October 20th, 2005

Alternate Universe, Alternate Names

I'm writing a story set in an alternate world and, though it has developed similarly to our own world, I want to show that this is, in fact, not our world. I figured that the best way to do this would be through the language used by the characters, similar to what Philip Pullman did in His Dark Materials, if anyone's read that. My characters will be speaking English (though they won't be calling it that, I guarantee), but, like I said, it won't be our English.

Since the roots of many English words are Latin or Greek, I figured, maybe I could switch some roots around. A site that lists the etymology of words might be helpful (because it might be easy and clear to make a different, although similar, word out of the same root), or any interesting word histories that I could build upon*. I'd also appreciate finding sites that list and define obsolete slang, since slang's another way to go about things.

Er, by the way, I wanted to find alternatives to "car" and "train," and I considered using "automobile," shortened to "auto," and "locomotive," also shortened some way that isn't "loco." They would be easier to pick up on, because they are already in use in modern English. However, I had to consider, for the same reason, are there any regions that use them in everyday speech, and, if not, how unusual would it sound to the average English speaker if they were to be used in everyday speech?

Edit: While I'm on the idea of easy recognizability, how would replacing hard "c" sounds with the letter "k" in written form seem? Dropping silent "e's"? Would it throw a wrench in my narrative and/or make the story look like I'm copying Final Fantasy VIII?

Double Edit: How effective would borrowing words from another language be?

Any other suggestions?

*For example, static electricity was first noticed when a feather stuck to a piece of amber. "Elektra," the root of modern English "electricity," was a Greek word for "amber" (this was used in His Dark Materials).