For Atlantis, Disney needed a new language for the Atlantean people. To do this, Disney hired Mark Okrand, the man who also created the famous Klingon and Vulcan for the Star Trek series. In the Atlantean language, Mark Okrand’s main source for it’s roots and stems of its words are Proto-Indo-European,but as Okrand also described it as being the “tower of babel” or “root dialect” for all languages in the world, he also used ancient Chinese, Latin, Greek, Biblical Hebrew, along with many other ancient languages or their reconstructions. As such, you can actually learn to write and speak the language!
First of all, I want to point out that you’ve already used some figurative language just in this request. I doubt you checked to make sure you’d read 2,000 pounds of books. Overstatement - hyperbole - is one type of figurative language. You didn’t mean “tons” literally; you were exaggerating, but doing so helped get your point across.
Start small. Figurative language is about exploring similarities in meaning. Try creating a few similes of your own. Once you feel confident, go for a descriptive paragraph or two. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel to you.
Finally, remember that there’s certainly nothing wrong with clear, precise writing. While it will be helpful to feel comfortable with figurative language, in most cases, it isn’t a requirement. Good luck!
I still feel a type of way when I hear straight people saying shit like “hunty”/”henny”, “no tea no shade”, etc.
AAVE, Black Characters, and Code-Switching
You ain’t writing about me, are ya? Haha, well first I’d suggest you familiarize yourself with AAVE. Learn how it’s regionally spoken and hear people speak it. Like, a lot. If you want it to be “authentic” and not have Black folks reading your characters’ speak, laughing and shaking their heads.
It’s an ever-evolving tongue and essentially where mainstream culture gets all its “cool words” from (and actually, cool in the sense of something “impressive” is a word created by Black people, amongst many others words, such as “hipster.” You’ll notice a lot of the slang you hear in the past and now is really Black English).
Think bae, turnt, shade, hunty, bruh….now using these certain ones might date the story as usage changes with time fyi. The only word I’d say to avoid is the N word, as Mod Najela discusses here.
If your characters grew up in white-dominated upper middle class, I’m supposing they’re learning AAVE from either a parent, or family or friends who speak it. I grew up in the city and moved to the burbs when I was entering 4th grade. I didn’t have any AAVE-speaking Black friends at school for several years, but as I remained in contact with family members who spoke it and as my sisters and I did amongst each other and also watched Black tv and movies, my aave stayed relatively flexed.
Living among and as friends to mostly White people (even in the city) my speech is influenced by both with a heavier influence of Standard English than AAVE. Depending on how comfortable I am with the non-Black, non-AAVE speaking individual, more AAVE may intermingle. That’s how it is with my sisters usually; we typically toggle between the two, otherwise are daily speech is in standard.
I didn’t even realize how easily I can slip into BE once i’m comfortable with the [non-black] person until this time at college. The school had added some new feature and I’d casually said "they shoulda been done that.” My friend just looked at me confused and (snarkily) said “English please?” Of course, he’s wrong, since AAVE is a real language with it’s own rules, but I really didn’t realize i’d said anything he might not understand.
I suppose an SA equivalent to that sentence is “they should’ve done that a while ago.” I honestly couldn’t explain to him what I meant at the time because what I’d said in AAVE was the only way I knew how to explain what I meant.
I’d say determine your characters’ histories. If they’ve never been exposed to AAVE-speaking Black people and just happen to speak it, that’d be a bit odd, so you’ll probably want to determine where it comes from as well as whom they speak it around, and how often.
- Black in Upper-class White Society
- AAVE is not SE with Mistakes (pdf)
- Tumblr: Black Proverbs (so damn accurate)
Chinese ESL Speakers and Realistic Speech
The ones I’ve seen with my relatives most of the time are with gender and verb tenses. (We speak Mandarin, so it could be different with speakers of other dialects. Does your character also speak Mandarin, or is it a different dialect like Cantonese or Hokkien?)
There’s only one third-person pronoun in Mandarin, and it’s gender neutral. (There’s a feminized written form, but according to my parents, it’s only been in use for the past fifty years). A lot of the time Chinese ESL speakers get genders confused when it comes to third-person pronouns—think “him” when they’re referring to a woman and vice versa.
There’s also no real past tense when it comes to Mandarin, so I’ve noticed that sometimes when speaking in English the tenses will be in present form.
(note: I’m ABC, so if any followers are Chinese ESL, please feel free to contribute!)
Just thought I’d put my two cents in: Just from what I have observed from my mother who has been speaking english for 20+ years, there is a lot of mispronunciation. In fact, there are a lot of words that chinese people find difficulty pronouncing just because of the differences in the way our tongues develop as we grow up. Like my Japanese teacher last semester seriously could not say ‘parallel’. My mom can’t pronounce Buena Park right. (she says ‘boona’ or ‘bena’ park)
There is also stunted vocabulary?? Like when my mom means to say ‘such and such is offensive and will make people think you’re a juvenile delinquent’ she just says ‘such and such is wild’. Like if someone learns an adjective that makes good sense to them to use in a multitude of situations, they’ll fall back on that particular word over something that is more specific.
Déjà vu is the experience of being certain that you have experienced or seen a new situation previously – you feel as though the event has already happened or is repeating itself.
The experience is usually accompanied by a strong sense of familiarity and a sense of eeriness, strangeness, or weirdness. The “previous” experience is usually attributed to a dream, but sometimes there is a firm sense that it has truly occurred in the past.
Déjà vécu is what most people are experiencing when they think they are experiencing deja vu.
Déjà vu is the sense of having seen something before, whereas déjà vécu is the experience of having seen an event before, but in great detail – such as recognizing smells and sounds.
Déjà visité is a less common experience and it involves an uncanny knowledge of a new place. For example, you may know your way around a a new town or a landscape despite having never been there, and knowing that it is impossible for you to have this knowledge.
Déjà senti is the phenomenon of having “already felt” something. This is exclusively a mental phenomenon and seldom remains in your memory afterwards.
You could think of it as the feeling of having just spoken, but realizing that you, in fact, didn’t utter a word.
Jamais vu (never seen) describes a familiar situation which is not recognized. It is often considered to be the opposite of déjà vu and it involves a sense of eeriness. The observer does not recognize the situation despite knowing rationally that they have been there before.
Chris Moulin, of Leeds University, asked 92 volunteers to write out “door” 30 times in 60 seconds. He reported that 68% of the precipitants showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that “door” was a real word. This has lead him to believe that jamais vu may be a symptom of brain fatigue.
Presque vu is very similar to the “tip of the tongue” sensation – it is the strong feeling that you are about to experience an epiphany – though the epiphany seldom comes.
L’esprit de l’Escalier
L’esprit de l’escalier (stairway wit) is the sense of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late.
Capgras delusion is the phenomenon in which a person believes that a close friend or family member has been replaced by an identical looking impostor. This could be tied in to the old belief that babies were stolen and replaced by changelings in medieval folklore, as well as the modern idea of aliens taking over the bodies of people on earth to live amongst us for reasons unknown. This delusion is most common in people with schizophrenia but it can occur in other disorders.
Fregoli delusion is a rare brain phenomenon in which a person holds the belief that different people are, in fact, the same person in a variety of disguises. It is often associated with paranoia and the belief that the person in disguise is trying to persecute them.
It was first reported in 1927 in the case study of a 27-year-old woman who believed she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets”.
Prosopagnosia is a phenomenon in which a person is unable to recognize faces of people or objects that they should know. People experiencing this disorder are usually able to use their other senses to recognize people – such as a person’s perfume, the shape or style of their hair, the sound of their voice, or even their gait. A classic case of this disorder was presented in the 1998 book (and later Opera by Michael Nyman) called “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”.
Hello! You don’t have to wing it at all; you can put as much - or as little - thought into your spells as you like.
The spells in the Harry Potter books are all words and phrases derived from classical languages (mostly Latin):
Confundo. Closely derived from the word ‘confound’ which can mean ‘to cause confusion’ (NB: the ‘u’ and the ‘o’ of ‘confound’ have been switched around to create the word ‘Confundo’.).
Protego. Can be translated as ‘protect’ from Latin to English.
Engorgio. ‘Engorge’ means to swell something with blood, water or other fluids.
Even when J.K. Rowling isn’t using true Latin words, she manipulates English words to ‘sound’ Latin or linguistically archaic.
I’m going to put ideas under three headers: Verbal Commands, Action Commands and Additional Items. I believe a combination of all these is a decent start to creating your own spells, but you are certainly allowed to focus on one or the other if you’d like.
Most spells require some kind of chant, title or mantra to activate the power’s potential. Here are some things to consider when creating verbal commands.
As stated before, there is a sound to the spells in Harry Potter: Expecto Patronum, Wingardium Leviosa, Sectumsempra, Reparo, Alohomora. The spells are either one word or two and the influence of classical languages is apparent.
Really think about what you want to call your spells and what kind of emotion you want to evoke with them. You don’t have to make the words/phrases outlandish or as a totally new language. You can take inspiration from languages in the world around us and invent them as you need to, providing you do so respectfully and within reason.
So, ‘each spell is three words’, ‘each spell must include an element’ or, ‘each spell must rhyme’.
Whilst they’re not ‘spells’ per se, the best examples I have to explain this are the techniques from the NARUTO series. Generally (although there are exceptions), most all of the techniques are followed by ‘no jutsu’ which means ‘art of..’. For example, Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Art of the Shadow Clone) or Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Art of Summoning).
That’s a very basic look at it. There are then further commands and additions to the techniques, such as with the summoning art:
- Kuchiyose… Kirikiri Mai! (Summoning… Whirlwind Dance)
…or should the art rely solely on one element release:
- Fūton: Kazekiri no Jutsu (Wind release: Wind Cutter Technique)
Just as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spells are restricted to one single word, or two word phrases, the commands in NARUTO follow a consistent pattern and word order, which among other things, contributes to the technique’s success.
A word of note: this example is not here to encourage you to put all of your spells into Japanese…! Remember, in Japanese, the commands are as literal as they sound in English (so, for example, Sabaku Kyū is Sand Binding Coffin). The general point is, these ‘spells’ (or rather, techniques) have naming conventions which you can take inspiration from to make up your own verbal commands.
So, presumably, these spells will be ineffective or bring the wrong kind of result if not pronounced in the correct way, for example, Hermione stressing, ‘It’s Levi-ohh-s-ah, not Levi-oh-s-arr’ (and Harry saying diagonally instead of Diagon Alley, heheh).
Generally, setting limits is a good way to know how much play space you have. Here are some things you can consider when coming up with limits to verbal commands:
- Order of words;
- Speed/pace of speech;
- Tone of words, etc…
It’s not all about shouting the right lines; magical characters, or characters with special abilities often have specific movements or actions to contribute to their technique’s success.
So in Harry Potter, the wand acts as an instrument to channel magical powers. The way I see it is… it refines and controls all of that magical potential to keep it constrained and usable.
A particularly unskilled witch or wizard may struggle to conjure spells without a wand, and when a broken wand is used, either the spell doesn’t work or it works in the wrong way.
Do your spells require an implement to focus the magic/energy being used? Ask yourself:
- What is it called?
- What does it look like?
- What materials make up the implement?
- How important is it to the spell’s success?
- Are all of the implements identical, or unique to the user?
- How is the implement wielded?
- What size is it?
- What are its limitations?
Wand movement is an important part of spell casting in Harry Potter. Moving the wand too abruptly or lazily has an impact on how successful the spell will be.
Comparatively, in NARUTO, characters often perform hand seals as a way of measuring out the amount of chakra they need to perform the technique. It’s a general rule that skilled shinobi are able to use fewer hand seals to create the same effect as they have a greater power.
What kind of movements/stances must your characters adopt to safely perform a spell? What kind of movements/stances give them the best advantages in battle?
Potions, talismans, plants, magical objects… what other kind of things do your magical characters use in order to create/concoct spells?
There are all sorts of items and weird things rumoured to have been used by witches for the act of spell-casting. This is another thing you can consider when thinking up spells; the words or names associated with these things can be good material to work with when coming up with incantations.
Phew. That’s about it. I think I might have included things you didn’t ask for, as I wanted to cover all avenues… but I really hope this helps…!
Best of luck, Anon!
If you have any doubt that the hashtag is a frighteningly powerful tool in our modern vocabulary, imagine a person you care about texting you that song’s title line out of the blue: “You’re beautiful.” Now think of the same person texting, “You’re #beautiful.” The second one is jokey, ironic, distant—and hey, maybe that’s what that person was going for. But it also hammers home that point that the internet too often asserts: You’re not as original as you once thought. “Beautiful” is analog, unquantifiable, one-in-a-million. #Beautiful, on the other hand, is crowded terrain. Ten more people have just tweeted about something or someone #beautiful since you started reading this sentence.
As more and more of our daily interactions become text-based — people preferring texting to phone calls, workplaces that rely heavily email and instant messaging—we’re developing ways to stretch our written language so it can communicate more nuance, so we can tell people what we mean without accidentally leading them on or pissing them off. Periods have become more forceful, commas less essential, and over the last few years, the hashtag has morphed into something resembling the fabled sarcasm font—the official keystroke of irony. Putting a hashtag in front of something you text, email, or IM to someone is a sly way of saying “I’m joking,” or maybe more accurately, “I mean this and I don’t at the same time.”
Thanks to Twitter, the hashtag has become an important linguistic shortcut. But while everyone from Robin Thicke to Beyoncé has used the symbol as part of their art, only a few have truly taken advantage of its culture-jamming possibilities.
This what I needed, shit
No. Said is not dead. Words for dialogue other than “said” are jarring to the narrative and take most people out of the story. Put the way they said it in what they say or add an adjective.