cave canem

Cave Canem- Beware the Dog

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Magic Languages (with a Rambling Introduction by Me)

I haven't been posting on here very often lately. I'd make up some excuse about finals or the voice performance I did recently, but in reality I haven't done much because I've been too busy watching Diamanda Hagan reviews. In the interest of getting back into the swing of things, I decided to go to TvTropes and hit the random button until I find something interesting to talk about.

This, of course, ended up being a terrible idea. After about twenty minutes, I had found a list of lovely punk bands, learned the definition of 'idiosyncratic' and read an excellent history of the English language, but I hadn't really found anything that I felt like writing about. Trope-Tan is a cruel, cruel mistress.

I wasted a bit more time while playing music that's probably too loud considering that it's about midnight right now, but I figure the neighbors have kept me up often enough with their shouting that they don't really have any grounds to complain. Finally, though, I decided that three paragraphs of stupid meta intro was quite enough and I should just talk about something already, dammit!

So, Magic Languages.

I don't like them.

What's a magic language? Well, it's simple. It's when, in a work of fiction, doing a certain spell or type of magic requires saying certain words in some language, usually not a naturally spoken language.

So, why don't I like them? I mean, they seem to be reasonable storytelling devices. They allow the characters to do spells without sounding dumb by going around shouting things like "Fireball!" or "Rain of cupcakes!" or "Soul Resonance!" (Did I mention that I don't like calling attacks much either?) They're useful, and very wide-spread too. Everything from ancient myth to Harry Potter has probably used this at some point. Useful, common, convenient- what's not to like?

Really, though, there are a few things about the concept that don't make sense to me. For starters, how did it come to be that saying "Abraaxar!" makes lightning shoot out of your hands, and saying "Dayoosixmakinnah!" makes a giant rock fall on your enemy's head? Who made it that way? Was it the gods? How did people learn it, then? Did the gods teach it to them? Or are the words taken from an ancient language, and, if so, did magic just not exist until that ancient civilization invented it, or did they somehow fix it so that only those words would make the magic work, even though other words would've worked before then? And if that's the case, then how the hell did they do that? I know it's not really something that most people are dying to hear explained, but I would honestly like to know this stuff. Some writers take the time to explain this stuff, but most don't seem to.

Another thing- if all it takes to do magic is to say a few words, then, logically, anyone who takes the time to learn it should be capable of learning it, but, for some reason, it almost invariably requires some innate magical gift as well. Frankly, this just seems a bit weird to me. Is saying the words just about directing thought, then? If so, why not just speak your native language? It seems like that would be a bit more useful. Of course, this reduces the magic language down to the level of calling attacks, but I'd probably be more forgiving of that if someone explained that it was necessary to doing magic.

It's not that I have an outright problem with magic language, I guess, but I think it would be nice if it were at least given a little bit of thought instead of just "Say Azmnvfdasko;tjklaeg to make lasers shoot from your eyes!" Yeah, I know, I've just taken nitpicking to new and disturbing levels. So sue me.

Valete, omnes.

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