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Using real world weapon names

Discussion in 'World Building' started by JamesTFHS, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. JamesTFHS

    JamesTFHS Scribe

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    Ok so as i think of my characters and the types of weapons they will use and a few of the ones i wish to choose come from obvious cultures. My question is do you see a problem with using that weapons original name? Example having a character use a katana(not really going to happen in my book just an example). I am using alot of real world names for specific cultures. Like one character is Arashi. Its japanese and he is an elf though he is apart of one culture of elves that i have use japanese names.
     
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  2. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    No, of course not. If it's a katana, then call it one. There's no reason to call it something different just for the sake of it.
     
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  3. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    It probably depends on. If the other words associated with the culture that came up with the katana is using similar words I would use it, but if they use almost only English words for everything the odd non-English name on stuff would , for me that is, break some suspecion unless you could show where that name comes from in your setting.

    But maybe that's just me.
     
  4. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

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    I see your point here and I largely agree with Gurkhal. I think an overload of Japanese object names would seem thoughtless to my picky mind (not including character names; I note Feist used Japanese-sounding names for one of his original 'races'). You could generalise and state that it is a gracefully curved sword (for example). You could state early on that it is a sword used by that group of people and the readers will later relate the described sword with the people/character. I would, personally, give it a different name myself if the sword has a strong relation to the storyline or defines the character (in the eyes of other, different cultures, for instance, who may relate that type of sword as one used by that character's culture often), but I like naming things. Most (not all) people will be focusing on the storyline rather than the smallest details, as sad as that is for writers when they love to world build. ;)
     
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  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    It is a fine line to thread. You want to sound realistic and let your reader understand what you mean [without half a page of description before they go "Oh it's a sword..."]. I try to keep to language groups for each race or country [so one group would have Germanic sounding names, another Hungarian...]. The trouble I have is that English has co-opted so many names-for-things that it is almost impossible not to include those from other cultures. Of the top of my head I can think of Cot, Crimson, Ketchup, Jungle, Thug and dozen more.
     
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  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    If it quacks like a duck, acts like a duck, and looks like a duck, it's a freakin' duck. Why bother renaming it into something else when someone will suddenly realize after the description that, hey that's a katana. Why didn't they just call it a katana?
     
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I think there is a point where renaming is appropriate. E.g., if the Katana is the sole thing of Japanese influence you have, its going to stick out like a sore thumb if you call it by its right name. It won't feel organic, but rather that the author lazily tossed it in for Rule of Cool. Robert Jordan's Heron Mark swords are essentially katanas judging by the art and licensed reproduction, but he never calls them that AFAIK because it would feel out of place.
     
  8. JamesTFHS

    JamesTFHS Scribe

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    Alot of you made good points here. i especially liked the duck comment Penpilot lol. I do have more weapons than just the katana i chose it as an example because it is probably the most recognizable sword out there. The main weapon from japan i am thinking of using is a naginata and that is for my female character that i mentioned in a previous post awhile back. I also plan on using a variety of other weapons from other cultures and i do find places for them that corresponds with a similar culture.

    so my next question is do you think this idea works? does it take away an element of fantasy from the story bringing in real world weapons?
     
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  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Absolutely not. We see European weapons in fantasy all the time, even though they have as much right to be in an alien culture as katanas do, but we accept it, mostly because of cultural bias. Getting more visibility to weapons of other cultures, and thus indirectly to the cultures themselves, is a good thing. And since you've borrowed more than just the katana, it shouldn't stick out so much. Just make sure you integrate them organically into the world and you're good.
     
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  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Part of the problem is that weapons are a weird mix of independently invented similar things and particular names that one exact thing got called in history. How much a name is tied to history and how much it's a "class" of weapon can drive you crazy.

    I think the best you can do is try to guess the impressions it makes, each time. "Saber" just looks more generic --to the Western eye, but I assume you're writing in English-- than "katana," but maybe you do want your world to suggest the precision crafting and samurai-like discipline that went with katanas, and then do you or don't you want more sprinklings of quasi-Japanese in the mix too...

    If you don't like a historical name, "sword (gracefully curved)" really works, but what you lose is you risk people forgetting the shape of the blade unless you keep adding the detail. Or you can make up your own names-- and if there's a short list of things that deserve their own names in your world, weapons are probably cool enough to make that list.
     
  11. Leif Notae

    Leif Notae Sage

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    You want to keep your readers in mind when you are doing this. When you go into great detail about what the katana looks like without telling them it is a katana, they will grow frustrated with you and your pointless description to build it up. Humans are used to the specifics around them, and in this day and age they don't have time for you to ramble about things they already know.

    If you want to do it, you can say "X is almost like a katana" or just call it a katana. There's no problem and there is no immersion breaking.
     
  12. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    I wouldn't use a word from a language that doesn't exist in my world (not only katana, but something like claymore, too). They often convey the wrong mood.

    Besides, many readers wouldn't really know how a katana looked, so you have to describe it in a few words anyhow ('He drew his sword, a slender, slightly curved blade that exuded wickedness') to set the mood.

    Finally, I'm sure most readers wouldn't care what type of sword it is, as long as there's fighting, blood spattering and danger. But they could stumble over a name that's out of context and you don't want that in an action scene.
     
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  13. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    No. Do NOT say "X is almost like a katana". That's quite possibly one of the worst description techniques out there, along with having your character stare at him/herself in a mirror.
     
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  14. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    THAT"S WHAT I WAS GONNA SAY :ninja:

    And then you have readers like me that hate everything Jordan's done with renaming crap I should know what he's talking about but don't because he had to rename every bloody thing--including heron-marked swords apparently.

    I've considered putting a disclaimer in my books saying, "This is a story that does not take place in English, or even on a planet where English is spoken, and yet the story you are reading is written in English. Please forgive using English instead of the fictional languages of this work."
     
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  15. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I care. For instance, if I had known that heron-marked swords in Wheel of Time were katana, then I would have enjoyed them much more and known exactly what he was talking about without having to invent them in my head.

    One sticky point though is if you use the original word or the English-borrowed version. For instance, in Japanese, two katana is two katana, but in American, we would say two katanas.
     
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  16. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Heron-marked blades aren't katanas. They are katanas wielded by sword master. You can have the same sword without the heron marking on it.

    He actually described the swords perfectly.

    Single edged, slightly curved blades that could be held with one hand or two.

    The first time I read it, I knew exactly what he was trying to say.
     
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  17. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I was picturing a cross between a saber and a katana. Good for you knowing exactly what he was trying to say. Doesn't change the annoyance I felt towards the description when there was a perfectly good single noun that would have described it.
     
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    There's a reproduction out there that apparently Jordan supervised. Note however, that it is a Heron Mark Sword, not the Heron Mark Sword owned by Tam (whoever that is, I'm sure the Jordanites among us will know).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    It has European and Japanese influence, but if I had to strip it to barebones and pick one word to describe it, I'd say katana.
     
  20. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    Then I wasn't all that far off with my earlier description, even if it's not really wicked-looking.
    And I still wouldn't call it a katana if my story was based on on a culture of Polish bojars. Or golden elves from the mountains of P'hara :)
     
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