Toothless Letter J

Likes most of areas, Fantasy has a number of words associated with the genre which aren’t in the usual English language. And if you’re writing your own fantasy story, then you will have to think about the language that the world uses.

The usual definition of jargon is words that allow users to speak more precisely about technical issues in a given field. This is different to slang, which is used between members of the group to exclude non-members from understanding. But the two are closely related, and of course over time words that were once considered jargon can become more widespread, or even become slang.

But enough about technical definitions, we need to think about language within the story.

What happens in your fantasy novel that doesn’t happen in the real world?

Let’s look at my current novel, Mechanica Awakening. The first thing about this is that it’s a steampunk novel, so there are a smattering of technical words, Clackers, Scrappers, Mechs, Cores. All words that come into play when talking about the mechanical aspects of the novel.

The second part is that I work in the nobility of the Victorian area. One of the main consistency issues I’ve been having is to make sure that the forms of address are consistent through the book (which has involved quite a bit of research on what the rights forms of address are). I have to think about what nobles would say, and how they wouldn’t use the slang that the lower classes might have, but would expanded words instead, which is sometimes just as hard.

The third part is the supernatural element. The magic in the system takes the form of Soul Powers – innate abilities that people are born with and can use, but vary considerably. Each of them is given a title based on the power, so I have Awakener, Architect, Seeker, Guardian, Inspirer. All of them are words in their own right, but in my book that have a different meaning because of the supernatural element.

And there you have the words that a relevant to my book. Of course each character has more variations than this, but that’s characterisation and dialog, whereas what we are doing here is looking at the language of the world as a whole.

WordsYou might also want to think about phrases that people say. For instance, “For the love of god” might not be the best expletive to use if the religious system isn’t christian. In Archmage, the belief system is that life came down to earth from the stars, so when they want to swear they say “By the stars above.”. Mages have another option where they say “By the seven schools” referencing the seven school of magic that are practised. But I had to put a lot of thought into those when I first wanted one of my character to utter such a phrase. I did write something I would say, and then had to make a note to come back and think about it heavily, because God is not a word in their lexion.

Pick up a fantasy book and read through it. Can you spot any words, or phrase that are the jargon of that book? Thinking on my book collection I come immediately to The Infernal Device and The Mortal Instruments. Becuase of the faction, the Shadowhunters, also called Nephilim, there are a lot of new words such as Parabati, which are new to us, but very much a part of the life of the characters.

What about you? Have you invented any new words, phrases, and re-appropriated any for your fantasy novel?