The "problem" with using proper grammar, vocabulary, and pronounciation
By laurelarockefeller on November 17, 2012
Upon checking email after work this evening, I received an email from a book blogger. She expressed difficulties in reading my "Great Succession Crisis" novel over language challenges that made the book ultimately unappealing to her.
A key component to the difficulties she experienced lay in the series-specific vocabulary I use to create my world (following in the footsteps of such literary giants as JRR Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frank Herbert). For me this is puzzling given the glossary included at the back of the book and the "planetary conditions" data file which gives exact descriptions of weights, measures, atmospheric conditions, and so forth. This data file is actually the oldest part of my trilogy; for me, it was important to work out the fundamental science that underlies everything else. After all, if you don't know color the sky is from the pov of your characters, it's awefully hard to depict an outdoor scene!
I put this material into my book so that readers can reference it. Reference materials are, well, intended to be consulted.
So why was this really a problem? The blogger recognized that my characters are nobles and royals -- but expected them to talk otherwise? Would not a normal person expect a queen or princess to talk with a measure of formality and use precise language in her communications with people?
I certainly would expect that. Or, to use a contemporary example, I think that it is highly implausable that Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William, or Prince Harry make a habit of speaking with contractions, nor would I think any of them seriously write "gr8" "idk" or most of the other text/twitter abbreviations I found at http://socialmediatoday.com/marketmesuite/421522/omg-over-40-twitter-abbreviations-you-should-know.
So why would my princess from a far away galaxy millions of light years from Earth talk as if she were my teenaged niece in Nebraska posting on facebook (yes, I wrote that out! it's FACEBOOK -- not "FB") or tweeting on twitter?
Is it really so difficult to understand something like,
“No! But I don’t want you to get in trouble either! I would not want your integrity questioned or someone thinking you and I had done something that would compromise you politically. Even not doing that, the sheer rumor could cost House Gurun control of the monarchy! I cannot let you do that!” (Lord Knight Corann to Princess Anlei, pg 61)
“Your life and your friendship honors us and pleases us! How could I do less?” (Princess Anlei to Lord Knight Corann, pg 77)
Now yes, I know I have a broader than average vocabulary (THANK YOU, DR. HUNTER-PIRTLE!), but the above samples of dialogure are not utilizing particularly challenging vocabulary. Well, unless we think "compromise" and "integrity" are particularly difficult words.
In my day, as a Generation X, when we did not know a word, we used a radical volume known as a DICTIONARY. Are dictionaries now out of fashion?
As someone with a true love of languages (multiple languages; I rather enjoy reading foreign language dictionaries sometimes as a means of expanding my frame of reference to the world), this person's reactions are puzzling. What is so hard about the language I use? What is so problematic about formal language?
At my new job (holiday temporary position), we are REQUIRED to use proper formal, professional language -- in addition to our proper business attire. Contractions and slang is a good way for us to get sued; we have to be very clear and explicit in our communications with customers in order to secure that customer's business and avoid buyer's remorse (and the expensive consequences of service cancellations, compliants, etc.).
So if it's expected on the job...why shouldn't proper, formal language be part of everyday life?
It's how we make our living at our jobs. So why shouldn't characters who are also professionals speak just as properly, just as formally?
I worry. Our language is so much more than a twitter soundbite! It can be so beautiful, so amazing...as anyone who loves Shakespare or Yeats or Dickens or Tolkien can attest!
What do you think?
Laurel A. Rockefeller, author
The Great Succession Crisis
E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808
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