Daily Writers Challenge: How to Use Jargon and Foreign Words



It was hot, and the humidity high as we carefully navigated north on the Chao Phraya river in Thailand.  In an hour or so we would tie up along the bank and disembark.  The villagers would be waiting for us, informed somehow that Nai Pi (Mr. Ghost) was coming to perform magic and to treat the sick.  The children would come first, pointing, yelling, dancing around, their excitement palpable.  They would be followed by the young men of the village.

The village elders would walk slowly to the river bank next, the Phu Yai Ban, or head man would approach, and the older men and woman, bold grandmothers often called Yai, or big, would smile with open, toothless mouths, dyed red, or blackened from the constant chewing of betelnut.

We would disembark and wai to the crowd, careful that our hands, pressed together, tips of the fingers touching no higher or lower than the chin, and would bow in an assumption of equal status.

Hmm.  OK, so what’s with all the funny words?  What’s with all the italics

When introducing jargon, foreign words not commonly known, or invented words in your fantasy novel, the rule is to do so using italics.  Not everyone uses them this way, and perhaps we have been taught different techniques depending on where and when we were educated.  But, for the most part, italicized words are used to draw attention, to make distinct, to show that the author understands the words our uncommon, or to differentiate words from another language.

Do you keep using the italics?  Possibly.  However, if, as in your fantasy novel, you introduce a word and it becomes de rigueur then the word can be written without italics.

Today’s challenge: demonstrate in a sentence or three, how to use italics to show foreign or made up words, or for special emphasis.


8 responses to “Daily Writers Challenge: How to Use Jargon and Foreign Words

  1. “You make it sound like I’m supposed to believe what you’re saying. You speak so emphatically”.

    “Yeah! Maybe I shouldn’t put those philosophical words, like ‘semiotics’, and ‘historicity’, and especially ‘deconstruction’ within italics.

    “I’ve deconstructed what you said, in any case. Even if you put it in italics, it’s still only your opinion.”

    I used ‘-‘ because using italics is not possible on this site.

  2. You put italics in your story though. And it really was a ‘terrific’ story. (In Italics!) Thanks for the post, Richard.

    • Thanks, Loreen. One of these days I’ll really write about those experiences. They occured between 1967 and 1969.

      • Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! (all in italics). You said previously that ‘nothing much happened’… but I bet there were a lot of ‘italics’ in people’s minds.

        • It was interesting to me. …and I only got shot at a few times in this non-war zone. But maybe the people stories would be interesting. )

          • There’s context too. Like in ’69 I attended a demonstration against the Kent State Massacre, and you know what else I could say. Against the simple realities of the people you were with. A study in contrasts, and a retrospect maybe. And you could make up the main story. Anyway war stories have always been classics and/or sellers! All the best, there. Richard.

  3. Hey, Mr Ghost . . . Nai Pi . . . I belive in magick!

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