OpenGeofiction

On fictional shibboleths

Posted by Luciano on 4 November 2021 in English (English).

A “shibboleth” is a word or name that locals know how to pronounce but that outsiders or visitors don’t know about.

One excellent example of a real-world geographic shibboleth from my personal experience: when I first moved to Philadelphia (I lived there from 1995-1998), I had no idea that when locals said “Skookle” they meant “Schuykill” - as in the Schuyill River and parallel Schuykill Expressway. Another example is more subtle, but important: you can tell the outsiders in the the US Western states by how they pronounce the name of the state of Nevada. Westerners (and, specifically, Nevadans) pronounce the name of their state /nəvædə/, while outsiders (particularly Easterners and Brits) generally pronounce it closer to /nəvɑdə/, or else they make the mistake of assuming it deserves a fully etymological Spanish pronunciation, and render it as /nebada/. It is jarring on US TV shows like the old “CSI Las Vegas” when supposed locals mispronounce their state’s name.

Another interesting shibboleth from my current locale, is the tribal and cultural name Tlingit. This is the most numerous Native American group in Southeast Alaska, and is still a living and dynamic language community, too. When I first came here, I had no idea what people were talking about when they talked about “Klinkit” - turns out everyone (including the natives themselves) pronounce the name of the tribe and language this way. I guess under the influence of English, the /tl/ cluster of the language has evolved to one easier for English speakers: /kl/.

Anyway, the question I have for all of you is: what shibboleths exist in your OGF territory?

Makaska is full of little shibboleths, mostly due to the early exploration and naming by the Franquese, and then subsequent mispronunciation of those Franquese names by the Ingerish-speaking later settlers. This is meant to parallel the US West and Midwest, which is full of such “bad French” place names: Des Moines (“Duh Moin”!), Boise (“Boizy”!), etc.

Some important shibboleths in Metro Ohunkagan (map) include the following:

  • Xaintrailles (neighborhood on the northside, major arterial street): pronounced “Zen Trail”
  • Jonnequiel (the airport, former Army fort, southside): pronounced “Junk Heel”
  • Jonquiere (the road): actually the same name as Jonnequiel, just spelled different, but pronounced the same, “Junk Heel”, or sometimes “Junker”
  • Vrijheid (a hill, and arterial road in the northwest): pronounced “Freehide” (which reflects a kind of awareness but distortion of the Lentian meaning, “freedom”)
  • Aeschlimann (a neighborhood and street in southside Hotanka Peninsula): pronounced “Eeshle-min”
  • Le Maingre (a neighborhood, street and horseracing track, southside): rhymes with “anger”
  • Marony (the small lake at downtown, the canal, the original name for the southside, “Fort Marony”): rhymes with “macaroni”
  • Most oldtimers call the southside “Fort”, and the northside is called “Town”
  • Nobody local pronounces Iyotanhaha fully - it’s simply called “Iyo”
  • Robeyns (neighborhood in south Iyo): pronounced “Robins”

Happy onomastics!

Comment from Tito_zz on 4 November 2021 at 20:01

Argentina is full of these, mainly for non-Spanish names: Banfield is /βan’filð/, Ingeniero Maschwitz is /maʃwits/, etc. For Allendea, it would probably be similar: the dialect would probably lead to such misunderstandings in the south: La Cañada is Caña’, Fojenica is Fohenía, etc…

Comment from Lithium-Ion on 4 November 2021 at 20:03

Because Iscu speaks an “Ingerish patois” - which mixes ingerish with the native language, the letter “L” is often removed or replaced with “ſ”, which represents a similar but not the same sound, “ɮ̪”, a sound that appears in the Papua language Waghi. I imagine that this would cause significant confusion. For instance, Aeſ, which looks like it should sound something like /eɪl/, in fact sounds like /eɪiːɮ̪/.

When there are two Ls in a word, it sometimes gets replaced with ö in the patois as well, which will have some other sound - but I haven’t got around to incorporating that further into the territory, and plenty of lls still abound.

There’d probably be a bunch of other pronunciation oddities - something I’ll be thinking about more now.

Comment from Taka on 15 November 2021 at 09:39

Aerágny’s history involved a lot of “renaming Franquese names given to places to the local language” and as such there’s not a whole lot of foreign language left to butcher. And even when there is still Franquese used, it usually is pronounced similarly to how the Airannians would pronounced it, as the local language stole the Franquese spelling…

However I spent so long wondering what a good shibboleth in Aerágny would be without realizing… it’s Aerágny itself! 😅

No Airannian would call their home nation “Aerágny”, unless they were making an official statement; “Aerá” is the only commonly accepted name for the country. Aaannddd for the language spoken, and just as a general demonym :P The -gny suffix means not much more than “land of”- similar to how in the language’s name “Aeránanue”, -nanue roughly means “speech”.

Comment from Alessa on 22 November 2021 at 22:50

This isn’t fully canon yet, but I’ve long considered Mennowa to have some similar slang shibboleths. It’s interesting that you brought up the “bad French” that permeates so much of the Midwestern United States, as that’s the source for a few in the state. Mennowa’s second-largest city (Des Nonnes) is locally pronounced /dɪˈnʌn/ (“dih-nuhn”) for that very reason. You can always tell who the out-of-staters are, because they at a minimum add ‘s’ or ‘z’ sounds to the end.

Interestingly, Minneuka isn’t really hard to pronounce (/mɪnˈukə/), but it’s locally called just “M’uka.” This is seen in a few places, too, like on television weather reports—downtown is marked with the shorthand to save space—or on train marquees to save space.

Finally, the Alormen River is such a huge dividing force and is often just called the “Great River” and the area is colloquially known as the “Great Valley.” The largest health system (Great Valley Health), the utility companies (GVP&L), and other companies (Great River Bank) hold names along these lines. The Alormen also really messes up people’s sense of directions. Places like Osanneuka and Almswood are considered “southern suburbs” or “upriver suburbs,” while it’s pretty much not a “western suburb” unless it’s in Charlesworth County west of a Prestonville–Minneuka line. Gnaerey suburbanites of Minneuka are all called ‘eastlanders.’ It’s like the entire dividing axis is shifted about 30° clockwise. It can cause some real headaches for visiting people.


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