Monday, 16 May 2011

No Such Place

Few people study enough Greek anymore to realize Sir Tomas More's book was titled less-than-idealistically. In Utopia he describes an ideal society, but the word 'utopia' itself means 'no such place.'

Puts a much more realistic spin on the whole thing, doesn't it?

A truly perfect society would be a eutopia, with the same root word as euphoria.

Educational pedantry aside, setting is important. To which profound statement you say 'orly?' and I say 'ya, ttly.'

Does chatspeak exist in the world you're writing in? What about Greek? Did Sir Tomas More? How does that effect your world?

The most fun parts of a world to play with are tech and magic, at least for me. But our world is ours not just because of those but because of politics and history and fashion and literature and art and natural disasters, and they change things in ways so subtle we don't notice that everything fits into a new paradigm.

And with a new paradigm comes new language. If it weren't for the Roaring Twenties and the popularity of stays that minimized the female figure, we'd not have kept redesigning women's undergarments until we had brassieres, and the term 'bra-burning' would be non-sensical and not conjure up images of Sixties Feminists. Without the internet and cell phones, we'd have no call to use the type of language we do now - probably. What if semaphore or Morse code had replaced it, at least for a while? We'd have different kinds of slang.

Even in our world, slang and jargon vary from region to region and culture to culture. On Election Day here in Canada, the term Orange Crush was used a lot by New Democratic Party hopefuls (the party color is orange). The first time I encountered it, I drew a complete blank. Why were people talking about soda during an election? But I've spent a significant portion of the last decade in the Midwestern US, where Canadian political terms are irrelevant at best.

The language we use is one of the most powerful tools to illustrate the world we write in. Seems obvious, really, and facile to boot, since we write using language. But a character describing the rear storage compartment as either a trunk or a boot will do more to set the scene than most ten descriptive passages combined.

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