Odd Question about Fantasy and Languages

This will probably be quick and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of strong opinions.  Now, I have a future series that involves a school for mercenary groups.  This takes place in Windemere, so it’s fantasy-based.  It’s based on the group of friends I had in freshman year of college, which turned into a fake fraternity.  Seriously, it was just a name we gave ourselves and then hung out.  Still, it was fun and led to bonding with some memories that I cherish to this day.  The name?

Phi Beta

There was a ‘Kappa’ at one point, but it got shrunk really fast.  Again, this was nothing official and plenty of fraternities have those two in the name.

The original title of this series was the ‘Phi Beta Files’, which I’ve brought up from time to time.  It can be a little bit of a problem.  One issue that I never really voiced was using Greek letters in Windemere.  Some days I don’t mind it because I take names and words from other languages already.  The characters are speaking English too.  Then there are days when I can’t shake the feeling that something is off about using Greek letters without an explanation for them being there.  I know I have a samurai culture that will be introduced way down the road, which is explained by hints that a person from another world showed up to start the civilization.  Do I do the same with the Greek alphabet showing up?  Do I even need to give it a real explanation?  I guess I fear the backlash that seems to come from anything that could be seen as controversial.

Another issue is that I’ve found if I remove ‘Phi Beta’ from the story, I stop feeling like it’s about that group.  The characters are still the 4 idiot boys who are determined to not flunk out and manage to succeed through cunning and chaos.  Yet, not having those two letters as their group name really shifts my mindset.  Maybe because it’s so close to my memories, which could be the sign that I have to keep the series as the ‘Phi Beta Files’.  See how my mind is going in circles here?

Figured that I would open the floor to see what people think.  As I said, I’m sure there are some strong opinions on this.  I’m terribly at designing my own language, so that’s not an option.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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18 Responses to Odd Question about Fantasy and Languages

  1. Just keep your Greek letters, and explain things in something like an authors note at the beginning of the book, or in an appendix at the back. Maybe include the Greek letters in the title and in other places on the books cover. Then readers might expect them. They won’t be like, “What the hell?” When they read the book.

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    • I don’t usually do prefaces and appendixes. They don’t feel right with my stories. I think I’d have to put it in front too, but it wouldn’t be more than a scrawny paragraph. Maybe a dedication to the real Phi Beta group? Though that could be mistaken for the real frat. This seems more complicated than I realized.

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  2. I would create a backstory to explain the Greek letters easily. It might be as simple as a trade deal that happened many years ago. The letter could also be from some Greek gods the Windemere gods knew a long time ago.

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  3. I wouldn’t worry about it. 99% of readers will just go with it. Maybe you can come up with some stupid stunt they get involved in that includes the letters PB. Then they take the joke from there to include the name.

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  4. You raise a good point about whether Earth languages and artifacts have been featured in Windemere before. If they have, then your readers probably don’t need any more explanation. If they haven’t, then you might have to offer some explanation, but I’d keep it brief. This is a minor detail — unless for some reason the name is a turning point in your plot.

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    • I’ve had Earth inventions and write in English, but those are shown as in-world. So they aren’t from our world. The difficulty here is that these will be part of the title and group name. Phi Beta isn’t a turning point in the plot so much as a constantly used label. That’s why I’m wondering if people will question it.

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  5. Victoria Zigler says:

    Plenty of fantasy uses Latin, so why not Greek? If you’re worried, work in some backstory, or do a prequel story to make it clear how it’s possible, or add an author’s note when publishing.

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  6. Have Phi Beta mean something else in Windemere. You could even spell it differently if you like. Fi Bayte or somesuch?

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