1. Jenissej

    Jenissej Professional Lurker Supporter Contributor

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    Naming conventions

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Jenissej, Mar 28, 2018.

    first time posting anything, I hope this belongs here... if not, apologies :whistle:

    I was wondering if someone could help me with this problem:
    I'm frequently struggling with how to appropriately name things in my worlds. I tend to create worlds with lots and lots of detail, sometimes even complete fictional languages so coming up with a name for something is not the problem. It's more like I'm unsure about when to use a fictional name of my own or borrow a real-world term.

    For example: one of my MCs carries a blade that can best be described as a stiletto. Now I understand a stiletto is a 16th century blade with italian origin but my story is set in a fantasy world that's losely based on ancient egypt culture. Would it be inappropriate to call the thing a stiletto? Should I describe around it or rather come up with a name of my own?

    Same goes for the use of certain scientific terms. The latin and greek languages don't exist in this world so if I'm writing a scholar character, would it be lazy or inappropriate if they used, say, the latin naming system for animals?

    What do you think about that?
     
  2. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Due to your posting in English, I'll be assuming you translated your created language from English. If this isn't true, then just replace the English words (as well as the word English) with whatever language you translated from.

    I say: keep it simple.

    You said you had created your own language for this? If so, then just do a direct translation from the most simple descriptor you can think of into your language. For example: the weapon would be whatever "short dagger" would be in your language. If you want, you can combine the translated words for "short" and "dagger" into a new word that would be the equivalent of "stiletto" in your language. (If "short" is "gua" and "dagger" is "ro", then stiletto would be "guro". Just an example)

    For the scientific terms, just use the easiest English equivalent and translate it, same as before.

    By the way, the scientific terms, weapon names, for just names in general don't have to be written in English. That's the beauty of names, their meanings don't have to be understood to be good. Understanding the meanings is just bonus points for whoever's reading.

    If you don't have a created language in this specific example, then that is fine. I still believe in simple names. You could call a stiletto a "Needle Knife", or something.

    Or, if you want to make it really fun, you could just have your character give the weapon a name, like Lucy or something. That would mean you wouldn't have to think up a word to use for it, and it would give your character just a bit more charm.

    Nothing good ever comes from overthinking something, so just keep it simple and you'll do fine.
     
    Stormburn likes this.
  3. -oz

    -oz Active Member

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    In regards to what weapons/objects are called, I completely agree with LastMindToSanity; I like all his suggestions.

    In regards to the scientific names for animals, it might depend on the animals. If your animals are ripped straight from the real world, I might just use the scientific name for them. They are the same animal, after all. If, on the other hand, the only similar animals you have are (for example) deer and squirrels and everything else is created, it would be easier to use whatever scientific language you've been using for your created animals.

    Also, most scholarly people don't say names like cervidae and sciuridae, they're just going to say deer and squirrel. It's really only books where classifications matter that you're going to find scientific names. Just a thought...
     
  4. Jenissej

    Jenissej Professional Lurker Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you for your suggestions!

    I really like the idea of calling the stiletto 'needle knife'. Hadn't thought of that one. Perhaps breaking down the basic description of things and naming them after that is just the way to go. I don't have an entire language worked out in this case but that might yet change, hehe.

    As for the scholarly people... working at a university I can say, yes, they (we?) do like to throw around scientific terms. Sometimes you have to be specific while discussing with your colleagues or while teaching. But some also like to flaunt their knowledge especially in front of people who they know won't understand a single word. Can be pretty vexing at times.

    I think I'll go with your suggestion to stick to the existing terms and maybe alter them slightly so they fit in with the other name but it stays clear that they're scientific terminology. Might keep them to a minimum though so it doesn't get obstructive.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If you're using the actual names, I would find this pretty distracting. The languages, the structure, many elements of it would point too closely to our own history for me.
     
  6. Jenissej

    Jenissej Professional Lurker Supporter Contributor

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    So you'd prefer it if there were more fictional terms?

    I know there's no need to rename every stone and pebble. Still, if I start at 'stiletto', I'd have to think about cutting things like 'lunar', 'sanatorium', 'galley', etc, too. Where to stop and still keep things consistent?

    or maybe I'm overthinking now..
     
  7. Ksenia Tomasheva

    Ksenia Tomasheva Member

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    the main trick is to stay consistent. If you rename everything - then you need to make sure it's everything. For example, if all vegetables in your book have fictional names, having, let's say, potatoes among them would really look weird :)
    Also, a neat approach is to have normal words for the objects and your own ones for their varieties (including the own names that became common names for us with time). E.g. it's better to keep "sword", "dagger", "gun" as they are, but create own names for "katana", "stiletto", or "musket".
    One thing that is the trickiest, is namings for time and distance. I've read lots of arguments against the creation of own measurement systems, cause they tend to confuse readers. I'm still hesitant about this point, but tend to apply the following formula: if your mile in the book is equal to a normal mile, just call it "mile". If it's something like 3.5 "real" miles, create a name for it :) (lol, for me, actually, even normal "mile" sounds fictional, as I'm used to a metric system)
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  8. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Well, you've already acknowledged that your world is based on Ancient Egypt, right? I mean, that was the whole point of not calling the stiletto a "stiletto". In that case, I would only change words that don't have an Ancient Egyptian equivalent, as your society probably wouldn't have terms from other cultures, considering that you thought "stiletto" needed to be changed.

    For example, if your world were based on Ancient Rome, (I'm guessing here but it doesn't really matter, only the example matters) there would be no equivalent for "Khopesh". In this situation, you might use the term "Hook Sword" as an easy descriptor. Then you would translate it into your language. But if a character were to use a Gladius, you would then just use the word "Gladius", as that term would already exist in your society.

    Yeah, I realize that's quite a lot of research to make sure you get all of the words right, but it's important when creating something as complicated as a fictional language, especially since you already limited the kind of societies you can have with your basing your world on Ancient Egypt. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation.

    In short, I would suggest that you only translate words that don't have an Ancient Egyptian equivalent.

    Anyways, good luck with it!
     
  9. DapperDespot

    DapperDespot New Member

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    There's no real right answer here and it really is up to you. You could go the Dune route and make up words for everything if you want to make a world that is truly alien to the reader. At the same time, it can be off-putting for a lot of casual readers to try to keep track of all that. If you are just making up words to make up words, maybe stay away from it. With your stiletto example, if you have a long thin-bladed weapon, does it hurt to just call it a stiletto? Does it really affect the veracity of your world to have Latin names for animals for humans? Probably not, but its all about your taste and what you are trying to accomplish.
     
  10. Jenissej

    Jenissej Professional Lurker Supporter Contributor

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    Well dang, I totally forgot about this thread. Sorry.
    Anyway, thank you all for your suggestions! You have been very helpful.
     

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