to the archaic touch that Tolkien had in his language. Avoid anachronism - GOT IT!
     
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  7. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't know they drank so much in Old England...

    :D
     
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Try a Hob Gobblin Ale some time. :)
    Bit dry and too bitter for my tastes.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that "her baby" makes reasonable sense. A baby would still be a precious thing that you protect and care for and value very highly, so the metaphor still works.
     
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  10. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    I only heard this used once - princess diaries. I don't think it's appropriate for the story. When I read that line, I keep picturing Ann Hathaway ...
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Ah, that would explain it. I've heard it countless times. A car is often referred to as "his/her baby", which reminds me of the Nationwide commercial:

    (Ack! I can't paste in a link to YouTube without it being converted to embedded video? Removed!)

    If I Google "car is his baby" (in quotes), I get 120,000 results. "car is her baby", 255,000. "boat is his baby", 18,700. "lawn is his baby", surprisingly only 8. "gun is his baby" 5.

    Yeah, I got lost in the Google fog. Anyway. It's a common phrase.
     
  12. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Yeah... but all those you mentioned are modern stuff. car, boat, lawn, gun... this was referring to a sword - with a name! Like Anduril - flame of the west. Is it still appropriate, you think?
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, babies have been around for a while, so...
     
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  14. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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  15. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    That's not the point though. I mean, I cannot see Aragorn saying, "My baby" to Anduril. Can you?
     
  16. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Sure, but I think that's a tonal thing, right? I'm not into LOTR (barring general pop culture awareness) but I get the impression it's a fairly serious, dramatic work. In something like say Discworld, which still has fantasy elements by the bucket but is more irreverent, I could totally imagine a character referring to a sword as their baby.
     
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  17. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Oh right! I forgot about Discworld. Well, the tone is similar to Lord of the Rings (unless I read it wrong). So, yeah... guess it doesn't really mesh well. Points taken! Thanks!
     
  18. RaitR_Grl

    RaitR_Grl Member

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    To the OP (original poster), I 'm gonna share my personal guideline. You are creating your own unique novel-universe. Therefore, you make the rules/laws of your world, and therefore it's up to you to design the language rules for your characters.

    I'm also writing a fantasy novel and I decided something very early on. I want my narration style to reflect the linguistic rules of my story world, so I'm writing everything in both the dialogue and narration in a specific way.

    Best of luck on your story!
     

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