Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections on "100 mostly small but expressive interjections"

I found this link today, to a list of tiny expressive interjections. I think this list is lovely, long, and quite comprehensive. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

One thing I notice, however, is how many of these expressions are 1. relatively new (weren't around when I was a kid) and 2. highly culture-specific. For example, when I see or hear the expression "Boo-ya," I don't think of success in any general way; I think of a sports commentator cheering over a score in NBA basketball.

The result of this is that the utility of these expressions can be highly dependent upon context. A list of expressions such as these, but that would also be usable in fantasy or science fiction settings, would be much shorter.

Fantasy settings require the most commonly used, most generic and non-context-specific of expressions (and also of words in general). In fact, this is one of the reasons why a sense of generic setting is such a pitfall for fantasy writers.

Science fiction settings can use slang expressions, but if they fail to take into account language change over time, they end up feeling anachronistically dated. It appears, indeed, that science fiction settings commonly have slang, and usually that slang is specially designed for the setting in question - shortenings of all kinds of gadgets, for example. Slang is much less common in fantasy contexts, at least in my experience.