Saturday, May 4, 2013

Can I give you my slang with no accent and avoid stereotypes?

I started life with a New York accent but lost that so long ago, I couldn’t recapture it today if I tried. We moved to Alabama when I was starting seventh grade and I’m sure the teenage desire to fit in had something to do with how fast I embraced the Southern accent. Now I have a California accent (or so my Maine cousins and my Alabama friends tell me LOL)…whatever that may be. But when I fly back to Alabama, my joke is that I reacquire my twang in-between exiting the airplane and reclaiming my baggage. And I speak Russian with a Czechoslovakian accent, when I can remember any of it from long ago college days. (The prof was from guess where?) For a brief time I had a distinct Valley Girl thing going on because my assistant was a bona fide ValGal and we spent hours every week together in a small office. Totally gag me with a spoon - bitchin! My Boss and also my Husband requested I STOP.

I don’t however, enjoy reading books laden with accents or dialect. I never knew why until I read James’s post on Monday – yup, he’s right, it takes me right out of the story and I just get annoyed. I’m sure over the years I’ve missed out on countless wonderful adventures and much romance set in Scotland because after about one “Aye, lassie” I was DONE.  My loss, I’m sure! And no offense intended to those who write and read those wonderful books!

Another stumbling block for me is any book where I first must plow through a tutorial on all the carefully-thought-out, intense world building the author has done which requires me to learn an entire new language in 30 pages, so I’ll “get” the slang and know that a fxlpgh outranks a wndlr and rides a gsilvbn. Sorry, my bad, can’t hack that either. I willing peruse books with extensive footnotes and glossary only when I’m researching. I do love the books where the novels and the world-specific details are organically presented as the story rolls along, and you can infer the meaning from the context. I thrive on Anne McCaffrey's Pern and Robin D. Owens Celta, for example. 

I think when it’s been really well done the invented slang actually becomes part of the day to day language, among the fans of that fictional world anyway. “Fracking” and “frell” are still used in my house to this day (thank you “Battlestar Galactica” and “Farscape”!)  A recent Den of Geek interview with Liam McIntyre, star of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” touched on this:
DoG: The show’s idiosyncratic language is one of the things that makes it great – have you found yourself saying things like “gratitude” when off set? 
LM: Little words do creep in, so yes, I don’t say thank you so much as I say gratitude any more, and you start saying apologies because you’re late for something instead of sorry. And then you notice other people are saying it too, and it’s like a little club, and anyone who doesn’t understand you just doesn’t get it. 
I write in two wildly varying time frames – ancient and far future. In both eras people do say “fuck” because I figure that’s kind of an eternal word for human beings. I didn’t develop too much snazzy slang for the science fiction universe, although there is some. For the Ancient Egyptian, I’ve got tomes and tomes of books on the poems, songs and fragments of papyri that have been translated. While interesting and beautiful, the scholarly work doesn’t really convey the slang of the everyday person, so I’ve invented a few that seem reasonable to me – “Set’s teeth” is one my warriors seem to utter fairly often.

And to finish out the week’s topic, here are a few quotes I liked about the evils of stereotyping:

“Normally you read a screenplay – and I read a lot of them – and the characters don’t feel like people. They feel like plot devices or clichés or stereotypes.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.”
Margaret Mead

“People are much deeper than stereotypes. That's the first place our minds go. Then you get to know them and you hear their stories, and you say, 'I'd have never guessed.' “ Carson Kressley 

1 comment:

  1. Love your examples as much as I love when friends drop a favorite shows phrasing into conversation. You are spot on saying you feel part of a little club!