32 Comments
  1. Heathen_Baboon says

    The native gods in my fantasy universe are Jeez, his daughter Jeez Louise, and his faithful pet, Jeezum Crow.

  2. AleksandrNevsky says

    Short of writing in a conlang some aspects of the real world’s culture are of course going to bleed through into the language.

    Ironically some authors were known for doing both.

  3. Parad0xxis says

    And this is why you should think like Tolkien did.

    While there weren’t any real world swears in Lord of the Rings, they almost certainly used words like goodbye, and of course there was the fact that the entire thing is written in English.

    What you have to remember as a worldbuilder is that none of these characters are actually speaking English. They’re not saying “jeez,” “goodbye,” or any other real world words, because English as a language doesn’t exist for them.

    Much like the characters of LoTR are speaking Westron, the Common Speech, the characters in all of our worlds are speaking the local lingua franca of the world they come from. It’s just translated into the closest equivalent to what they’re saying in English for the reader’s benefit.

  4. Betababy says

    somehow no one has mentioned this yet: just replace it with “farewell”

  5. thedeebo says

    I watched Gladiator and started convulsing on the ground because I was so mad they weren’t speaking 2nd century Latin the whole time.

  6. VeryC0mm0nName says

    To be fair, with the *’God be with ye’* thing, it would still work with any culture that has monotheistic religion, hell you could change it to be *’Gods be with ye’* for the polytheistic…

  7. SnooHedgehogs1684 says

    At least the *goodbye* thing was changed from “God” to “good” due to terms like *good morning*, *good day* etc

  8. TurtleSoup7114 says

    It has always been my opinion that one of the best ways to add depth and detail to your fictional world is to develop your own oaths/swears/curses/exclaimations/etc. Yeah, your characters can always just scream “F*ck this sh*t!”, but hearing something like “Light burn you!” is just so much more immersive.

  9. Bale626 says

    Unless you write an entirely new language, you will never avoid these pitfalls. Besides, some of these terms could be considered necessary, so the readers have points of reference to connect to.

    Not even Lord of the Rings gets away from it. “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”

    So… how does an orc grown in a cave that is less than a year old know what a menu is? Especially since medieval settings likely don’t even have menus existing. Just sayin’

  10. PisuCat says

    I generally use the translation convention where the fictional characters are using languages that they know with culturally correct phrases and idioms, but to make it easier for the audience to understand it has been translated into whatever the audience speaks using whatever phrases and idioms they use.

    (In my case there actually are fleshed out conlangs and concultures that I could use instead.)

  11. Joust149 says

    That’s just overthinking to be honest. If the world has a beverage equivalent to champagne just calling it champagne isn’t a problem, it immediately tells the reader what it is without superfluous explanation. I find it exceedingly annoying to have to flip to a glossary for a “new word” only to find It’s just a different name for an existing thing. Nothing makes me think “try hard” more than when an author decides a Spoon should be called a wizzlefump or something just because ✨*Fantasy*✨

  12. SchadenfreudeKing says

    I’m loving all the very good linguistics debates going on in the comments, but let’s be real: “They don’t even have France.” absolutely sent me!
    As someone who works with wine, it made me snort laugh. I just pictured France getting litigious over their fizzy fermented grape names with like… Martians.

  13. stubbazubba says

    See also “tantalizing,” “arachnid,” “spartan,” “sophisticated,” “chaos,” “charity,” “fury,” “hypnosis,” “echo,” etc. that all come from Greek place-names/myths/proper nouns.

  14. the_vizir says

    This isn’t a problem if you just write urban fantasy *head tap *

  15. Waffleradio says

    Create a made up language. Do not explain it to the players.

    “Yah blawhg yingle yops,” says the Innkeeper. What do you do? No he’s speaking common, your character understands. What do you mean you don’t know what he’s saying?

  16. 1Ganiii says

    not like the readers would know either

  17. iNezumi says

    I don’t remember who said that, but I remember some famous fantasy writer talking about this issue and basically saying something along the lines of: you can’t make everything made up because then your story will be confusing, require several textbooks, encyclopedias etc. to understand. So you have to have just enough made-up shit to make it feel like another universe, but not to confuse the reader.

  18. DoktorG0nz0 says

    Later Losers, Sayonara Suckers, Hasta La Vista Baby. 3 farewells without a religious connection.

  19. MarinaKelly says

    Honestly don’t get why people get so upset over **some** words. Every English word has a history and a meaning, so if you’re going to get upset over some, you should get upset over all of them.

    And the reasons never make sense either. I’ve seen people moaning about “okay” being used because it’s modern (if 150 years old can be modern) but being fine with “boredom” being used despite it being only 100 years old. They certainly wouldn’t be happy with “wow” being used, despite it dating to the 1500s.

    And of course we can’t use “clue” without Greek mythology, and… well, basically every other word.

    Or… we can accept all words.

    We either suspend our disbelief and accept that we can understand the dialogue spoken by these characters who have no reason to be speaking in English, or we can have their entire dialogue in a cool conlang we can’t read, but having some words be acceptable and others not for arbitrary reasons makes no sense.

  20. Curious_MerpBorb says

    I don’t see an issue with goodbye. You could add a monotheistic religion into the world. Like there are other monotheistic religions besides the Abrahamic ones.

  21. CLTalbot says

    Ah yes, Geez. The mid-level god of annoyance. Used to use geese as messengers, but they proved to be so effective the domain was stolen by the Upper-level god of annoyance, Geezues.

  22. Arkholt says

    Every fantasy book should have a page with the line “Translated from the [insert fantasy language here].” Problem solved.

  23. NotKerisVeturia says

    Coming up with swears/oaths is fun though. My world has stars as deific figures, so they say “stars alight” and stuff.

  24. Bazzza33 says

    Since we consider conversion of local languages to english to just be a necessary trope, we can also consider conversion of language meanings to be occuring

    Saying ‘Koralblitz’ as the appropriate godly curse elicits less of a readers emotional response than ‘jeez’, we know and understand the meaning of that curse on a much more intuitive level.

    Like with medieval cursing, you’d say ‘f*ck you’ to the reader to get the meaning across though they wouldnt have literally said that in those days and if they did people would just look at you weirdly. You’d have said

    “I swear by the arm of god I hope your children are born with the faces of a donkeys ass”

    Which is pretty cool but probably more humorous to us as opposed to deathly insulting to them. So while we are converting language for the purpose of translation, we take it a bit further and change the literal verbage to a more modern contextual meaning

  25. Red-7134 says

    You want to set a world, but then you realize that worlds have languages and histories.

  26. dogsarethetruth says

    Sometimes there’s no way around it, even when there are synonyms they lack the punch of a culturally relavent term. Seth Dickinson’s *The Traitor Baru Cormorant* often has men in homosexual relationships being accused or punished for “sodomy” – obviously a word from the bible named after a specific story, but really it’s a perfect term to really emphasise the legalistic homophobia that’s happening in that setting.

  27. Ignonym says

    Personally, I just try to ignore the matter altogether. Champagne with no France, lateen sails with no Italy, et cetera. If you start thinking about it too hard, you’ll start getting into questions of [Orphaned Etymology](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrphanedEtymology), and that way lies madness. (The alternative, [Hold Your Hippogriffs](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HoldYourHippogriffs), is just distracting.)

  28. sirblastalot says

    Well they also all speak English, unless you’re being really obnoxious. Which means that what you’ve written is actually a translation. The native term for sparkling wine might be “dhbgdrjkfdty” but it’s totally legit to translate that to English as “Champagne.”

  29. dIoIIoIb says

    Gods and some sort of religion exist in nearly every setting tho?

    nothing in “god be with ye” specifies a particular god, and every culture and religion has some similar salute

    same for the other words, honestly: even ignoring the “you’re translating from their language, they’re not actually speaking English” angle, just because Champagne means one thing for us it doesn’t mean it has to mean the same in another world

    maybe they say geez and champagne for other reasons. Maybe they too have a region named champagne somewhere.

  30. Deus0123 says

    Space-Christ, what now?

  31. thatoneshotgunmain says

    Goodbye is short for God be with ye?

    Didn’t know that but am happy to know it now.

  32. derivative_of_life says

    I always get in trouble by using “spartan” as an adjective.

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