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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Tomato, tomahtoe

   
Author Topic: Tomato, tomahtoe
Elan
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My co-author is having a problem with a name I've chosen for an object in our story. I'm taking a quick poll to see if she's off base, or if I am.

The object is a large, crystal stone, and is the story's main magical artifact. I've named it the Omphalos stone. My question is, if you ran across that name in a story, would it bother you or not?

She doesn't like the name "omphalos." I won't yet reveal what she says it reminds her of because I don't wish to prejudice the poll. She will abide by the opinion of the majority in naming it.

Let me know your opinion! If you wish to know where I got the name from, here's a link to info on the Omphalos stone.


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ChrisOwens
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This is why Spiderman works alone...

I think I know, but I don't want to repeat it. Of course, I only see it because I was told there was something that could be misconstrued. Personally I have no problem with it. I'm tired of how simple expressions in langauge now have different connotations altogether.


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Lynda
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I saw it right away. It will make some folks giggle, others may be offended - or maybe not. Depends on the audience for your story.

Lynda


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mommiller
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I saw it too.

If it were my story, I wouldn't use it.


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franc li
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Well, it does create a memorable cognitive dissonance between "Oompaloompa" and "phallus". Living up to my pen name.
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Pyre Dynasty
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When collaborating you can't win 'em all, so you have to pick your battles. If you do win 'em all then you don't really have a partner, you have an employee.
Is the word Omphalos really that important to you?

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kings_falcon
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I would lose the name.
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InarticulateBabbler
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What does SHE suggest the name be?

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dee_boncci
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With that name I'd expect it to be an object revered by the short little folks in the Willie Wonka story.

On a more serious note, the name doesn't inspire me, but I don't find it objectionable either.


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RMatthewWare
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It depends on how important it is to you. It's good to try not to offend people if it's not necessary. If it's vital to you to keep it, then keep it. If not, try something else.

Matt


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hoptoad
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didn't see it.

not til you said something

but it was because I knew what the Omphalos Stone was.

My thought is, don't use the word if the stone in your story isn't really the omphalos.

PS: There is a difference between "the omphalos stone" and "an omphalos stone". Meaning: presuming the earth really has a navel, there can be only one stone to mark the location and the rest are either former omphalos stones or imposters.

So this is my problem. The omphalos simply denotes a location. The centre of the world. Removing the 'omphalos stone' from that location surely decreases its power/significance. But that is a diversion from your question.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited February 21, 2007).]


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Survivor
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It wouldn't bother me. Your friend has "gender issues". You can tell her I said that without saying that you agree with me
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Elan
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As many have guessed, my friend feels the word "omphalos" reminds her of "oompa loompas." Since so many have also felt the echo of that word association, I shall probably, reluctantly, change the word. It annoys me that a perfectly good real-life word that so accurately depicts this particular object can't be used because too many people associate it with fictional characters. I will probably attempt some sort of derivative, like "umfalos," that will echo the original in MY mind.

I'm struggling with the decision to use other words, like "incunabula" and "paralipominion" that perfectly convey the sense of what I am writing about, but because they are not part of common vernacular, are subject to misinterpretation. I wonder at what point we give up using richer language in favor of the truncated vocabulary it seems so many people are developing. A conundrum, to be sure!

A point I might make... the vast majority of the dialog and writing I am doing uses plain, ordinary, common language. But occasionally, a thing should be called what it is. And if it lends a taste of the exotic about it, then so much the better. I don't mind sending the reader to the dictionary once in a great while. Is anyone else bothered by the occasional (and rare) use of florid nouns?


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Ray
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No, just as long as they make sense.
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hoptoad
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that's not the word I thought you meant...

now I have to get some pretty unsavoury oompaloompa images out of my head...


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franc li
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Well, it's easy to see the relationship between Omphalos and umbilical. What about swapping "stone" out with something more exotic and messing with the word order, like lapis umbilicus? The thing about "umbilical" is it can suggest belly button, but it also has a strong "life-sustaining" meaning.
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Robert Nowall
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I'm afraid I'm one of those who gets the meaning of "omphalos," translates it into more recognizable terms, and giggles. Your co-author may be onto something. No, I can't recall hearing of the Omphalos Stone beforehand, though it may have crossed my path in various Greek mythology writeups.

Just say I'm "omphaloskeptic..."


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
I wonder at what point we give up using richer language in favor of the truncated vocabulary it seems so many people are developing. A conundrum, to be sure!

A point I might make... the vast majority of the dialog and writing I am doing uses plain, ordinary, common language. But occasionally, a thing should be called what it is. And if it lends a taste of the exotic about it, then so much the better. I don't mind sending the reader to the dictionary once in a great while. Is anyone else bothered by the occasional (and rare) use of florid nouns?


Part of the problem is that when you use nouns people are not as likely to understand, you run the risk of what could be called "term-dropping," which, like "name-dropping" tends to have the effect of saying "I'm smarter [know more famous people] than you are [do]" to the reader.

I would think that as long as the meaning of such a word can either be determined from the context or is actually discussed by the characters (perhaps one character can be a little ignorant and need to have such things explained, thereby explaining to the reader without seeming pedantic (to be lecturing), or characters can take turns being ignorant and needing things explained <shrug> ), then writers could put richer words in their work without appearing to be "term-droppers."


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hoptoad
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Ditto,

I'd add; only use the word if it is the true and right word and is not just there for ornamentation.


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RMatthewWare
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Oompa Loompa was NOT what I was thinking

So...I wouldn't use a real device for your work. There's danger that you got something wrong and it will expose you (no, I'm not calling you stupid). But if your stone does something different, or, for plot, at some point it needs to do something different, it stops being what smart people say it is and becomes some different entirely.

Me? I'd call it an ansible and move on

Oh, and about big words, they don't bother me if I can figure out what is being said through context. There's no point in writing something that people won't understand. If a big word has a synonym that conveys approximately the same meaning and is easier to understand, use that instead. Are we butchering the Queen's English? Of course we are! Nothing new about that.

Matt


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Zero
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I don't like ompholis. I want something sharper that sounds like a crystal, maybe even something cutting-edge futuristic, or ancient arcaic, shrouded with mystery. Ompholous sounds round and difficult, and a little Dr. Seuss.
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Lynda
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I've read a lot all my life and have never heard of that stone, but I have to say, I didn't see 'oompah-loompah" either - I saw "phallus" (sp?), which I imagine is what a lot of other folks here saw. If you can explain it in context, that's wonderful and will add to some folks' education, but the word itself is a weird one. All the writing books I've read have said to use simple words as often as possible (so your books appeal to the widest possible audience). Yes, there's a place for "rich" words, but if it LEAPS off the page as being wildly more "sophisticated" than the rest of the text, it will stop the reader's eye. Similarly, if it's too strange to the reader, it will make them stop and wonder, which doesn't help with story flow. But you have to decide how important it is to the story, whether it's worth the risks involved. Good luck with it!

Lynda


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hoptoad
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gee thanks Lynda
now I have those nasty oompaloompa images back

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited February 24, 2007).]


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Elan
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The ironic thing is that omphalos is the perfect word for the object in question. Do a google search on it. (I provided a link in my first post). The Omphalos stone was the heart of the temple of Apollo, and used by the Oracle of Delphi. I couldn't ask for a better word association to a real-world object. Alas. My co-author says she can live with the word spelled umfalos.

It's a tricky balance between choosing words that give an otherworldly or fantasy feel to the story without seeming pompous. I find it sort of sad to be forced to disregard the best word to describe the object because a majority of readers attach erroneous meanings to it. *sigh*

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited February 25, 2007).]


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RMatthewWare
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I don't like the 'sound' of the word. As was said earlier, it doesn't sound right.

You have to please your reader. It doesn't matter if the word is perfect or that people will attach erroneous meanings to it; they are the reader. And by reader, I mean paycheck.

Matt


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Chaldea
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Well, the word umfalos sure reminds me of phallic (as in symbol, phallic symbol, phallus) and nothing to do with a magical stone or the center of the earth. At any rate, even if it didn't remind me of phallus, umfalos stone is a real mouthful. I wouldn't put it in my story because it is awkward to read. And another thing, you are using a real stone from actual earth history. Your story won't work if you take this stone out of context and put it in another setting other than historical fiction in the particular time and place in which it belongs, such as in the your fantasy story.

Sorry, I really tripped over this word when I read it and just thought I'd put in my two cents. It wouldn't work for me in either spelling.


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RMatthewWare
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Dude, I'm telling you. Use 'ansible'. Great word.

Matt


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hoptoad
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if its the perfect word and you want to use it, USE IT

Damn the torpedoes!

after all you have the skill to create appropriate context so that people will understand

maybe you will be doing your readers a favor.

and

for what it's worth NONE of the connotations mentioned above came to my mind until you said there was something to look for.


you know what it says in the torah: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.


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