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Secondary titles

Discussion in 'World Building' started by skip.knox, Mar 27, 2020.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    For the most part, I'm fine with working with historical titles, not least because I write historical fantasy. But I do keep an eye out for alternatives.

    Today I found myself considering who the queen would bring with her at an absolute minimum. Surely one would be one or more of her ladies-in-waiting, and that brought me up short.

    What a clumsy phrase that is. These were important women, sometimes women who were themselves noble. They might range from hardly more than an intern to someone who was a close friend. They deserve a better title than "women who wait."

    So, you folks who are familiar with other languages, what sort of title would read well for you? Google Translate has some offerings, but it's hard to tell what is modern, what is historical, and what is merely ham-handed.

    For example, Ehrendame is a nice term--honorable woman--but I like Zofe even better, given its etymology. But that's only German. Costanza is Aragonese who is now Queen of Sicily, so a Latinate word would better serve.

    The Latin translation made me laugh out loud (because in hoc signo vinces is the phrase that appeared miraculously to Constantine on the eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge). Spanish and Italian were rather too on-the-nose, however historically correct they might be. With Galician and Catalan the poor translater has obviously just given up. I'm not averse to something with other linguistic roots.

    Anyway, there it is. Always, tia!
     
  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

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    A tangent and no help to you, but I played off the 'lady in waiting' phrase for a woman who waited a rather long time for the king to notice her, after his wife (and the woman on whom she had waited) passed away. Clumsy though it may be, it let me slip another little (very little) joke into the narrative.
     
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  3. L. L. Green

    L. L. Green New Member

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    I've only started to delve into fantasy writing, and my setting seems like it is farther removed from historical Earth than yours is. Still, this trick might work. In building the society of my world, I have taken to looking up words for titles, roles, and professions in different languages, and splicing words from completely unrelated tongues together until I like the sound of the result in regard to the various regions of my setting. This is somewhat less intimidating than fabricating an actual conlang, and it doesn't make me feel like I am ripping too much off from established history and/or fantasy.

    How Do You Say Different Words in Different Languages is an older, yet reliable resource I like to use for this "name game". If you have never used it before, you can look up a word, and get a list of equivalent words in a wealth of different languages, all roughly grouped by continent. Even if you choose not to go this route, the comparisons are interesting, from a superficial linguistic perspective.

    I'm by no means a polyglot, so I can't vouch for the veracity of all of the translations, and words translated in a foreign alphabet don't always come up with a romanized equivalent or pronunciation. Those are, however, minor problems, that a little bit of additional research (hello, Google Translate!) will mitigate.

    I hope this helped!
     
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  4. Slartibartfast

    Slartibartfast Minstrel

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    Ancilla Regina any good to you? (Ancillae as plural, maybe, I think, (I hate Latin)).
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Feels a little stiff for using in narrative, but just ancilla would work. The queen wouldn't say, "this is my queen's slave" but she would say "this is my slave." Except a lady-in-waiting is never a slave.

    Thanks for the suggestion, though. I might go looking for equivalents to "helper" "aide" or "attendant."
     
  6. Slartibartfast

    Slartibartfast Minstrel

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    I was after stiff :D That was an attempt at a formal title so yes if you're looking for something more conversational I agree ancilla by itself would be better.

    I don't do Latin or Romance languages to more than a general level (so I'm very happy to be wrong about this) but it's my understanding that ancilla largely meant 'female slave' in Latin proper but came to mean 'maid' in derived vocab. If you want Latin proper then ancula/anculae might fit better but it doesn't sound quite as nice to my ear.
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >came to mean 'maid'
    I didn't know that; thx. Lots of words shifted connotation as they moved into the Middle Ages (a nice little walk-up on the third floor <g>).
     
  8. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

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    The title used for ladies-in-waiting to the Roman/Byzantine empresses was Koubikoularia. The masculine version Koubikoularios, in Latin Cubicularius, was a title used for the eunuch chamberlains of the imperial palace in the later Roman Empire and in the Byzantine Empire. Of course, that feels as unwieldy as lady-in-waiting. My tendency would be to use something simple like 'companion.'
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Oh, but I do like Cubicularius. I think that would be a dandy title for a lesser functionary in a wizard's tower. He has custody of a single cubicle.

    Good also for grad students. :)
     
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  10. Slartibartfast

    Slartibartfast Minstrel

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    Medieval Latin is a complete mess - largely because a lot of people who spoke Romance languages were convinced for a while that they were all still speaking Latin - or at least that Latin wasn't that different a language. Over here the Saxons became known as exceptional scholars of Latin at least partly because it absolutely was a separate language for them so they bothered to learn it properly. Then the Normans turned up and it all went to pot... :D
    Anyway the point I was trying to work my way towards is that if Altearth is more Romance and/or Medieval Latin you could probably get away with extrapolating and evolving meanings quite a bit if you choose and still be forgiven by all but the most strict reconstructionist. Who's to say an alternate Romance language wouldn't use solus or virgo regardless of whether or not any Thisearth culture was ever recorded as having done so. Whether that actually suits you meanwhile is entirely down to you.
     
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >Altearth is more Romance and/or Medieval Latin
    It is. It's an attempt to keep as close to historical Earth (I do like Thisearth as a term) as possible while adding in magic, elves, dwarves, and pretty much everything else from medieval mythology. For example, my WIP is a telling of how Frederick of Hohenstaufen became Emperor Frederick II, but with giants, elf crossbowmen, clever dwarves, faithful gnomes, and a plethora of wizards.

    And, evidently, at least one lady-in-waiting.
     
  12. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    "the Queen's ..."
    Entourage?
    Retinue?
    Cortege?

    I suppose my question is to ask if these women have any official capacity to act in or as an extension of government on behalf of the Queen, as directed by her? Words like "secretary", "inner consorteum" might work?
     
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Usually a lady-in-waiting was more like a companion. She would have access to the noblewoman--in this case, the queen--to a degree most others would not. The relationship would vary, anywhere from just another face in the royal entourage to a close confidant.

    In this case, Queen Costanza has gone off to Genova on her own hook. Her husband Frederick is headed to Germania to claim the imperial throne against a rival. She was supposed to guard the home front. For good reasons, she has decided to follow after him, having put affairs back home in good order.

    I had decided all that already. Costanza is simply too interesting a character to leave at home merely because she's female (in RealEarth she did stay behind). But as I started to write that part, I realized there's no way a great lady would travel alone. I do send a bodyguard with her--a dozen Catalan elf crossbowmen under a trusted lieutenant--but being a medieval noblewoman, she would bring at least one female companion. A lady-in-waiting, probably one from her homeland of Aragon, fits the bill exactly. I don't really have to have another term; I was just sort of dreading typing that hyper-hyphenated phrase too often. I was hoping for something felicitous, like sergeant in place of man-at-arms.
     
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  14. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    Ok, so the Queen is going with official body guards and ONE close, competant, personal female friend?

    Hmmm. Let me get back to you... still thinking Queen's Consort or Confidant might work...

    How about... Familiar?
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I appreciate the attention. I can't see Costanza saying "send in my Queen's Consort." She can refer to the woman by name, of course.

    It could be more, but it becomes a matter of narrative management. Get even three and you start to have internal conflicts, and I've already got that in the (larger) group of friends and allies traveling with Frederick. Even so, I could have one lady-in-waiting who is a true confidante, plus a couple who are more like servants. All the same title, but a clear hierarchy to keep things tidy.

    The bodyguards aren't really official, they're just who she trusts to provide reliable muscle. It might only be six or so. I like to leave that sort of thing vague and let the story itself dictate what's workable.
     
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  16. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    Not that I'm wtiting your story, but a close friend to the Queen and a well-respected servant for each certainly sounds more manageable. The servants are co-equals, the Queen trusts her friend but would outrank her regardless of her friend's title. Inner-personal power dynamics seem pretty stable in a small group. Unless you just want to throw in cat-fighty drama for fun.

    Also, an aside: if you have a small group of loyal muscle surrounding an atypical queen (she's going on an adventure to meet up with her husband), they all need names and a definite headcount.... otherwise my devious mind suspects treacherous or opportunistic plans against the Queen are underway from within her ranks.
     
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  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I will take all that under consideration. Again, it's a matter of managing the narrative. My MC is Frederick. His opponent, Otto, has his own narrative. And there's a third, the wizard Maddig Vachon, who is the villain. That's three POVs, which is plenty for one book. Costanza is a secondary character, which makes those around her tertiary. I certainly don't want plans hatching out there on the periphery.

    The historical Costanza did cross with her young son across the Julian Alps in the dead of winter, fleeing a tyrannical brother-in-law (her husband had died). The record doesn't say who else went with her, but it can't have been many. I took that as precedent and justification for my Costanza braving enemy waters to join her young husband on his mad venture.
     
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