This week: Greetings and Partings Edited by: Robert Waltz
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|Send out a cheerful, positive greeting, and most of the time you will get back a cheerful, positive greeting. It's also true that if you send out a negative greeting, you will, in most cases, get back a negative greeting.|
The word 'aloha,' in foreign use, has taken the place of every English equivalent. It is a greeting, a farewell, thanks, love, goodwill. Aloha looks at you from tidies and illuminations; it meets you on the roads and at house-doors. It is conveyed to you in letters: the air is full of it.
The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another.
|Hello, greetings, salutations, welcome, hey there...|
This newsletter comes to you in the midst of the holiday season, a time of connecting and reconnecting with friends and family. So I thought I'd take some time to talk about greetings and their inevitable counterpart, partings.
It seems to be a universal human trait to mark the occasion of meeting someone, or parting from them, with words. In English, the somewhat formal expressions are "hello" and "goodbye," but there are many others, of varying levels of formality: Hi, hey, yo, 'sup; farewell, bye, later, see ya, take care - just to name a few. Other languages have other words, of course; some even use the same word for both (e.g. shalom, aloha).
Which word is used for each depends on factors such as how well the people know each other, how informal the meeting is, relative social status, and so on. Most of us wouldn't say "yo" to greet our boss at the company holiday dinner, or "farewell" to the kids on the way out the door.
It's noteworthy that "goodbye" seems to be almost as old as English itself; it's a corruption/contraction of the expression "God be with ye." In this sense, it's similar to "adios" or "adieu," though - in English at least - it's lost all religious connotation. By way of contrast, "hello" is a much younger word, though I haven't been able to determine if it's related to the much older greeting, "Hail."
We have other words as well, ones that are even more context-specific. "Good morning" and "good evening" are formal greetings for particular times of the day; oddly, "good night" is always a parting.
Okay, Waltz, what does this have to do with the fantasy genre?
Glad you asked.
Like I said, these words are formalities, like putting the word "Dear" in a letter's salutation (a "letter" was what people wrote to each other before emails, texts, and Twitter, and was, confusingly, actually a collection of letters arranged in words, sentences, and paragraphs - and, moreover, was often handwritten). As a formality, its translation is usually not literal. What I mean is, for instance, the Hebrew word "shalom" is generally translated as "peace," but could also be translated as "hello" or "goodbye" depending on the context.
So, say you're writing a fantasy story in English - but the story takes place in another time and/or on another world. There might or might not be actual humans involved. Presumably, the characters aren't actually speaking English, and you might not even have come up with a language for them (we can't all be Tolkien). In such a situation, it could make a lot of sense to use words other than "hello" or "goodbye." The old pulp science fiction trope of "Greetings, Earthlings" comes to mind - the hypothetical alien in such a story could just as easily use hi, hello, salutations, or howdy.
People in your invented culture might have a formal hierarchy, with different greetings depending on where the speaker and listener stand in said hierarchy. As with our own cultures, there might be different words used in a nautical (or astronautical) context. Members of one tribe might have one greeting for other members of the tribe, and another, different greeting for members of other tribes: "Good day," as an example, for the former, and "Prepare to be annihilated" for the latter.
As with our "goodbye," the word or phrase might have even lost its original connotations, such that the example about annihilation might even be considered a warm, friendly welcome - at least by the speaker.
It's not even necessary to make up words for hello or goodbye. Just using an alternative English word or phrase could be enough to do the job.
Another reason to think about using nonstandard greetings and partings is this: you'd be signaling to the reader that this is, indeed, a different culture. Every word between the hail and the farewell could be plain English, and yet by simply changing these opening and closing words, you can tell us something about the people involved.
It's also possible to imagine cultures without these formalities, and those might be the most alien of all.
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|Last time, in "Excelsior!" , I paid tribute to Stan Lee.|
BlackAdder : Awesome newsletter! However, if you're looking for some sci-fi, don't forget the Science Fiction Short Story Contest, which has several good entries this month! [SUBMITTED ITEM: "The Science Fiction Short Story Contest" [18+]]
Thanks for the comment and link!
BIG BAD WOLF 34 on June 3 : Sometimes one man can make a difference. Other times, he or she is assisted by a bunch of unknown allies.
Rare indeed would be the person who acts entirely without assistance.
Angus : Great Newsletter, Robert! Stan Lee truly was one in a million, and he will be sorely missed.
But NEVER forgotten!
Glad you liked the editorial!
And that's it for me for December - see you next year! Until then, farewell, goodbye, catch ya later, and...
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