Grimmworld museum: layered image depicting Jacob Grimm
Earlier this year I made a trip to Kassel in central Germany to see the Documenta, an art exhibition that happens there every five years. I was also, however, keen to go to GRIMMWORLD (GRIMMWELT), a museum dedicated to the work of the philologists and scholars Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who spent large parts of their life in Kassel. The Brothers Grimm are famous for collecting and publishing fairy tales, but they also studied culture, language and the history of language.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I am fascinated by fairy tales, but I wondered how interesting a museum about two language-focused scholars could be. I envisioned endless cabinets full of old books, notes and letters (which would have been fine, I love old books). The museum, however, turned out to be much more dynamic. Continue reading
Germany has long been considered a land of fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm collection of Märchen popularised the tales they collected here, and plenty of German villages, houses and forests look like they might have sprung straight out of a story book.
But having moved to Germany a little over a year ago, I’ve become more aware of the smaller ways in which the famous fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm reflect their cultural origins. For the first time, I can see evidence of the roots they sprung from in the world around me – roots I wouldn’t have noticed while in my Australian homeland. Continue reading
You open a book and come across an unusual place or character name. Maybe it’s got some strange consonants packed in. Maybe it even has an apostrophe or two. You’ve got no idea how to pronounce it… but if you’re used to reading fantasy this probably hasn’t fazed you. Exotic invented names are commonplace in this realm.
Some fantasy names might stand out in your memory: perhaps famous ones like Isengard and Mordor, Azkaban and Quidditch, Targaryen and Dothraki. Others might not. Regardless, the majority of them are not as made-up as they seem. Continue reading
I work part time at an institute that runs classes in a whole range of foreign languages. Real-world languages, that is – like French and Arabic and Japanese. On our feedback forms at the end of each course, we ask students to suggest any new languages that they would like us to offer in the following year. One day a colleague came to me, confused, with a feedback form in hand, and asked:
Last week I listed some English archaic forms often seen in epic fantasy novels: things like “here be dragons” and “unsavoury louts they were” and “prithee”. This week I’m continuing with a few more ‘ye olde’ words fantasy authors like to throw into the mix, as well as having a look at why they do it.
So without further ado, and again with the help of Susan Mandala’s Language in Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Question of Style, here are the remaining 6: Continue reading
The other day I found myself explaining the word ‘wont’ to someone. Not the contraction ‘won’t’, but rather its apostrophe-less unrelated twin:
adjective: accustomed, used, given, inclined. e.g. “As he was wont to do”
— New Oxford American Dictionary
In other words, the one almost no-one uses. I believe I was attempting to add a vaguely historical flourish to a comment I was making. Unfortunately the person I was speaking to was German, and wont turned out to be a word they hadn’t yet added to their English vocabulary (can’t blame them really).