(Fwd) Re: Word coinages in SF: threat or menace?

Dan Goodman dsgood at VISI.COM
Wed Dec 18 07:41:13 UTC 2002

>From a discussion in the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.composition, a post of

------- Forwarded message follows -------


> Good neologisms add a wonderful fillip to SF -- think of Jack Vance,
> Larry Niven, John Varley. Bad ones clunk every time they recur.
> Future slang & colloquial speech are particularly hard to do well.

See Allan Metcalf, _Predicting New Words: the secrets of their
success_; Houghton Mifflin, 2002.  The author is Executive Secretary
of the American Dialect Society.

>>From the American Dialect Society's website --
http://www.americandialect.com -- there are links to current studies
of various American and Canadian dialects, including trends in

One thing to keep in mind -- many groups within any complex society
will have their own words. For example, Republican Party use of
"Democrat Party" rather than "Democratic Party".  For another
political example: in a memorial book on Bill Brust (Steve Brust's
father), his opposition to pabloism within the Socialist Workers
Party is mentioned more than once before there's any explanation of
what that means. (_Defending Principles: The Political Legacy of Bill
Brust_ by Bill Brust, Jean Brust (Editor) Mehring Books; ISBN:
0929087666; (November 1993)_).

It's hard to get the political dialect of a group you oppose right.

It's also hard to get _current_ regional dialects right. For your own
dialect, there's the problem that you won't hear it the way other
people do. For dialects other than your own -- well, I can think of
two English writers who've gotten American English right: Rudyard
Kipling and Clive Barker. (A tip for Brits -- read the "American"
dialog in John Brunner's _Day of The Star Cities_/Age of Miracles_.
If you don't spot any imperfections, then you'll have trouble getting
American dialog right.  And Brunner was better than a lot of other
Brits at American dialog.) The ratio is probably about the same for
Americans writing British dialog. It may not be much better for
southern Floridians writing northern Florida characters.

English of the past also brings problems, even if it's not quoted.
In Jack Chalker's _Downtiming the Nightside_, two men listen to tape
recordings of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  One remarks
that most people would be surprised to hear Franklin's Boston accent
and Jefferson's hill country accent. It seems likely to me that
Franklin's Boston accent would be rather different from any current
Boston accent.

There are books and recordings for actors who need to use current and
historical dialects.

------- End of forwarded message -------

More information about the Ads-l mailing list