## Fantastical Weights and Measures

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• This might be an interesting idea for a discussion. I just finished reading L.E. Modesitt, jr s Legacies, and found his internal system of keeping time
Message 1 of 15 , Jul 14 12:22 AM
This might be an interesting idea for a discussion. I just finished reading
L.E. Modesitt, jr's "Legacies," and found his internal system of keeping
time rather difficult. He had internalised all forms of Measurement. SO
that an hour was called a "Glass" and he had a ten day week and four
seasons. However, the story takes place over the course of about two years
and he never really clarifies how many months there are in a year or what
they are called, also he never enumerates the days of the week. So at the
beginning of a chapter begins "He awoke to a crisp Octdi morning." okay,
so is this the month, or a day of the week? It gets esspecially confusing
if the character goes from one city to another and the author does not tell
you how long it took, but but does say what day he depated and what day he
arrived. So basically I'm stuck trying to figure it out how far on the
badly printed map on the papperback edition. The friend who loaned me the
book says that if you carefully read the book, and the scond book in the
series you can figure out the days and the months, but should you really
have to invest that much time and efort into figuring out something which
distracts you from the story? I know that changing the name of weights
measures and currency can provide a sense of "otherness" to a story, but it
should really be outlined somewhere, like what Tolkien did in his Appendix,
or in a smaller scale series in the first chapter or so. This is mostly a
gripe post, but I was curious to see if anyone had a similar experience
• ... But you ll notice that Tolkien, having invented these imaginary day and month names in his appendices, translates them back into ordinary English for the
Message 2 of 15 , Jul 14 10:35 AM
At 12:22 AM 7/14/2004 -0700, darancgrissom@... wrote:
>I know that changing the name of weights
>measures and currency can provide a sense of "otherness" to a story, but it
>should really be outlined somewhere, like what Tolkien did in his Appendix,
>or in a smaller scale series in the first chapter or so.

But you'll notice that Tolkien, having invented these imaginary day and
month names in his appendices, "translates" them back into ordinary English
for the story itself.

>So at the
>beginning of a chapter begins "He awoke to a crisp Octdi morning." okay,
>so is this the month, or a day of the week?

This is what's called "bad writing." Some authors don't grasp the
difference between alluding to distinctive characteristics of their world
to create a sense of strangeness, and encoding ordinary things to create a
sense of bewilderment. Worst is when these terms aren't mortised into
dialogue, but dropped on the reader in narration.

A quick Google search - nice way to gauge usage in bad contemporary writing
- reveals that crisp [month] mornings outnumber crisp [day of the week]
mornings by more than 2 to 1, but that crisp [season] mornings are more
common than either, and of these, crisp fall/autumn mornings are 2/3rds of
the total. So the fact that Modesitt's "Octdi" consists of the first
syllables of two fall months (respectively the 2nd and 6th most likely
months to have a crisp morning, according to Google) is probably not a
coincidence.

- David Bratman
• David said:
Message 3 of 15 , Jul 14 11:14 AM
David said:

<This is what's called "bad writing." Some authors don't grasp the
>difference between alluding to distinctive characteristics of their world
>to create a sense of strangeness, and encoding ordinary things to create a
>sense of bewilderment. Worst is when these terms aren't mortised into
>dialogue, but dropped on the reader in narration.

It can also be "inexperienced writing." I'd prefer that characterization
myself, for apparently I am exceedingly guilty of it in my current project.
Oops, I just forgot that the imaginary reader didn't have the benefit of
reading my first project (which got shelved some time ago as good warm-up
effort). So, this August, I am going to work on correcting just that
problem.

A good writer, I think, will introduce their terms and ideas in a natural
and yet interesting manner, that is, in a way that will help the reader,
hmmm, grok their world.

Lizzie

Elizabeth Apgar Triano
lizziewriter@...
amor vincit omnia
*** Do visit www.groups.yahoo.com/group/DollsandArts ***
• A good writer, I think, will introduce their terms and ideas in a natural and yet interesting manner, that is, in a way that will help the reader, hmmm, grok
Message 4 of 15 , Jul 14 12:53 PM
A good writer, I think, will introduce their terms and ideas in a natural
and yet interesting manner, that is, in a way that will help the reader,
hmmm, grok their world

A good rule is probably to use any new word in a way that's self
explanatory...but then 'Octdi' is pretty self explanatory and it's still rather
annoying. It smells of the lamp. If you want to name a month, why not just make up a
name? Or leave it out altogether?

This is, however, the problem language-lovers have when they write
fantasy--it's so much FUN to invent all those new, wonderful words! (I love it when
authors include a glossary, but not every fantasy writer does that. And not
every reader wants to bother.) I've been working on a fantasy series myself
(isn't everyone?) and it has pages of glossary plus the heraldic emblems of every
House, maps of every river and town and mountain and why they got named the
way they are...well you get the idea. But I've come to see this as mostly a
hobby, or maybe my own way of making that world so real to myself that I can
pick up a pen and write a scene _without_ spending a lot of time on
descriptions and explanations and funny words.

Anne

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
• ... It can be, but in an author who d already published some 30 books in over ten years before the one we re discussing, it isn t. - DB
Message 5 of 15 , Jul 14 2:02 PM
At 02:14 PM 7/14/2004 -0400, Lizzie wrote:

>It can also be "inexperienced writing."

It can be, but in an author who'd already published some 30 books in over
ten years before the one we're discussing, it isn't.

- DB
• ... From: David Bratman ... Ummm, O proponent of good spelling, which month of the year begins with Di ? (unless we re talking Spanish here) Diamond
Message 6 of 15 , Jul 14 3:04 PM
----- Original Message -----
From: David Bratman

> So the fact that Modesitt's "Octdi" consists of the first
>syllables of two fall months (respectively the 2nd and 6th most likely
>months to have a crisp morning, according to Google) is probably not a
>coincidence.

Ummm, O proponent of good spelling, which month of the year begins with
"Di"? (unless we're talking Spanish here)

Diamond Proudbrook
• ... The one that s pronounced that way. Where d you get the capital D? That s not from Modesitt.
Message 7 of 15 , Jul 14 3:20 PM
At 05:04 PM 7/14/2004 -0500, Stolzi wrote:

>Ummm, O proponent of good spelling, which month of the year begins with
>"Di"? (unless we're talking Spanish here)

The one that's pronounced that way.

Where'd you get the capital D? That's not from Modesitt.
• ... David points out:
Message 8 of 15 , Jul 14 6:11 PM
>It can also be "inexperienced writing."

David points out: <It can be, but in an author who'd already published
some 30 books in over
ten years before the one we're discussing, it isn't. >>

Tsk, no, it isn't. Sorry.

Elizabeth Apgar Triano
lizziewriter@...
amor vincit omnia
*** Do visit www.groups.yahoo.com/group/DollsandArts ***
• ... From: darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 00:22:14 -0700 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: [mythsoc] Fantastical Weights and Measures
Message 9 of 15 , Jul 15 7:40 AM
Original Message:
-----------------
From: darancgrissom@...
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 00:22:14 -0700
To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [mythsoc] Fantastical Weights and Measures

This might be an interesting idea for a discussion. I just finished reading
L.E. Modesitt, jr's "Legacies," and found his internal system of keeping
time rather difficult. He had internalised all forms of Measurement. SO
that an hour was called a "Glass" and he had a ten day week and four
seasons. However, the story takes place over the course of about two years
and he never really clarifies how many months there are in a year or what
they are called, also he never enumerates the days of the week. So at the
beginning of a chapter begins "He awoke to a crisp Octdi morning." okay,
so is this the month, or a day of the week?

Stuff like this intrigues me. I'm guessing that "Octdi" is "eighth day,"
figuring Modesitt's going for a Latinate patina at least in designations
for days, months or seasons. I'm judging on only one instance, of course,
and wonder if there's a Sextdi, a Septdi, etc. Does he mention other names
like these? Does he also give seasons and month-names using the same
system? Hence, "Spring" might be "primevera" or something derivative.

"Glass" = hour doesn't make much sense, unless he's got an explanation.
Gene Wolfe measures his times (at least in the New Sun books) in "watches."
I'm willing to accept this to some degree, if it's inserted naturally, and
I don't assume it's "bad writing" unless no explanation's given. Names
would naturally differ from place to place, and people would have different
perceptions of seasons: in some places, there's a "dry" season, and a
"rainy" one (I'm thinking Mediterranean areas). So it wouldn't be uniform
across a planet, though there's general agreement on four seasons. If the
area's small, everyone will have the same perceptions.

Whether I want to invest the time depends on my mood: sometimes, I've no
time for this level of intricacy; at other times, it gives me great
pleasure. It depends on if I'm reading "fast" or "slow." ---djb

The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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• ... world ... create a ... Yes, but how? How do you explain, without the written equivalent of a table, that Tirsday = Tuesday, etc? As one of the worst
Message 10 of 15 , Jul 15 8:55 AM
>David said:

><This is what's called "bad writing." Some authors don't grasp the
>>difference between alluding to distinctive characteristics of their
world
>>to create a sense of strangeness, and encoding ordinary things to
create a
>>sense of bewilderment. Worst is when these terms aren't mortised into
>>dialogue, but dropped on the reader in narration.

>It can also be "inexperienced writing." I'd prefer that >characterization
>myself, for apparently I am exceedingly guilty of it in my current
>project.
>Oops, I just forgot that the imaginary reader didn't have the benefit >of
>reading my first project (which got shelved some time ago as good
>warm-up
>effort). So, this August, I am going to work on correcting just that
>problem.
>
>A good writer, I think, will introduce their terms and ideas in a
>natural
>and yet interesting manner, that is, in a way that will help the >reader,
>hmmm, grok their world.
>
>Lizzie

Yes, but how? How do you explain, without the written equivalent of a
table, that Tirsday = Tuesday, etc? As one of the worst people
around for making up names for people and places, and introducing them
properly, this is a real problem for me. I suppose that's why most
writers just avoid it, and don't mention the name of the day of the
week or the month.

On the other hand, Mr. Modesitt should know better, but I've found his
books to be full of small quirks that turn out to be quite irritating.

Jim
• Yes, but how? How do you explain, without the written equivalent of a table, that Tirsday = Tuesday, etc? Jim As I recall, from a quick read of The Science of
Message 11 of 15 , Jul 15 9:05 AM
Yes, but how? How do you explain, without the written equivalent of a
table, that Tirsday = Tuesday, etc?

Jim

As I recall, from a quick read of The Science of Discworld, Terry
Pratchett had a fairly elaborate 8-day, 8-season calendar set up and
then just pretty much never used it. He still sometimes uses the
directions he made up, like Hubwise and Turnwise, but they make sense.

What you need to do is add some contextual clues. "It was Tirsday, and
the work week was in full swing after a generally cranky and hung-over
Moonday." "On a crisp Octdi morning in the shank of the year, when the
niknik trees were changing from pink to blue..." "The great hourglass in
the city tower was turning. 'Third glass already, and the marketing's
not done,' she sighed."

But not too much. A little mystery is fun.

Janet

The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
• ... I read one book in which the protagonist from our dimension traveled to another dimension, and his internal monologue explained the conversions. That can
Message 12 of 15 , Jul 15 9:11 AM
On Thu, Jul 15, 2004 at 03:55:50PM -0000, karlstar2 wrote:
> Yes, but how? How do you explain, without the written equivalent of a
> table, that Tirsday = Tuesday, etc? As one of the worst people
> around for making up names for people and places, and introducing them
> properly, this is a real problem for me. I suppose that's why most
> writers just avoid it, and don't mention the name of the day of the
> week or the month.
>
I read one book in which the protagonist from our dimension traveled to
another dimension, and his internal monologue explained the conversions.
That can be done clumsily or effectively depending on how believable the
character is. I've also read both effective and ineffective uses of
archaic measurements like candlemarks, leagues, farthings, stones, and
so forth.

For the most part though, if the weights and measures are firmly anchored
in the culture, religion, or environment, they'll make sense and you won't
have to think too hard about them.

Julie
• ... Hourglass! You know, the thing the sand trickles through. Diamond Proudbrook
Message 13 of 15 , Jul 15 1:41 PM
>"Glass" = hour doesn't make much sense, unless he's got an explanation.

Hourglass!

You know, the thing the sand trickles through.

Diamond Proudbrook
• I figured it was something like an hourglass, but for some reason, it sounds strange. ---djb ... From: Stolzi Stolzi@comcast.net Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004
Message 14 of 15 , Jul 16 7:16 AM
I figured it was something like an hourglass, but for some reason, it
sounds strange. ---djb

Original Message:
-----------------
From: Stolzi Stolzi@...
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 15:41:42 -0500
To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Fantastical Weights and Measures

>"Glass" = hour doesn't make much sense, unless he's got an explanation.

Hourglass!

You know, the thing the sand trickles through.

Diamond Proudbrook

The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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• Just so everyone knows, I m now 84 pages into the second book of the Modesitt series that originated this post,and Octdi is in fact a day of the week. The
Message 15 of 15 , Jul 18 2:27 AM
Just so everyone knows, I'm now 84 pages into the second book of the
Modesitt series that originated this post,and Octdi is in fact a day of the
week. The author extended his claendar week to ten days instead of seven.
It would have been very helpful to have had this information somewhere in
the first book.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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