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Discussing: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

My first post here and I have a question - can anyone tell me if the word 'damn' is considered an acceptable word when used in LOTR fanfics? I'm not talking about the social/moral aspect of its use but as to whether or not it is a word that WOULD be used. If not, is there an equivalent? I sometimes tell authors that I think the words sounds out of place, but I'm not sure if I am correct in so saying.

It's a minor issue, but one I'm very curious about. I hate to be dispensing 'advice' in a review if my advice is wrong!

Thanks to anyone who has the answer.

viggomaniac

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

I think if you adopt the Professor's attitude, then you are in the position of the translator anyway.

That is - you don't have to use what would be appropriate in Middle-earth, because you are not writing in Westron or Sindarin. You are writing your story in *English*. The theory is that you are translating certain swear-words from Westron or Sindarin into English. And a good translation is not always a literal translation, but to find the best equivalent. Therefore, if you are really puristic and true to Tolkien's own approach , you can use words like "hell" or "damn" with no problem. If the people you are writing about would have used the Middle-earth equivalent of "damn" you should "translate" that with "damn".

If you don't want to be quite as "canatic", I would suggest that you look at the style of the story.

It's the author's decision to try and emulate Tolkien's pseudo-archaic style or not.

If an author does not go that way, I believe that you have to accept that decision. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a decision of style you, as a reader, may like or not, but it's not a question of "right" or "wrong".

Then I would suggest looking at that style... in that particular story, does "damn" fit? Or not? In a story that tries for Tolkien's pseudo-archaic style, "damn" may sound off. In that case I see no problem with saying something like

"I think you are attempting a style that is as solemn and measured as Tolkien's, yet here (quote) you use the word (xyz). In that context this sounds slightly off to me. Maybe another word, for example (xyz), would fit better and enhance the atmosphere of the story." 

However, if the story is generally kept in a modern style I personally would find a comment that criticizes the use of words like "damn" or "hell" or something like that slightly ridiculous. But that's only my personal opinion. Measures may vary.

Anyway, that's my two cents, hope they are of interest!

Cheers,
JunoMagic

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

Hello JunoMagic, and thank you for the reply. I enjoy reading your ideas on reviewing. I usually avoid modern style stories (where I would expect to find words like 'hell' or 'damn') but they just seem out of place in stories that present a more archaic style. Some stories  present a mixture of both and those are the one where I will generally suggest that the author substitute a more canonic-sounding word or phrase.

And it isn't that I object to the words. It's that sometimes they seem to defy the mood/style of the story. So I think you've answered my question.

I have made lots of suggestions to different authors as how certain phrases (for example, one author used the term 'bar maid' which I politely suggested could be replaced with 'serving girl') might be better substituted with more canonic-sounding phrases. What I want to avoid is making suggestions that are based purely on my personal opinion and not on fact. 

 I don't suppose I should suggest substituting the word 'dang'? (Just kidding, of course). Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it very much.

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

I have made lots of suggestions to different authors as how certain phrases (for example, one author used the term 'bar maid' which I politely suggested could be replaced with 'serving girl') might be better substituted with more canonic-sounding phrases. What I want to avoid is making suggestions that are based purely on my personal opinion and not on fact.

Well, I think it's easy to come across as overly nitpicky with suggestions for other expressions, which is why I'm wary of doing that in my reviews. Interpretations may vary, after all!

The example you picked here for instance... "bar maid" vs. "serving girl" - for Middle-earth my sense of language and style would definitely pick "bar maid" or "serving wench" or "tavern wench". "Serving girl" is *much* too tame for the kind of pre-industrialized cultures we are dealing with in Middle-earth. Though if you use a upper-crust tavern like the "Rose Garden" in Minas-Tirith as compared to the down-to-earth "Prancing Pony" or the slightly shady "Laughing Oliphaunt", you might end up with yet another term. So you see that it's very easy to have reasons for using the one rather than the other expression.

I believe that generally it is more the beta-reader than the reviewer who ought to focus on the use of single words or expressions, but that's only my opinion.

Cheers,
Juno

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

You're right on this one. Actually, I looked back at that review and the expression the author used was 'waitress' for which I suggested 'serving girl' and in the context of the story, I also suggested that the author could refer to her as 'an uppity wench!'  There were more, but then again, the intent is not to discourage the author, but to offer a bit of constructive criticism along with comments of a more positive nature. I generally reserve comments about word use, etc., to those authors who make it plain that they welcome having them pointed out. After all, if the author is reasonably good, I want them to keep writing!

Again, thanks for your input. See you around.

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

However, if the story is generally kept in a modern style I personally would find a comment that criticizes the use of words like "damn" or "hell" or something like that slightly ridiculous. But that's only my personal opinion. Measures may vary.

So sorry to bump this, but there have been times when I truly needed to use the word 'hell' to describe a place of torment or something awful.  I was always told that Middle-earth had no concept of hell, and that's what gave me pause.  But if we're acting as translators, that might not hold true.

In most of the cases, I fudged and used 'Thangorodrim' instead of hell.  But in one case I had no choice but to say, "The last two days have been hellish."

I would even say that hell is a perfectly good medieval word to use.

I've had the same temptation with 'damn' too.  Again, I fudge and say 'curse it' or something to that effect.  But often the use of damn or dammit would have given the dialogue so much more power.

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

Hi, Jael,

 I think you were mistold about 'hell' in Tolkien - he uses it two or three times. I'm not sure if it is in LOTR but he definitely uses 'hell-hound' - Sorry - I don't have my book at my hand... but hell is definitely in there!

As for 'damn' - it brings to my mind the modern world and kind of takes me out of the tale - but I'd never decline a story because of it.

To me - anything that takes the reader OUT of the story - in my stuff - I immediately ax!

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

I have found three instances in LotR where words from our quite different concept of religion/blasphemy are used. Words which I would normally consider quite off for M-e myself, I have to say. And used, moreover, not merely by the narrator, but in actual dialogue.

So Tolkien himself opened this door quite wide, unfortunately.

- 'There is some new devilry here,' he said, 'devised for our welcome no doubt. (FotR, The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm)

- There's no grief in that; but think - there's someone loose hereabouts as is more dangerous than any other damned rebel that ever walked since the bad old times, since the Great Siege. (TTT, The Choices of Master Samwise)

- 'Faramir! The Lord Faramir! It is his call!' cried Beregond. 'Brave heart! But how can he win to the Gate, if these foul hell-hawks have other weapons than fear? (RotK, The Siege of Gondor)

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Is its use accepted in M.E. or is there an equivalent?

Hell 

In LotR I only found one reference, in RotK.

    'Faramir! The Lord Faramir! It is his call!' cried Beregond. 'Brave heart! But how can he win to the Gate, if these foul hell-hawks have other weapons than fear?

None in the Hobbit

Silmarillion has several, some in the Luthien and Beren stuff:

But Fingon could not release the hell-wrought bond upon his wrist, nor sever it, nor draw it from the stone.  

he took up his abode in the endless dungeons of Angband, the Hells of Iron, for in the War of the Powers the Valar, in their haste to overthrow him in his great stronghold of Utumno, did not wholly destroy Angband nor search out all its deep places.

but after the coming of the Sun rich grass arose there, and while Angband was besieged and its gates shut there were green things even among the pits and broken rocks before the doors of hell.

'Be he friend or foe, whether demon of Morgoth, of Elf, or child of Men, or any other living thing in Arda, neither law, nor love, nor league of hell, nor might of the Valar, nor any power of wizardry, shall defend him from the pursuing hate of Fëanor's sons, if he take or find a Silmaril and keep it.

There the fire and anguish of hell entered into him, and he became filled with a devouring spirit, tormented, terrible, and strong.

Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell.

Angband               'Iron Prison, Hell of Iron', the great dungeon-fortress of Morgoth in the Northwest of Middle-earth. 

Damn is only found in Two-Towers, spoken by orcs.

There's no grief in that; but think-there's someone loose hereabouts as is more dangerous than any other damned rebel that ever walked since the bad old times, since the Great Siege 

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Yes, damn!

But if we're acting as translators, that might not hold true.

I think that's the key to the question.

Tolkien himself pretended to act as a translator of historic documents. If we adopt this "within Arda" approach, our stories will be "translations", too.

As English is not my first language (actually the third language I ever learned), I can say without any hesitation at all that there are phrases that do not translate literally between languages, and I'm talking languages that share roots and culture.

A "What the hell?" or "Damn!" in Tolkien fanfiction stories doesn't bother me. What does bother me is inconsistent style.

Cheers,
Juno

(adding her two cents for what they are worth...) 

 

 

Re: 'Damn' - Yes, damn!

It's all in the flavor you're after.

Most cultures have some kind of concept of a supernaturally bad place, where you might end up if you're a bad person.  Or just not an extraordinarily virtuous one.  Homer consigned all mortals to Hades, a truly dismal place to have to hang out for the afterlife.  Mortal women didn't get to go to Valhalla, but ended up in the original Norse Hel (ruled by a giantess of the same name).  And all cultures have a concept for "evil supernatural being," call them what you will: devil, demon, fiend.  The words were around before Christianity started capitalizing some of them and turning them into specific places and persons.

I've just been rereading Shippey's RtME (now that there's the new edition), and he has a nice discussion of how Tolkien tried to craft a pre-Christian world, the kind of place "virtuous pagans" might exist.  If you look at Tolkien's use of hell, devil, demon and so on, it is very similar to how such terms are used in his touchstone texts: Beowulf, the Eddas and sagas.

So what kind of atmosphere are you trying to create with this?  If you want to translate it into modern colloquial, go for it.  If you're trying to express a certain kind of morality, that should shape your choices.  If you just want to show a character is foul-mouthed or malicious, then non-specific oaths and cursing may do the trick.  Try to keep in mind--curses used to actually mean something, and were meant to have real consequences!

 

 

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