I'm starting today's post with a humorous commentary, courtesy of Weird Al Yankovich.
If U R a reeder/riter, dnt stp here. Dis is GUD!
Yup, I'm right there with you, Al. What's happening to the English language is a crime! We should pass laws against it. The intentionally misspelled trendy words, the spontaneous acronyms that only the "texters of a certain age" can decipher, and texting shorthand are making the English language almost unrecognizable. I say "almost" because there are a select few that can seem to read this garbled mess.
Cn U B leev?
I thk I nd a vacay.
Before our very eyes, the written version of our native tongue seems to have been hurled into self-destruct mode. Since the advent of electronic conversation, it apparently takes too long to spell out all those words and phrases (maybe the texter isn't even sure how they're spelled) so the verbiage has been boiled down to its lowest common denominator.
That begs a question. If a person from the 1870s, the 1920s, or even the more recent (for some) 1960s were to beam forward in time (okay, mixed metaphor), would they even understand us?
Would they be able to translate all this BFFing and WTFing and ROFLing? Would they dis da dis and dat? Would they stare in confusion at an IDK until they have to confess "I Don't Know what that means." And would they go cray-cray and immediately book a return beam to their home decade where people still have a mastery of the refined art of spelling?
Yeah, I'm spoofing here. ::: chuckle ::: Language is always evolving. It's the nature of the beast. New technology in our society has caused some recent twists we may not have seen coming, but all-in-all I think the English language is still alive and well and respected in its traditional form.
But all this trendsetting in text-speak did spur some deep thinking from a writer whose settings are often in the far future.
I realized I had my work cut out for me with the dialogue in INHERIT THE STARS. It's pretty obvious with the way our language has changed/is still changing in the matter of a few years, that the language circa 3500 AD (give or take) would be completely unrecognizable.
For the sake of a novel that will be read by contemporary readers of this millennium, the dialect had to sound different yet still be accessible. Using some of the current trends of shortening and truncating and acronymizing (I made that up--see how I am?) words, I attempted to create dialogue that was understandable, but still would read as "evolved."
Here's a glossary of names, words, phrases and acronyms used throughout the INHERIT THE STARS and their contemporary interpretations.
Future Term Current Meaning
Ariima Truncated, corrupted blend of names Fatima/Maria
banny club Telescoping baton/club used for defense
Billins Type of alcoholic beverage from a species of gourd
biodroid Biological android, grown not manufactured
borga Valuable ore, essential for industry and as fuel
Carazjel Purmian name; a corruption/blend of Cara/Jezebel
calendar Standardized year since each planet's solar cycle varies
con-drive Slang for "neural-connective drive"
crewie Slang for star ship crew members
bookie Agent who books illegal flights for illicit passengers
Firelords! Refers to a historical group, e.g. Spartans! or Druids!
Drea [Name] Dray-ah; Truncated version of Andrea
Empora's Hades Oh hell!
Epto Name of a month on the standardized Calendar
fren-oven Futuristic microwave
fug Corruption of a historical expletive verb
fuggen Corruption of a historical expletive verb
Gerabunga! Corrupted blend of Geronimo! and Cowbunga!
Gigadam Expletive; damn to the nth
Gods of Gellen What the heck/hell? or Damn!
Haley's crest Oath; gaseous debris field from destroyed planet Bradley
hang Slang for hangar
hangtown Slang for a spaceport located on a planet
haras Corrupted from "hours," standardized unit of time
hellcat Derogatory term for a confrontational person
heo [Purmian] meaning "gutless eunuch;" derogatory
K OK, okay, all right, yes.
kensmarc Honorary, ritualistic facial scars on Rathskian males
kinna Futuristic coffee drink
Jaeo [Name] Truncated, corrupted blend of Jay and George
Logibot Robot with AI capable of logic
marka [Rathskian] Derogatory; stong-willed female
milos Spatial miles; corrupted blend of miles/kilometers
moons Standardized month
neural-connective Advanced drive system, aka "con-drive"
neuraltron Device for mind-linking
P2PC Acronym for "Planet-to-Planet Courier"
PCB Acronym for Particle Containment Bay
Rathscum Derogatory term for Rathskians
replas Monetary measure based on "replicated coinage"
Ry [Name] Truncated version of Ryan
Sair [Name] A Rathskian clan; from biblical term for "demon"
Saybin [Name] A corruption of Sabine or Sabina
sectas Corruption of "seconds;" measurement of time
Shadowskins Suit of material invisible to the human retina
sim Term of endearment; derived from simpatico; pleasing
spitfire Person who is extremely aggressive or speaks forcefully
tempas Corruption of tempo, meaning "minutes" or "time"
touched dirt On planet, landed, planet-side
vuetnok irons Weapon for the fist, similar to brass knuckles
What goes? What's going on? What's happening? Que pasa?
Wreckface Derogatory term for Rathskians/kensmarcs
Yele [Purmian] (Yay-lay), mythical power that restores balance
Zjel [Name] Truncated, corrupted version of Jezebel
That's just a sampling of the future-speak, for the sake of illustration. But I went a step further.
Just as with present day usage, phrasing and pronunciations are never universal. Cultural or professional divisions in society create their own slant on words and phrases, or create new ones.
Police officers or members of the military may use words related to their particular field, such as 10-4 meaning "yes," or "20" meaning "location." Words or acronyms like "wingman," "rack," and "HUA" sometimes become a part of everyday language by inference. HUA is an Army/National Guard acronym for "Heard, Understood and Acknowledged" and "rack" is Naval or submarine-speak for "bed" or "bunk."
An unique dialect of slang words emerged for the hangtown crowd in INHERIT THE STARS, those who work in or trade with spacefreighters (those persons whose professions involve transporting cargo through space) or those who make their livings near the ship hangars (hangs) at planetary space ports.
They're a rougher ilk by nature and their dialogue reflects even further corruption of the standardized language. The creation of the hangtown tongue involved dropping some consonants and adding a suggestion of a Cockney spin on their words.
Hangtown Term Current Meaning
devil-crazy Agitated, irritable
Ith'in Ithian subspecies
flibbin' Slang, like "flipping" as in "flipping crazy"
Rathsk'in Rathskian subspecies
these'ns these ones
yap yes, yup, yep
In addition, the hangtowners tend to lose the last "g" on many words--anythin'...nothin'...seein'...or add an "s" to some words such as anywheres, nowheres.
What's your experience with futuristic language in SF/R? Do most of the books you read (or write) have dialogue that sounds like present-day English, or does it read as more futuristic? What's your opinion? Do you find it adds flavor to the story and setting, or does it just make it more difficult to comprehend? Does unique language ever pull you out of a story? Or does it make the time and place feel more authentic? Thanks for your take!
In return for your feedback, I'll be gifting a copy of INHERIT THE STARS--The Complete Novel to a random commenter. Or, if you already have a copy of ITS, I'll substitute a copy of the SING A SONG OF THE STARS science fiction romance book bundle as an alternate.