tibiotarsus
 member, 109 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 20:04
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
[archaeologist hat] ...I know I'm just haunting this thread for words, now, but can I bring up that there were and are entire languages that evolved without profanity, and appropriateness/modernity of swearing might depend on how the GM flavours a setting?

Native Siberians, for instance, had the concept of swearing introduced with Russian contact somewhere in the 17th century, but! Since Russian swearing is mostly sexual in nature and sexuality is sacred, not profane, across the Eurasian Far North, actual Russian swearwords wouldn't make sense (it'd be like saying "lovely day!" or "Amen!" when hurt/frustrated), so Sahka, Lamut, Evenki etc. tribesfolk generally swear in Russian goshdarnits. That's a bit of a complex historical background for a fantasy world, but such things do happen; you can get the idea of swearing across without going straight for European defaults, in a serious culture-focused setting as well as a silly or specifically child-friendly one.

@byzantinex - you're welcome! I'm trying to think of other modern phrases that just show up, but am mostly drawing a blank at present.
Varsovian
 member, 1499 posts
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 20:32
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Thank you for this thread! Swearing-related hilarity aside, I've long wondered how to avoid using some words that felt too modern.

Question: is "moment" such a word? Would a phrase "A short moment later..." be immersion-breaking in the context of fantasy fiction / narration?

Also: what about "guy"? Is it too modern, too?
tibiotarsus
 member, 110 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 20:50
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Moments certinly work. If you're feeling creative, it could be "in the time it took [character] to draw breath" or something like that, but everyone has to rest sometimes.

"Guys" is pretty modern-sounding and -feeling...hmm. Replacements for "guys":

- as in those men or people over there: those men/that crowd/yon folk
- as in getting your friends' attention: look, everyone!, hey!, behold
- as in addressing your friends: friends, gang, ladies/lads, me hearties
- as in some nonspecific men: men, lads, gentlemen
- as in some nonspecific people: folk, people, humans (or other specific sapients)
phoenix9lives
 member, 988 posts
 GENE POLICE!  YOU!
 GET OUTTA THE POOL!
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 22:33
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
A moment is defined as about 4 seconds in length (while a jiffy, just for knowledge sake, is 1/100th of a second).  A breath, takes about two seconds, a heartbeat a little less than one.
Ancient Egypt used the cubit, the measurement from the tip of the pharoah's middle finger to the end of his elbow when his right arm was bent, or about eighteen inches (mine, funnily enough IS eighteen inches).  There were also leagues, about the distance a person could walk in one hour, or the nautical league which is 3.452 miles.  Of course, the distance a person can walk in an hour is going to vary based upon terrain.
tibiotarsus
 member, 111 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 22:53
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Only in musical notation - there's no formal definition of a moment in general usage.

I thought of a good fantasy-feel term for snacks, though! Victuals. Or 'vittles' for those Redwall fans out there. Maybe you could give a rough/casual feel to provender/provisions as 'provvies' in the same manner...in-game slang is fun.
yuirick
 member, 17 posts
 The world is ending,
 so don't forget to laugh
Thu 16 Jan 2020
at 23:20
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
I try not to think about stuff being modern too much. The emotional punch and narrative is much more important imo. And I can always edit the stuff later. That being said, I find long sentences to be real nice, and they work almost regardless of the setting. "Your wit is as dim as the twilight when the sun has already dawned on a culture you've never heard of" (assumes they know the world is round)
"You've drunk an ocean's worth of disappointment and misery, only to fail to recreate said ocean at home in the shape of a chunky green puddle on my carpet. Now why would I be mad about that?"
byzantinex
 member, 171 posts
Sat 18 Jan 2020
at 20:32
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
In reply to yuirick (msg # 22):

Those both hurt my brain a little bit to read...

And yet...

I love them! haha
tibiotarsus
 member, 112 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sat 18 Jan 2020
at 23:53
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
I think they're beautifully crafted, though the "right" length for anything will always depend on style and context (also, even the Ancient Greeks knew the world was round; pop-culture Victorian ideas about "primitive" people thinking otherwise is just their being deliberately over-literal in the interpretation of Norse mythology and early mediaeval maps).

Meanwhile, potential old-timey alternatives for modern/clinical phraseology that often crops up around these practices/conditions:
- psychology: wit-wisdom, insight, keen awareness
- psychopath: ice-minded, thin soul
- [thing] addict: [thing] fiend
- depression: melancholy, saturated with the black bile, camel sickness
- sleep paralysis: hag-ridden
- epilepsy: falling sickness, bewitchment, attack by spirits
byzantinex
 member, 172 posts
Sun 19 Jan 2020
at 16:53
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
In reply to tibiotarsus (msg # 24):

Oh yeah! This is a great idea. Need to look up some other OLD "psychology" terms before we knew as much as we do today.

Like leeching for "hot blood" and the like.

Antique medicine would be an awesome source.
tibiotarsus
 member, 113 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sun 19 Jan 2020
at 19:13
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
You'd need a low-magic world for it to be relevant, but you could have a lot of fun with such concepts - I know someone who ran a GURPS campaign with magic based off the Four Humours theory that was pretty neat and immersive. A GM interested in that kind of thing could have a great time with settings outside pseudo-Europe as well.

Also related to in-culture interpretations is the fact that before the microscope diseases were often classified by symptoms, leading some things to get amalgamated: "consumption" in the 19th century was used not exclusively for tuberculosis, but often for other pulmonary diseases as well, since if a patient showed an overlapping range of symptoms the doctors would just assume it was the same thing.

I had a character who considered rabies and contagious werewolfism to be different strains of 'wolf disease' (the antiseptic properties of silver being why it crops up across cultures as a substance to ward off evil with - if we interpret an attack of disease as the attack of malicious forces hostile to life, then, well, they're right) for this reason, in line with that people's interpretation of epidemology...it strikes me that a creative GM could use that kind of thing to bring back the original link between vampires and plague. Vampire infestations that can be confused with the Black Death because they bite under the arm nearer the heart/high up the thigh for the big juicy artery, and their mouths are full of undead necrotic gunk causing buboes...vampires whose touch blisters skin, but long to touch living flesh, so that bite marks are harder to see and the symptoms look like measles/smallpox...early 1920s Spanish Flu vampires, damage from bites leaving dark spots, lack of blood leaving patients too weak to breathe, injuries from being leant on during feeding opening sores in their poor lungs...etc. etc.

Anyway, adventure seeds aside, some suggestions for -
microbes, bacteria, germs: filth, rot, [demonic] influence, bad air
to become gangrenous: take bad, turn sour
epidemic: plague, pestilence, blight
ergot poisoning: rye madness, bewitchment
Varsovian
 member, 1502 posts
Mon 20 Jan 2020
at 23:35
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
How about words like: information, context, background (in the sense of clue-gathering etc.)? Which of them would be too modern?
KingHenryBlack
 member, 32 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 04:19
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
   Jiminy Crickets ...

    Where the heck was this when I was running my "7th Sea" game a few months ago? Some of this would have been priceless.

   But to add to the profanity (or sorts):

   Slubberdegullion: A slovenly or worthless person.

   (Found this word in a reference to a character card from "ROME: TOTAL WAR" [The original], and when I first found out what it was and how to pronounce it, I've been using it ever since ... )

   Hilarious.
facemaker329
 member, 7152 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 06:06
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
In reply to Varsovian (msg # 27):

I don't know if any of them would be considered 'too modern', but you might look for alternatives just to change up the feel.  Even if a word has been around for centuries, if it is commonly used today, using it will feel like today.

Nothing comes to mind immediately as an alternative for 'information' or 'context', but you can easily replace 'background' with 'history'...
tibiotarsus
 member, 114 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 09:11
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Seconded, facemaker. Some more fantasy-style/dignified ideas, though -

information: knowledge, kenning, to wot of [thing]
context: such as it was, within the [context] realm, its natural place.
background: the rumours that dog [subject]'s heels, whence [subject] has come, what we know of [subject]

Oh, and just for KingHenryBlack, I just thought of another variant of 'guys' that needs to come back - bravos!

Also, on swearing on RPoL (or rather not), here in text you can also create a sense of terrible, terrible words via narration, e.g. "Rip spat a stream of curses that would have caused any listening cleric to catch fire from sheer mortification", "Tam used a word that would have made his ancestors' eyes water," "They continued talking whilst the parrot scourged the air with the oaths the visiting buccaneers had left".

Alternatively, to utterly confuse your chatacter's enemies and force them to give the impression your buddy is in possession of insults so terrible they're unbearable to report, just have them approach the target and yell "INSULTS!" or "ABUSE!"
byzantinex
 member, 174 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 15:32
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
tibiotarsus:
Meanwhile, potential old-timey alternatives for modern/clinical phraseology that often crops up around these practices/conditions:
- psychology: wit-wisdom, insight, keen awareness


Excellent! I added all your suggestions to the blog post! Thank you for the awesome suggestions!

https://d20.pub/resources/grea...tasy-games-and-rpgs/

KingHenryBlack:
Slubberdegullion: A slovenly or worthless person.


Added this to the blog post as well. Great one! :D

tibiotarsus:
Oh, and just for KingHenryBlack, I just thought of another variant of 'guys' that needs to come back - bravos!


Can you show me a reference for this? I googled and couldn't find any mention of it being used this way. But it could also be a great replacement for "people," "dudes," "companions," etc, which we often have use for in our fantasy RPG parties.

tibiotarsus:
Also, on swearing on RPoL (or rather not), here in text you can also create a sense of terrible, terrible words via narration, e.g. "Rip spat a stream of curses that would have caused any listening cleric to catch fire from sheer mortification", "Tam used a word that would have made his ancestors' eyes water," "They continued talking whilst the parrot scourged the air with the oaths the visiting buccaneers had left".


Yes! I love this and use it myself quite frequently. Just because i don't want to read/write swearing in my games
KingHenryBlack
 member, 33 posts
Tue 21 Jan 2020
at 18:40
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
   As for swearing in games, I personally keep it to a low boil - I rarely swear in real life, usually going with 'fun' swear-words: "Fudgecookies!" "Son of a battleship!" and the like (Couldn't swear at home, even with a military family, so I improvised as any good soldier/sailor/airman might ... )

   When I ran [game name removed], I ran it with the idea that people swore, just not as often and it was often a contest (at least to myself, if no one else) how to say something using more colourful language of the period (mid-1600's) and still come up with something vile. As you might expect, the Bard was a frequent source of material, but I tried to keep it mildly unique, sometimes as specific to each Nation. (i.e., Ussura/Russia swore about such mundane things, like the weather or nature, while Castille/Spain was more religious in nature.)

   As for my own characters, I kept it simple: Raymond glared in the direction of his target, while all manner of sulfurous oaths sprang to mind; both incestuous and tempestuous, he cursed the man who'd killed his brother and contemplated returning the favour - with interest. (Okay, a bit of flair in there, but you get the meaning ...

tibiotarsus:
Oh, and just for KingHenryBlack, I just thought of another variant of 'guys' that needs to come back - bravos!


  A word that used to get a lot of use in my game. :P

   "A daring bandit, assassin, or murderer, especially one hired to steal or murder for another."
ORIGIN OF BRAVO: From Italian, dating back to 1755–65.

  (Courtesy of Dictionary.com)

This message was last edited by a moderator, as it was against the forum rules, at 19:35, Tue 21 Jan.

tibiotarsus
 member, 119 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 23 Jan 2020
at 23:20
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
You know, I always assumed I'd picked "bravos" up from Shakespeare and/or shanties, but if it's that late then I probably got it from old-fashioned fantasy - I suspect Fitz Leiber, Jack Vance or some fellow of that era. As KingHenryBlack points out, it does come up with a rather darker shading there as the second definition highlighted by Google.

Didn't want to post over here without something to add, so...to add to the great idea of culture-specific pseudoswearing, I thought of bringing in that Lord of the Rings was deliberately written without primarily Latin-derived words and with Anglo-Saxon style stock descriptions - things not trees in Tolkien's works tend to be fair, fine, foul, fell, grey etc. - which might be a nice subtle touch for localising a character as From North without relying too hard on accents or Earth-parallel vocabulary.

Some further Good Words of a fancy fantasy-appropriate (& decidedly Latinate) type, now I have a cache of them handy:

Caliginous - misty/dark, obscure
Adumbrate - fore/overshadowing
Veridical - truth-telling (adj.)
Vecordious - insane
Gyre - circle/spiral, whirling air/water
Peccant - sinful (good for fancy insults!)
Ramiform - branching/branch-shaped
Tintinnabulation - sound of approaching Morris dancer or other bell-covered entity


...and a few non-Classical ones, for that Ranger from the Westmoreland or what-have-ye:

Kerf - carved groove, tool mark
Kipper - to preserve by salting and smoking, a fish preserved by such method
Skirr - to move with fast skimming flight or movement
Skyr - kind of yogurt
Maunder - to ramble
Mire* - deep mud, also 'to get stuck in actual or metaphorical deep mud'
Peedie - teeny-tiny, small (from Orcadian Norn dialect)


*my young colleague didn't know this word, despite living in Scotland!
byzantinex
 member, 176 posts
Wed 29 Jan 2020
at 21:50
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Another phrase I try to avoid using is "Mister" or "Sir" unless it's in relation to Sir Knight Man.

Many times people used the term "Master" but often in D&D/Fantasy worlds, that word carries extra weight, like in certain organizations and a person's "level" in some places. Obviously calling someone Master in the right contexts makes a lot of sense though. :D

So here are some alternatives to Sir/Mister/Master I like to use.

Esquire/Squire: a young nobleman who, in training for knighthood, acted as an attendant to a knight.

Monsieur: basically just "mister" but in French so it's more exotic sounding :D

Sire: a respectful form of address for someone of high social status.

Signore: again, mister, but in Spanish Italian.

Herr: german for mister

Gentleman: Not just a honorific, but could be used as a greeting. ex: "Gentleman John Smith, a pleasure to meet you."

Statesman: a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure.

Swain: a young lover or suitor, or young country man.

Bodach : a boorish old man

Groom: not just a guy getting married, or someone who brushes a horse. Can also be referred to any of various officials of a royal household.

This message was last edited by the user at 03:00, Thu 30 Jan.

phoenix9lives
 member, 990 posts
 GENE POLICE!  YOU!
 GET OUTTA THE POOL!
Wed 29 Jan 2020
at 22:02
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Signore (seen-YORE-a) is not Spanish.  It is Italian, just as Signora and Signorina are.  But, they are very similar to their Spanish counterparts.
Seņor, Seņora, and Seņorita are Spanish.
Dpn and Doņa were used in Spanish as honorifics for wealthy landowners.  While Don in Italian usually refers to the head of a MAFIA famiglia.
tibiotarsus
 member, 121 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Wed 29 Jan 2020
at 22:39
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Honestly all that is better served by in-culture titles anyway - modern European languages in games are just as jarring as modern English to people who aren't monolingual or/and American.

I'll throw in 'carlin', 'goodwife' and 'beldame', though, so the older guys can have some women to marry.
byzantinex
 member, 177 posts
Thu 30 Jan 2020
at 03:02
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
tibiotarsus:
I'll throw in 'carlin', 'goodwife' and 'beldame', though, so the older guys can have some women to marry.

Beldame : a malicious and ugly woman, especially an old one; a witch.

haha! Harsh! :D

phoenix9lives:
Signore (seen-YORE-a) is not Spanish.  It is Italian
Don and Doņa were used in Spanish as honorifics for wealthy landowners.
While Don in Italian usually refers to the head of a MAFIA familia.

Ooops! Thanks for the fix.

I think the use of Don and Dona could be kind of fun in a fantasy setting that doesn't have the mafia. Just like you said it's used in Spanish as an honorific. Clever!

This message was last edited by the user at 03:02, Thu 30 Jan.

phoenix9lives
 member, 991 posts
 GENE POLICE!  YOU!
 GET OUTTA THE POOL!
Thu 30 Jan 2020
at 03:20
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
I think that it was used as an honorific in Italian the same as it was in Spanish, but popular culture changed all that with the fascination of the MAFIA.
horus
 member, 938 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 8 Feb 2020
at 20:34
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
If anyone is interested, I have somewhere a write-up on Japanese invective.  I don't think I could post it here, since the English explanations in the text are more profane/obscene than most of the actual Japanese.  I could, however, post the actual glossary with some edits.

The short version:  very few words in Japanese are intrinsically profane or obscene - what matters most is the delivery:  the inflection, and most importantly, the context (esp. the social difference between the speaker and the target).

Something else: it may have already been pointed out, but language grows naturally as members of a culture interact with their surroundings.  What we consider "archaic" was at one time contemporary.  This can be useful in games where time travel or other dislocations are involved.

At one point in our history as a planet, there were languages that had no concept of time (or, according to some linguistics scholars, a radically different time sense):  no tenses, no words for 'yesterday' or 'tomorrow' or, even, 'many moons ago' or its equivalent.  Everything was present tense, or stated with no tense expressed or implied.  Hopi and other languages still exist in the present era that are still sparking scholarly debate and "controversy".
facemaker329
 member, 7160 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Sat 8 Feb 2020
at 20:58
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
Odd tidbit of trivia along those lines--surviving scripts from early Medieval plays hint that they had a very different perception of time than we do.  It was not uncommon for contemporary characters to converse with ancients (mostly Biblical, in that era) on their way to meet the Wise Men, who told them what they had seen of the Apocalypse, or stuff of similarly time-jumbled events.  It's hard to say for certain because there's not exactly an abundance of philosophical writings from the era expounding on whether that was a common frame of reference for people or just a theatrical conceit.
tibiotarsus
 member, 122 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Sat 8 Feb 2020
at 22:38
Vocabulary Words to Avoid Modern Phrases in Fantasy Games
What you're picking up there is actually a mediaeval dramatic convention for the idea of 'myth time', which is universally simultaneously "now", "long ago" and "prophecy". Most preliterate cultures have evidence for this frame of reference, since it takes the place of a physical book for where mythtellers "go" to get their version of a story.

Long story short, if you have a culture whose storytelling is primarily collective-human-memory-based rather than paper-based, the concept of mythtime will exist...so there will be a phrase equivalent to "Once upon a time..."

At a tangent, the Haida language (among others) actually has whole gramatical structures to reference the degree of certainty of an event, helping listeners within an oral tradition distinguish historical tellings from mythic occurences.

On the theme of Good Words, though, I don't remember if I brought up banjaxed ('broken' or sometimes 'very drunk') before, though I certainly will now.