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Author Topic: God, or god?
Grumpy old guy
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Okay, the story I'm writing is set in an alternate universe where 'god's' are real, live and actual beings, who do real stuff. Not always nice stuff, but that's another issue.

My question is this: How should I refer to them, the God Romeo, or the god Romeo?

My original take on this was that the appelation 'God' is a title, an honourific like Captain, or President. But, maybe I'm wrong.

Any takers willing to brave the holy fire of a god's (God's) wrath?


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God with a capital G is usually referring to the Christian deity, but you could assign new rules to your universe. As far as I know, in English it is customary to capitalize important nouns which is what I did in my current WIP: my world has many cities but there is only one City, though sometimes I will refer to it with its propper name (it wasn't always 'the City').
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God or god, the mono-meta deity with ten thousand names. Consider using a different name that's germane to the milieu. Calling a schmeep a rabbit, though, will cause reader disturbances.

Since these deities live among the mortals, and ostensively have a variety of supernatural capabilities, perhaps vulnerabilities, maybe they could do with a hierarchal stratification. You could call them legends or heroes, for example, or box or Raleigh, anything, so long as the context and texture are set up early on and artfully inform readers what a title's honorific is intended to mean.

MartinV has the accepted capital and lower case conventions outlined above. This is where rules break down. This is your choice to make that your audience may either find artful or in bad taste, or pay no mind to. God or god is a three-letter word like the. It can be as easily invisible. Will using it capital case or lower case call undue attention to it? Will it be sensibly appreciated? Or will it be but an invisible modifier?

[ October 26, 2012, 08:12 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Originally posted by extrinsic:
Consider using a different name that's germane to the milieu.

This is what I went with with an alien race in my SF novel. They are so unlike humans, and their supreme being is so unlike humanity's, that God or god wouldn't have made any sense.

So my advice would be to really get in the shoes of your people and think of what they value/respect/fear most and see what words come to mind.

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To my best understanding, the convention of capitalizing the word God came to be a convention in the Christian faith for the same reason that the Christ is capitalized. Because it's a proper name.

I believe it goes back to the whole debate about the True Name of God, and the centuries long issue of the mystery sects that grew up around it. As you recall, when Moses faced the burning bush and asked who he was dealing with, the reply came back "I-am-that-I-am". A reply that actually makes sense when you think about it, if one believes that he was dealing with the unique and singular being responsible for overseeing the universe. Names serve the function of distinguishing between individuals of the same kind. When there is only one of a certain kind, then it's rational to refer to that one being by the generic name of that kind. Thus, the One that called him/her/itself "I-am-that-I-am" is referred to by the name God (capitalized) because to a Christian, there is no other God. Thus, God becomes the proper name of that One being.

Traditionally, pagan gods were referred to in lower case because, to a Christian, they were not actually God. Merely imitations.

This is the historical approach in western European/US culture. How you choose to do it is up to you. It's like deciding which pronoun to use when referring to The Creator. It's kind of moot to a monotheist. To a polytheist, the point actually matters.

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Using "god" as an honorific title like the word "sir" would call for capitalization. "Sir Roderick" is part of Roderick's name, so it is capitalized. Same for God Romeo.

The way you use the word "god" in your story will make that clear, I'm sure.

And those who would offended by writing "God" in front of someone's name are probably the same people who would be offended by your use of the word "god" as an honorific in the first place. So don't worry about them.

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, it seems there is no definitive answer to the question; and I’m obviously going to offend someone whichever way I go.

A major plot component of this part of the story is about the origins of the Æsir, the Norse gods. Being raised in a Christian society, to me Odin is a god and not a God. However, in the alternate reality where the protagonists and antagonists exist, Alfodr is a God, as is Geldwine, Tostig and Guthlac. These gods are in the Indo-European mould, they manifest themselves in human form. So, when I refer to the Goddess Osthryth, I’m using her title, but in conversation I might say:

“That damn goddess is more trouble than she’s worth.”

Would such switches confuse readers more or should I make a decision and then maintain consistency throughout?


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I dunno, but I never think about the God Thor or God Thor. I think of the god Thor. The Christian god is God (as in Thor, Buddha, and God walk into a bar and try to pick up Kali...).Would you call Him the god God or God God? To me, if you're writing about Osthryth, she's a goddess and in your sentence "...when I refer to the Goddess Osthryth..." I think "Goddess" should be lower case as it is nothing more than an appositive instead of an honorific.
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Robert Nowall
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I'd go with small-g "god" for something like that---as for the big-G "God," it depends on whether the subject comes up in the subcreated universe you've conceived.
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Pyre Dynasty
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If you're using God as a title then yes I would capitalize it, but I wouldn't because it's kind of clunky. Plus, that sets up a system where if God is a title then one can attain it rather than be it naturally. I don't think that's how it works for the Norse.

If you are using it as a title then substitute a different title to see if you should be using capitals or not. Captain Brown and the brown captains. I don't think it is confusing.

Since you are going with the aesir, why use the word "god" at all? You've got the far less burned over word "oss" (singular of aesir.)

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Grumpy old guy
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Pyre Dynasty, I am leaning toward *not* capatlising the word god. As you implied, it looks clunky on the page and pulls a reader up short.

While part of the plot element involves the origins of the Æsir, they exist in 'our' universe, not the one inhabited by my protagonists. In that universe, the Æsir do not exist and there are no real similarities between them except for the name of the 'chief' god, Alfodr, or Allfather.


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Another approach, could be that just because god or God could be a title and part of their name, thus capitalized, I don't think it gets clunky unless used too often. For example in the news paper, usually first reference to the President is "President Obama" afterwards it's either Obama or the President. Likewise, "Lieutenant Reynolds . . . Reynolds."
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"God" is not a title, it's just an adjective here. Talking about "the god Thor" is not the same as talking about "Sir Roderick," as no one had to grant a title to Thor for him to be a god, but someone did have to grant a title to Roderick for him to be a sir. Instead, it's the same as talking about "the human Roderick" or "the cat Mr. Whiskers."

If it's a title, that implies that it can be stripped. "Sorry Thor, the worshipers and I got together and decided that you aren't a God anymore."

*Lightning Bolt*

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