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Fantastical Weights and Measures

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  • darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net
    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
    • David Bratman
      ... 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
      • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
        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 ***
        • jamcconney@aol.com
          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]
          • David Bratman
            ... 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
            • Stolzi
              ... 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
              • David Bratman
                ... 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.
                • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                  ... 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 ***
                  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                    ... 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
                      Yahoo! Groups Links






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                    • karlstar2
                      ... 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
                      • Croft, Janet B.
                        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
                          Yahoo! Groups Links
                        • juliet@firinn.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
                          • Stolzi
                            ... 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
                            • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                              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
                                Yahoo! Groups Links






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                              • darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net
                                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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