Monday, April 13, 2015

Let's Talk About...Talk

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                                             
a'fore                             Before
devil-crazy                  Agitated, irritable
'er                                  her
if'n                                 if
Ith'in                             Ithian subspecies
flibbin'                         Slang, like "flipping" as in "flipping crazy"
palies                           Ithians
Rathsk'in                     Rathskian subspecies
say'n                             saying
these'ns                        these ones
twenny                         twenty
wit'                                with
yap                                yes, yup, yep
yorn                              yours

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.


  1. I love it when the Author creates their own language to reflect the story, it makes it so much more credible and it's also an fantastic tool to advertise the Author's imagination/creativity!

    In my personal experience it actually helps me to "click" with the characters and fully immerse myself in the book.

    I have, on occasion, been known to "borrow" some favourite phrases just to confuse people in RL - it's absolutely priceless being able to curse people without them knowing that you're doing it lol!!

    1. LOL Melanieanu. I picked up "Ee-chuta" from Star Wars. (Have no idea what it means, but it seemed to be a swear word. Another droid said to C3PO and he replied, "How rude!") I still find myself saying it from time-to-time. Funny how some things stick with us.

  2. ROTFLMAO at Al's video, Laurie! And, yes, these acronyms make me a little cray-cray, too! Ha! I only know this stuff 'cuz I have daughters of a certain age. Otherwise I'd be scratching my old gray head!

    BTW, no need to put me on the gift list--I already got mine! But MELANIEANU, I'm still looking to give you your free ebook copy of UNCHAINED MEMORY--send your email addy to me at!

    1. I confess I've viewed that vid a few times. Makes me laugh every time. Weird Al is a talent.

  3. You've done a great job of coming up with accessible future-speak. Tolkien, of course, made up several different entire languages. I don't think I'd go that far.

    I think it's important to give that future flavour to our writing. As you say, people in two hundred years' time won't be using the same language we do. And there's so much more to language - it helps to define social class. Good job, well done.

    1. Thanks, Greta. It's fun creating futuristic words and phrases. Don't think I could go as far as inventing a workable language like Tolkien did, but I did take a shot at it in my third novel. :)

  4. I only 'created' a couple of things. "Softee" instead of the three distinct mouth positions in a row required by "soft drink", and using -il to represent "in-law": motheril, fatheril, brotheril, sisteril, sonil, daughteril. Maybe a few others, but I don't recall right off. Then again, my series is only 600 years in the future!

    1. Eva, I read "softee" as "smoothie" in the novel. Close. I liked your motheril and fatheril condensed words. Totally makes sense.

  5. I sometimes find madeup words in books to be a detractor. Unless the word is truly unique to a person/place, they tend to make it hard for me to imagine the time/place. It also makes a difference depending on the length of the book and how intricate/involved is the character/place using or being described by the word.

  6. I'm with Joan. I tend to find stuff like this distracting and annoying. Rather than immersing me further into the story, it pulls me out. I didn't bother with any of it in mine, and I probably never will. But then I'm not going for SF readers who expect this sort of thing, I'm going for paranormal readers who will react to it like I do.

  7. I'm torn. As a writer, I also like to use made up terms/language and/or foreign languages - I had a smattering of Cajun in my zombie novel, and my current work is a multicultural society so I have the teens using Chinese, Mexican Spanish, and Afrikaans words. It has to be done with care. I remember when I first picked up Jaine Fenn's Principles of Angels I struggled with the 'dialect' but eventually got the hang of it and loved the book, so as a reader I expect to be able to have some hints from tone, setting, situation, or a character's reaction to tell me what a word means. For instance, I have a character mutter in Chinese, and the other turns on him yelling not to call her stupid. Otherwise, I always loved the Glossaries in books defining each term (I plan to release one as a free book for my Keir series once it's complete).

    1. Hmmm, I didn't have any plans for a glossary but it's something to think about. I think the Chinese/Mexican/Afrikaan would be interesting!

  8. Melanieanu, you're the winner of the free e-copy of INHERIT THE STARS. Please contact me via a Facebook PM or send me an email at Lgreen2162 (at) aol (dot) com.

    Congrats and thanks for your comment!


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