Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,

OOC: terminology

OOC: In a previous post, I used the word "teratology" to mean "the study of monsters". A pretty routine coinage, from Greek roots, "terat" (monster, marvel) + "logy" (science, knowledge).

beetiger, who knows Real Science, pointed out that it's a standard English word whose main uses aren't at all what I meant: it's currently used for the study of malformations and birth defects and stuff. (So, monstrous things, but mostly one-offs rather than whole monster species.) In the 17th century, "teratology" was used for more or less what I intended it for. But then the concepts of "monstrous mutation of an ordinary thing" (e.g., sideshow freaks, two-headed goats) and "freaky species of dubious reality" (e.g., centaurs, giant squids) got separated. 'Terato-' tends to mean the former. I mean the latter.

Sometimes, when I abuse a word, I do intend to cause some discord in the reader's world view. In The Wrath of Trees there's an aside that sometimes two lakku, that world's dominant species, accidentally rape each other (in the eyes of lakku law and society and the victims/perpetrators). "Accidental rape" is an oxymoron for humans, and more so when it's mutual. Several people whom I generally respect have suggested I cut that aside, but I think it really underscores a point of alienness of the lakku.

I'm not trying to do that with "teratology". I just want a word for Mynthë's field of study. Preferably one that sounds respectably scientific (Mynthë is a science student), and isn't particularly emotionally charged. So I'm not really very happy with "teratology".

What I really intend by the word is the study of intelligent non-prime species. In terms of Earth disciplines, it's sort of like ethology (which, terrestrially, is the study of animal behavior, esp. in their natural environments). And it's sort of like anthropology and ethnography (especially in their less scientific or sympathetic 19th century incarnations).

There's not really a good English word for it that I'm aware of.

beetiger and I came up with something. The ancient Greeks had a sort of concept of ... not quite non-primes, but not that different. Barbarians were "civilized people who really exist but are Not Like Us and really mostly spiritually and culturally and technologically inferior" to the ancient Greeks. So ... the study of barbarians could, presumably, be called "barbarology" or something like that.

Or, I could stick with "ethology" or "ethnography". But "ethology" sort of suggests that non-primes are animals rather than people, which is wrong. And "ethnography" sort of suggests, more weakly, that non-primes are the same kind of entity as the ethnographer, which is wrong -- you'd use the same English word for studying primes of other cultures too, which is very wrong for the World Tree.

So what do you think?

Which word would you prefer:


Got any other ideas?

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