Trope-a-Day: Latex Perfection

Latex Perfection: Unfortunately, no longer nearly so useful as it once was, due to the difficulty of compensating for all the exotic sensoria of all the species out there, never mind the sheer range of possible sensors.  (Mass-market cameras, for example, tend to cover everything from high radio bands through X-ray, in EM spectrum terms.)  Disguising yourself as someone else tends to involve growing clone-bodies, or bodysculpt, at the very least.

Trope-a-Day: Laser-Guided Amnesia

Laser-Guided Amnesia: Memory redaction.  Exists as a technology specifically to let people forget (a) traumatic memories, (b) merely unpleasant memories (“let’s agree that this argument never happened, love”), and (c) memories which one is contractually obligated not to have (i.e., a very effective non-disclosure agreement – although the separation between narrative and procedural memory usually does let you keep the skills you acquired on the job).

On Thanks, And The Meanings Of Thanks

In appropriateness for Thanksgiving, the question of the nature of thanks.

In an etymological discussion on Google+, back in July, which some of you may remember, in which various languages’ ways of saying “thank you” were discussed and their comparative original meanings – in terms of obligation, or gratitude, or mercy, or indeed the fascinating etymology of the Japanese arigato, I was asked how Eldraeic does this. And so, I answered, and I thought while I was at it I would save the substance of that comment for today’s blog article:

It is, of course, a somewhat complex question filled with tasty nuance. Sadly, it is also a complex question filled with etymological detail which I didn’t have to hand then, and since my brain has been busy with other things in the meantime, I still don’t have now, which teaches me to put things on the back burner, I guess. Still, while I don’t have those details available because I have yet to work out how these words would have run in Cestian and Selenarian and so forth before determining their descendants in good old modern Eldraeic, I can talk somewhat about meanings.

Of course, in Eldraeic, it’s all about obligation. Because of coválír and mélith, which for new readers are defined over here, and I talk some more about how they play out in language here. To Eldraeic’s original native speakers, and to those Imperially acculturated, obligation is a spiritual value, a founding principle of civilization, and a measure of moral worth all wrapped up in a single package. And for eldrae, in particular, it’s something about which they get instinctually twitchy in ways that humans simply can’t feel, so.

Thus, there are three combinations in Eldraeic that take the place of our “thank you” / “you’re welcome” pair. In either of the first two, the thanking party opens with “I am indebted”. The first possible response here, used for originating transactions, amounts to “It is known/acknowledged/recorded.” (The word here, based on the etymological notes that I do have, is now specific to this circumstance, but links back to older words relating to knots, tieing, weaving, etc., which is how they used to keep account-books in archaic times.)

I should also point up, probably, that while this might seem cold by human standards, declining to acknowledge/record someone’s offered debt is essentially blowing it off as not worth enough to bother with, which is a particularly insulting way to start a fight provoke someone to a duel. Yay for cross-cultural misunderstandings.

The other one, used for closing transactions when one is cancelling an existing debt, is “It is repaid,” which – oh, hey, more etymology – has links with words meaning “it balances”.

The third form is used in things like, say, buying something and paying for it right then, when the obligation is both incurred and paid off at the same moment. That one’s a worn down form of the old obligator closing that runs something along the lines of “Thus is our contract written; thus is agreement made.”, and it’s said each to each, probably simultaneously, at the close of the deal. You could also think of it as analogous to the Jacksonian “Deal”.

These apply, of course, principally to solicited transactions. Unsolicited ones – well, in their view of the world, you can do something that benefits someone else for your own internal reasons, but you can’t do something for them without their consent – because that would indebt them to you without their consent, and that’s something that only slavers, outworld barbarians, and other terminally uncultured people do. One can, however, declare oneself indebted to someone for something they didn’t do for you, which starts off the whole elegant verbal dance in which they try to persuade you that you’re not indebted (’cause they had their own internal reasons or another debtor, and got paid already) without insulting you by repudiating your debt, and you try to persuade them otherwise…

One might well ask how gratitude fits into this paradigm. Answer: badly, as we conceive of it, ’cause gratitude would imply a sense of indebtedness, and that would be incorrect and inappropriate because the debt has been either acknowledged as an obligation or already paid. It is done, and carrying it further would be a gross solecism.

What they do have, on the other hand, is appreciation – something which, per coválír , has its ties to such words as “appraise” acknowledged much more plainly that in human cultures, because they’re not ashamed to express value as value . Eldraeic is a language in which it is entirely reasonable and appropriate to say “I value your existence/this series of transactions/the [commercial/personal/etc.] relationship/your willingness to participate in this transaction” straight out, which while far from something that it’s appropriate to say every time you buy a cup of coffee, is something one might express to one’s frequent counterparty/regular butcher/favorite barista, etc., etc., as a statement appended to whichever of the above is relevant to whatever transaction you’ve just engaged in.

(It’s also the most appropriate statement to use to respond to things done that benefit-you-but-aren’t-for-you, which in most cases do not generally warrant going to the lengths of declaring oneself personally indebted.

This phrasing is also used to acknowledge gifts – given with no strings attached, for which there is a specific verb, “to-give-in-appreciation-of-your-value”, which I would more readily gloss as “to gift”, at least if we ignore blue-gifting – compliments and other such expressions, and so forth.)

Apologies…

…for the delay in bringing you various things.

I regret to say that my writing is presently being interrupted by, ah, irritating hardware problems, which honestly, I’m not all that thankful for.

Unlike, say, my readers, for whose patience I am particularly thankful right now…

Divergence

In the anonymous-questions box today, I received an inquiry into what the point of divergence, as it were, was that led to the eldrae Spaceflight Initiative developing with vigor into exactly the kind of space program we didn’t get?

Well, I’ve touched on a little bit of this before. Some of it originates in more-or-less innate cultural differences playing out, and some of it has to do with the different economic and planning time horizons of a long-lived species. I could talk about greater tendencies towards curiosity and neophilia and not having an untimely crisis of cultural self-confidence.

But if I had to reduce it to one thing, it’d be the way that all those folks who prefer to smugly pontificate about why things can’t be done – be it technical limitations or economic ones – or shouldn’t be done, or aren’t worth doing, etc., rather than getting down to the hard work of figuring out how it can be done, tend to find themselves being marched out of the Senate, or wherever, by their peers, and then duly mocked, denounced, and belittled to the plaudits of the crowd and the amusement of the children.

Imperial culture is really hard on those it perceives as Obstructive Naysayers. It certainly doesn’t go around listening to them.

Trope-a-Day: La Résistance

La Résistance: The Resolutionist Faction (your local name may vary; it’s not like they can agree on one) are a loose coalition of hundreds, if not thousands, of separate groups, struggling valiantly against the lack of tyranny imposed by the Empire and, to a lesser extent, the Accord of Galactic Polities.

Yes, I said “lack of tyranny”.  This is also what makes them a fine example of We ARE Struggling Together, inasmuch as their common feature is opposition to the “apathetic, nugatory, and downright irresponsible” oversight that prevents the Right People from applying the jackboot of firm governance to the buttocks of the unrighteous, and indeed, only seems to act to oppress people’s perfectly legitimate demands to reward the Obviously Correct and oppress the Just Plain Wrong.  As such – which is to say, as a coalition of the extrasystemic-resistance-inclined among all of old-style aristocrats, conservatives, liberals (vis-a-vis libertists), socialists, progressives, fascists, communists, theocrats, democrats, xenonationalists (although surprisingly few polity nationalists inasmuch as imperial annexations have been out of style for a long, long time), deep ecologists, other single-issue crazies, and every other kind of power-hungry whackjob imaginable – it’s about as effective as it sounds like it is.

But it does, at least some of the time, manage to hang together well enough to achieve something (usually something from The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized) on the grounds that they can fight each other afterwards, once The Man has been taken down.

(There are also a few really serious anarchist La Résistance groups, but since they’re – as you might expect – rather disorganized, and since there are so many more attractive targets in the galaxy than most of the protagonizing ones, they’re generally considered of minor importance.)