Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ever and anon

I blame Stan Lee.

He was the one who had the odd idea that Scandiwegion gods should speak in elizabethan english which, when you think about it makes as much sense as giving Kali and Ganesha japanese accents. But it kind of works to a degree, and does give the Aesir a sense of difference from ordinary mortals. Well, other than ordinary mortals that use thee and thou a lot, anyhow. The big problem with this is that a lot of the writers on Thor, being American, haven't got much idea how elizabethan english works, so they get it wrong a lot.

Okay, I have an advantage here. I'm british. I may not be able to tell you which way up our national flag is supposed to go, but I was taught Shakespeare well enough to get the jokes in Macbeth. It also means that the occasional Shakespearian word makes it into everyday speech here and there.

Most of the time you ignore the stupid mistakes. Either that or you don't read the comic. But now and again you get something that is so stupid it's funny. Case in point:

Now Dan Jurgens is apparently under the impression that "anon" means "immediately". It doesn't. It means "at another time" or "later". So here we have Hercules saying with great anger "Apologise to my father, Thor. In the fullness of time."

Similarly here we have Balder sent on a desperately urgent mission to Svartelfheim, and he says:

Translation: "If your life matters to you, you must free me at some point in the not too distant future!"

It gives the action a much more relaxed feel to it, don't you think?


Mark Fossen said...

After spending years as a Shakespearean actor ...


Yeah ... Herc is basically saying "Apologize. When you get around to it ... not now, don't worry yourself, but when you get a chance."

Anonymous said...

English is my second language and I can spot that mistake. I went to high school in Canada, though.

Who was Dan Jurgens' editor at the time? (I'm guessing that's from Thor v2 or something because that's JJR's art.)

Anonymous said...

I meant JR JR's art.

Marionette said...

Yes, the art on both is John Romita jr. The comics referenced are Thor v2 #7 & 23.

Anonymous said...

This is just a coincidence. I'm a librarian, and a patron called a few weeks ago wanting a definition for "anon." I used the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. The dictionary I'm using now is the Random House Unabridged.

Sadly, "immediately" is an archaic use of the word "anon," but even if the writers were checking a dictionary, "immediately" is the third (and archaic) definition, after "...soon" and "at another time."

Marionette said...

Yes, I've seen that listed too, but when it says 'archaic' that's a bit of an understatement. The language Thor uses is generally considered to be Shakespearean english, and it is quite clear from Shakespeare's usage that he means 'later'.

To deliberately use an older and confusingly different meaning seems unlikely. I mean, I could see Grant Morrison doing it, but that's another kettle of worms.

Anonymous said...

For me it breaks down when a character with that much gooey drool can speak at all, nevermind speak antiquated English.

Doc Nebula said...

My theory is as follows: the Norse gods speak, well, Norse... and in fact, they probably speak some form of Ur-Norse, if not simply some nearly incomprehensible dialect of Basic Galactic that has long since evolved into some kind of arcane patois few other Galactic races can understand, since the Asgardians have been a largely isolated society for thousands if not millions of years of general immortality.

However, when the Galactic ubermen we refer to as the Norse gods first began visiting Earth again (after a long hiatus) it was probably back in the 17th Century or so. At that time, someone (perhaps Odin, but most likely some lesser mage, like Loki or even Amora) refreshed the translation spell that had allowed the race to first communicate with the ancient Vikings. It was a good spell, if a bit inflexible, and it's only been four centuries or so since then... a mere holiday weekend, by immortal terms. So, when "Norse gods" (actually, as noted, a race of Galactic ubermen similar to the DC continuum's Kryptonians and Daxamites) visit Earth, they are speaking whatever incomprehensible cosmic dialect of ancient ur-Traveler they speak... but we hear them as if they are kinda-sorta from the 17th Century. For us English speakers, they sound like the King James Bible.

As to 'anon', most likely, the translation spell has started to break down, and badly needs to be recast. Meanwhile, Thor, who goes through phases of sounding Old English, then long streaks of speaking fairly colloquial English, with occasional lapses back into Old English, is simply alternating. He's spent enough time on Earth to speak good (if accented) colloquial English, but sometimes he forgets and lapses into his native language, in which case, the translation spell kicks in.