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Author Topic: For blackberry, read Blackberry  (Read 1716 times)

Offline JMack

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For blackberry, read Blackberry
« on: November 30, 2015, 01:47:49 PM »
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/27/robert-macfarlane-word-hoard-rewilding-landscape

Haven't even finished the article. (Work  >:( )
But thought I'd start the conversation by asking whether old words are good because they're old or because they're wonderful? Are new words "bad" because they're new or because they're ugly-sounding?

And what should a writer do with all this in a Fantasy context, if anything? In a SF context?

And in any case, an interesting article.
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Offline Autumn2May

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Re: For blackberry, read Blackberry
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2015, 09:59:52 PM »
I love old timey words and definitely our vocabulary should include such words as those the article author mentioned were removed from the dictionary. At the same time? Who uses a dictionary anymore?

All those words are available online plus words that were never in our English dictionaries to begin with like the German word Kummerspeck: excess weight gained from emotional overeating, or literally: grief bacon. Seriously there are a ton of awesome words out there. :D Because of the internet I can imagine our vocabularies are likely to increase in the future rather than decrease, especially with people like the article author cataloging older words for future generations.

I think older words sound more elegant because language used to be more flowery than it is now. There were no TVs or movies or even photographs. People had more time to invest in reading and writing and needed more description to be shown what was being written about. I mean if you've never seen a zebra, 'a horse with black and white stripes' is a good description, but what if you've never seen an elephant? You're going to need a lot more description to get that mental picture across to someone.

Nowadays most people don't need long descriptions to get the gist of what you are talking about. Nor do they have the time or attention span, in lots of cases, to sit through four paragraphs detailing the way the leaves fall in the enchanted forest. I think modern words are not necessarily bad or ugly, but faster and more to the point. And that can come across as less elegant and flow less smoothly in some cases.

But I don't think the older words are better, just different. And I think using a mix of older and newer words, especially in fantasy, is great way to add depth, spice up writing, and change the pace at different points in the work. I'm a fan of mixing old and new and fantasy really lends itself to that. A wizard describing an jewel encrusted goblet our heroes need to retrieve would probably draw on older more descriptive words than the low life thief that is going after it. In this way you can utilize both old and new and create a world that has more depth than one using either-or.

On a related noted, I just read a post by Chuck Wendig about the good in using simple words instead of more complex ones. It's a nice contrast to the article you posted. :)

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/11/30/i-meant-what-i-said-when-i-said-the-soup-was-good-i-ejaculated-most-fizzily/

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: For blackberry, read Blackberry
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2015, 10:29:46 PM »
Jmack just quick comment, great subject to start. Came in from the garden for sneaky break to catch up here and skimmed the fascinating article -it made my heart sing with all those beautiful words and I am going to read thoroughly later, thank you indeed. But also left me homesick for England's countryside. :(

Autumn2May looking forward to reading the one you posted, the title makes perfect sense to me and I can remember when "ejaculated" was common substitute for "exclaimed" in dialogue . ;)

Now back to weeds before it becomes too hot.

ETA But couldn't resist reading Chuck Wendig and share his rage, how mean and ridiculous.

Oh what fun this thread will be. ;D
« Last Edit: November 30, 2015, 10:38:03 PM by Lady_Ty »
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Offline AshKB

Re: For blackberry, read Blackberry
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2015, 10:51:14 PM »
I'm more with Chuck Wendig, and I'll also go a bit further: word-choices reveal character. An adolescent soldier recruited from her town's orphanage isn't going to have the same vocabulary as her superior officer, who is a noble who had tutors and academies, is not going to have the same vocab as a sixty-year-old merchant is not going to have the same vocab as a sculptor or a botanist or the king's magician.

If you shove old-timey words everywhere, for everyone, then everyone sounds the same, as if they have the same background.

And also, there is the issue of 'does this word convey what I want, or does it just sound pretty'.

To use Wendig's example, the soup is good vs the soup is delectable. There is so much character and background you can reveal with good vs delectable, you can show so much with the setting and intent ('delectable', the countess says, looking at her companion through heavy lashes). But if you just chose it because it's pretty, theeeen your audience can read into it more than you wanted.

A more obscure word is more 'huh? what does that mean?'
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Online Yora

Re: For blackberry, read Blackberry
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2015, 12:06:40 AM »
When it comes to writing, I am all on board with the quote "Hemminway never made anyone go looking for a dictionary". It wasn't meant as a compliment, but I think it's very smart writing advice.
I only use words that I think can be reasonably expected to be known by almost every reader. In some cases you can also use words whose actual meaning might not be very well known, but which most people will have encountered before and have a general feeling for what kinds of associations go with it. Like "eldritch". I think that's a word you can use and people will get the general idea.
If a word is not immediately understood by almost all readers, then you have to unmistakenly introduce the  word in a way in which its meaning is obvious. (Exception of course for characters who talk in way that people around them don't understand either.)
But if you have to pick up a dictionary just to know that the word means "green", you just should have written green in the first place.

All those words are available online plus words that were never in our English dictionaries to begin with like the German word Kummerspeck: excess weight gained from emotional overeating, or literally: grief bacon. Seriously there are a ton of awesome words out there. :D Because of the internet I can imagine our vocabularies are likely to increase in the future rather than decrease, especially with people like the article author cataloging older words for future generations.
People laugh about our compound words. And we laugh with them. They are funny.

In a way, they are not really newly created words. Many are just a regular result of our grammar. When nouns, verbs, and adjectives form an informational unit we tend to not use spaces between the components and the adjustments you have to make to the endings of words change slightly. English does it sometimes, but rarely. I think "video game" and "videogame" are both common forms. In German the first construction would just be wrong. It can only be the second.
Two of my favorite words are Goldesel and Dukatensheisser, which mean the same object but in different situations. The both reference a fairy tale in which a man has a magic donkey which on command will have gold coins coming out of both ends. Don't ask me the background how this story came to be.  :D A Goldesel is "gold donkey", while a Dukatenscheisser is a "ducats crapper". If someone else has a lot of spare money, the expression is "he must have a Goldesel in his basement." If someone wants an unreasonable amount of money from you, it is "I don't have a Dukatenscheisser".

Of course, the greatest German compound verb is verschlimmbessern, which I regularly see described as untranslateable. But you actually can recreate it very well in English with all the important nuances. It's "disimprovement". An attempt to make something better but just making it worse.

Offline JMack

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Re: For blackberry, read Blackberry
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2015, 01:02:29 AM »
This, I adore:

Quote
verschlimmbessern

Disimprovement. Wonderful.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
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