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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leviathan Terms and Definitions

Scott Westerfeld's novel Leviathan, this month's featured book, utilizes some nifty slang and cool terms. Some of these are legitimate words, while others are the author's own creation, or his reinterpretation or variation on a word or phrase. Here are a few definitions for you:

archduke: a prince of the imperial family of Austria. Though Alek did not really exist, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand did, and he did have children. The assassination of the Archduke and his wife was the casus belli* for World War I. Another heavily-featured character, scientist Nora Barlow, was a real person, though her vocation and actions were altered for the sake of this story, naturally.

boffin: Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a scientific expert; especially one involved in technological research." Scott Westerfeld adds, "There's a funny thing about boffin: In the real world, the word didn't appear until World War II, when code-breakers and radar scientists became crucial to the British war effort. But I figured that in my world of Victorian biotechnology, it would have to be invented earlier."

bosun: Variation of boatswain, which is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a petty officer on a merchant ship having charge of hull maintenance and related work"

Clanker: In the world of Leviathan, Clanker countries use steam-powered machines. Alek and his team are Clankers.

Darwinist: In the world of Leviathan, Darwinists use fabricated animals for power, defense, communication, and defense. Devyn/Dylan and her shipmates are Darwinists. They get their name from Charles Darwin, a real-life English naturalist whose research into evolution led to the theory of natural selection. His book On the Origin of Species was the foundation of evolutionary biology. Click here to visit a site dedicated to Darwin and his writings.

midshipman: Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a person in training for a naval commission; especially a student in a naval academy"

steampunk: Oh, how to put it succinctly? Here's how Wikipedia defines it: "a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy, that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s."

Bonus image: I really love the photograph taken by Kyle Cassidy that's on the Wikipedia page for steampunk - click here to see it! It reminds me of The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I think Suzy Turquoise Blue would approve, don't you?

Bonus blog: Check out Scott Westerfeld's post entitled What is Steampunk?

Bonus expression: Devyn is fond of saying, "Barking spiders!" I think the meaning of this is fairly obvious. *grin* I also think it's neat how Westerfeld uses euphemisms in this and other books instead of swear words. It keeps things clean but still gets a giggle out of readers.

Bonus Latin: Casus belli: Latin expression for an event or action which justifies (allegedly or otherwise) a war or a conflict of some kind. Try to use it in conversation today . . . or just sporadically, when the opportunity presents itself.

8 comments:

Melissa Walker said...

Great list of terms! I do love the word treats in Scott's books!

Little Willow said...

Thanks! Me too. :)

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Thank you, LW! I just watched the video and think I'll load it separately. It was super helpful. At the sci-fi conference I was recently at, there were steampunk fans everywhere!

Lorie Ann Grover said...

And I just saw you have a post scheduled. :~) Ha!

The Brain Lair (KB) said...

I shall take it upon myself to insert Barking Spiders into every conversation I have about books tomorrow!

Little Willow said...

Excellent, Brain Lair.

De nada, Lorie Ann.

Scott said...

Hey, everyone! Glad you're enjoying the world and words of Leviathan.

There's a funny thing about "boffin": In the real world, the word didn't appear until World War II, when code-breakers and radar scientists became crucial to the British war effort. But I figured that in my world of Victorian biotechnology, it would have to be invented earlier.

Also, here's a wonderful essay about the meaning of steampunk by Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker:

http://theclockworkcentury.com/?p=165

Little Willow said...

Adding that in, Scott - Thanks!