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Purposefully using Incorrect English

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Androxine Vortex, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    I am writing a novel about orcs and I want to emphasize their... intelligence. So in their dialogue I am trying to make them sound uneducated. For example, in one conversation, an orc says to another, "Well it don't." Obviously it should be "well it does not."

    I am having trouble trying to "dumb down" their dialogue. Here is a conversation between the MC and his father:

    “Ah,” he said approvingly. “The hunter returns! I assume it went well enough?” Thurog was the spitting image of a true orc; tall, muscular and intimidating enough that a human would soil himself with but a glance at him. He had a short, black beard on his chin and two gigantic underfangs that protruded from his mouth and almost reached his nose. His bald head had a long scar that stretched from the top of his head straight down to his missing right eye. There was no question as to why he was their clan's Urogar.
    “Yes. I honored our fathers with many kills.”
    Thurog smiled. “Would you like a drink?”
    Mogruk held his bottle of mead he had won from Ragnar up. “I already got some.” Thurog laughed. “It sounds almost empty. Bring it here.”

    His father was really the only orc that Mogruk truly respected and admired. He always looked up to him and did everything he could to make him proud. Mogruk walked over to his father and handed him the bottle. Thurog poured him a generous amount and handed it back. “Thank you.” He took a sip. It was very strong and with every drop that went down his throat he could taste sweet honey.
    “It's good, no?” his father asked.
    Mogruk nodded his head. “This is very fine mead.”

    “That's the last of this particular mead from that raid we launched two years ago. You remember? It was nearly winter and I believe the human town was called, “Carthshire.”
    Mogruk nodded his head, still sipping from his bottle. He remembered that day. He had killed many humans and they took quite a bounty of spoils. He could not believe the amount of mead they had acquired. A glorious day indeed for their ancestors. Thurog gave a short laugh and placed a mighty hand on Mogruk's shoulder. “It's good to have you back.” Mogruk grinned, revealing rows of jagged, yellow teeth.
    “It's good to be back. Will I see you at the festival tonight?”
    “Wouldn't be much of one without me, would it?”

    Any tips or suggestions on how to make them sound less intelligent but not incredibly stupid?
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Perhaps: "You're back! It went well?" I think perhaps removing some of the extraneous words and making it more straightforward would be okay... considering they are supposed to be of limited intelligence. I assume the story mentions that he is a hunter, so it probably isn't necessary to say it again.

    “Yes. I honored our fathers with many kills.”

    I think it is probably good. “I already got some.” Thurog laughed. “It sounds almost empty. Bring it here.”

    This is fine too, in my opinion; though if you mention that it's mead that they are drinking prior to it in the narrative maybe you could drop that.

    Maybe: "It's the last bit of mead from that raid two years ago." He says, barking a laugh. "Stinking Carthshire, it was a good winter!"

    "It's good you're back boy!" Mogruk grinned, revealing rows of jagged yellow teeth.

    "Good to be back, goin' to the party later?"
  3. I would ask, why do they speak English poorly? Why aren't they speaking their own language? (Which, since we presumably can't read it, would be helpfully translated by the author into proper/equivalent English.) Or is that even orcs speak English in this world, they just aren't very good at it?
  4. Jared

    Jared Scribe

    I agree with this.

    If they're speaking their own language, don't artificially make them sound dumb by having them use full English syntax and screwing it up. If their race is sub-real-world-human-average intelligence, their language will suit them and still be right.

    But if they are speaking a language that their race didn't come up with, they will probably substitute their grammar into English and use fragments. Less "I has it." and more "Got it."

    Also, you might look at Wikipedia's dialects-of-English pages to see how non-natives speakers speak it. Look for their substitutions and adaptations. Although they are not, those differences may make them sound dumb to native speakers. Also look at how children talk. Use a handful of not-quite-right words where adults would use one correct word.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I don't personally have a problem with using language like this to add flavor to the orcs, whether it is to make them sound dim-witted, or for other reasons. By way of example, look at how orcs talk in the Warhammer universes. Even given that the work is a necessary "translation" to English, and not in a fantasy language, so that a reader can read it, there is no reason to presume a hypothetical translator might not employ such strategies to convey the flavor of the words as they are spoken in that fantasy world.
  6. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    Yes they do kind of have their own language and yes I do throw in some orcish words (like Urogar means "war chief") but every race just uses "English." I agree with what Steerpike said and that is exactly what I am trying to get at. I am trying to portray them as being dim-witted; if I used their own language as you mentioned then their words would be more eloquent and make them sound more intelligent. I'm sure that Cavemen had a language system that worked fine for them but it wouldn't properly function as a complete language.

    Saigonnus, those are very helpful tips, thanks!

    The only thing is I don't want them to seem intelligent but at the same time I don't want them to be complete idiots without any intelligent thought. I just want to portray them as having, as Dolores Umbridge put, "near human intelligence." I don't want to overdo it and make them simpletons. But I thought that your suggestions (Saigonnus) were great.
  7. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Thanks, I appreciate it! I purposely have a character speak horrible "english" because it's funny... not because he's uneducated (though he is somewhat limited in intellect.). He'll insert words from his native tongue into his normal sentences or simply revert to his native tongue and I use the narrative to give the reader an idea of what he means.
  8. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    That could really add some flavor to your character and his culture. It never hurts to throw in "native words" like that, even if they really don't even have a meaning or any importance; it gives them more color.
  9. Ivan

    Ivan Minstrel

    Unless these were fine upstanding gentleorcs I wouldn't exactly expect them to speak some equivalent of the Queen's English.
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I have a couple street raised people, they speak incorrect english. Learning to speak from what they hear on the street.

    Many people, educated or not trying to speak a different language can sound ignorant.

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