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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I swear, Fantasy books make up words.

There's a huge drawback to reading a lot of fantasy.

First off. Try playing Words with Friends with some of the words In G.R.R. Martin's books. It breaks the game.

Secondly, you get used to reading 'fake' words and just rolling with it. Ascertaining the meaning by either the author telling you outright, or by clues in the text.

The drawback here is that when you come across a REAL word that you mistake as being fake and you make up a definition for it...you have nothing that will tell you that this is wrong.

One of the biggest Real Word Masquerading As Fake that I can remember is the word Penultimate.  

I know. Pretty standard, right? Except that in most of the fantasy books I read it was followed by some noun, or something pretty major and game changing.

"This was Thor's penultimate challenge before he was kicked out of Olympus for good!"

WHAT? Whoa! That's pretty heavy! And then some crazy challenge would happen... chaos would ensue. Stuff and crazyness...and Thor gets some woman pregnant (isn't that the story? or am I confusing my gods here?) And gets kicked off Olympus.

And then again in some choose your own adventure books...there was always a Penultimate Choice. Which at this point in the story, again, no matter which way you chose...Chaos and anarchy! Terror, terror, terror death and hell. Then... The End.

So in my brain this word came to mean Very Important.

Which is close. Sort of. But not really. And for most of my life, (right up until I saw it on my SAT's, and I almost said "What the Fuck?" out loud...) I really thought it was a made up fantasy word.

Have you ever made up a definition for a word and not realized your mistake until much later on in life?

 Preferably not when you're taking a placement exam for college...


T.L. Bodine said...

I always have the problem of never knowing if something is just made up, or if it's a real word/object that I just completely had never heard of.

I ran into that all the time with GRRM so I'm glad you mention it. I'm still not entirely sure whether "destrier" and "garron" are real words. Also I know absolutely nothing about clothing, so when I read fantasy or period pieces describing garb, I have no idea what any of it is. Jerkin? Doublet? Greaves? idefk.

My favorite, though, was when I read A Swiftly Tilting Planet as a kid. Years later I would be taking a biology class in high school and my eyes would get big when I realized, HOLY CRAP, mitochondria are real!

Aldrea Alien said...

I always though Penultimate was last ... whatever it may be ... task, choice, quest.

@ T.L. Bodine:
A "destrier" is a warhorse (they carried knights and were really expensive) and "garron" is a type of pony. Mountain or highlands, I forget which.

I'm always getting doublet and jerkin confused with each other. I think jerkin is the leather jacket and doublet is a padded shirt.
I know that greaves are, basically, shin guards (the things you learn in RPG games, I swear).

Yes, I is a geek. ^_^

Donna Hole said...

LOL; well, mostly I've adopted unique swear words from fantasy novels :)

But yeah, I've read some novels and gained an understanding of the verbiage, and later found out it was all made up. I was disappointed not to be able to use those words in scrabble.


L. Blankenship said...

But if we all use these invented words, they will eventually become real. "Google" wasn't a word, and now it's even become a verb.

English is awesome that way.

Alicia Willette-Cook said...

This is true! We could start our own dictionary (especially of the swear words...complete with sources! I would totally buy that...)

I realized I forgot to put the definition in.

Penultimate means next to last. Second to last. Last, but one (if you want to be dramatic about it...)

mshatch said...

Okay, get your gods straight Alicia: Thor is a Norse God, the guy with the hammer whose brother Loki, is always causing trouble. Olympus is where the Greek gods (Zeus, Hera, Athena, etc.)reside. Now, if the gods ever mingled, possibly Thor might be invited to Olympus, providing of course he left Loki at home, which would no doubt piss Loki off and result in some unfortunate event likely to cause a big war...hmm...that might be a fun story...


stu said...

It's less about the made up words than the moments when China Meiville uses quite a lot of big words in his full literary mode.

Alicia Willette-Cook said...

Der! If I'd thought about it for two minutes I would have known I had those gods all messed up! I watched that mini-series on the Vikings. And they talked about Loki and Thor a lot. So...der. :P

Liz said...

I love "penultimate". It's so much easier to say than "second to last".

I have not had that problem. I guess I'm not reading enough fantasy...