hello stereotypes

Naming people and places while avoiding explicit coding and stereotypes

Hello!

I am writing a fantasy story and am worldbuilding. The planet is earthlike in nature (liquid water, oxygen atmosphere, etc). The people on the planet (humans) were created by the four gods that created the planet (earth, air, fire, water deities) and the people were born from the land which they inhabit. To clarify, people living in a tropical rainforest climate have dark brown/ reddish brown skin to blend in with the trees while people living in a desert climate have beige-y bronzed skin to blend in with the sand. 

I study evolutionary biology, so I’m using that to help create the races of people on the planet. They are adapted to their environments, accounting for skin color, muscle tone, eyesight, etc (kind of like how animals adapt to their environments, but not in a derogatory way or anything) Each race has their own culture stemming from the geography and the resources available to them.

My problem comes when trying to name people/places/things. My first instinct is to draw upon existing languages and adapt them. Ex: tundra/snow inhabiting peoples speak a language similar to existing scandinavian/russian/eastern european languages and tropical inhabiting peoples speak a language similar to pourtuguese/spanish or telugu/malay/javanese and so on and so forth

However, I’m trying to make the cultures of my peoples unique, drawing upon multiple cultures and my own imagination for inspiration and not simply coding one specific race or ethnic group. How should I go about naming people and places of different races without alluding to an existing culture? Is that even possible? For example, would it be rude to draw upon traditional west african languages for inspiration of naming places and people in a tropical setting if the culture I create is nothing like the culture of west africans?

Or am I just over analyzing things? *sigh*

Howdy, @thebiomaster! 

There are plenty of worldbuilding and culture-coding articles on WritingWithColor (look in the tags), but in regards to your primary concern of naming things, there is a subject that I don’t think we’ve gone over too often: phonotactics. 

Phonotactics is basically …The “rules” of what can be a word in a given language. It’s a study of the patterns and constraints in a language’s soundset, a sort of quantifying of why “vlim” could pass for a word in English but “mtar” couldn’t.  If you look up, for example, ‘Spanish phonotactic constraints’ you can find breakdowns of what consonant and vowel combinations occur and do not occur in the language, and even syllable patterns and vowel-to-consonant ratios. With some reading on phonotactic constraints, you can get the vibe of a given language and use that as a scaffolding to make up unique names that sound like they come from a real language, capture the ‘vibe’ of a given language, and yet not be an explicit (or obvious) copy. 

Now, which languages would you want to pick for which cultures?

Naturally, you would do well to NOT pair cultures that have a rocky history with one another (for instance, I would not by any means use a French-based language on a Vietnamese-like culture), but picking a language based off of shared climate/terrain and not shared culture, is completely legitimate.  There is study on the correlation of climate and language, after all. For example, look at the work of Caleb Everett, correlating tonal languages with humid regions. 

After doing this, if you wanted to take linguistic world-building a step further you could consider the terrain of your world and identify the conquerors, the traders, and the isolationists within it, and look at the geography of the world and locate the places where these different cultures are most likely to interact and thus have a transformative effect on the languages in the regions they most commonly interact.  Decide whether there is an attempt in some nations to standardize its language(s), such as through an official language or a universal writing system.

- Rodríguez 

Compliments I’ve Gotten That Are Very INTP-Esque
  • “Your handwriting looks like a scientist’s writing.”
  • “I feel like I’m sitting in a lecture hall listening to the ‘really cool professor’ get off topic.” (Just after I told someone to wait while I collected my thoughts, to then continue explaining something.)
  • “How are you not a famous scientist yet.”
  • (I get a lot of scientist-related compliments)
  • “I can tell when you start thinking seriously about something; it’s like I can literally see the gears turning in your head!”
  • “I like hearing your stream of thought.”
8

2016 bones challenge → day 1: why you love and appreciate bones
Bones is my absolute favourite show because…. well, because of everything really. The show’s beguiling blend of compelling cases, intelligent humour, interesting science, thrilling drama, enthralling love stories, teamwork, and most importantly, the fascinating characters, and their relationships with each other, all together, in my opinion, combine to make this crime drama/procedural/dramedy the unique and very special show that it is. It’s no secret that Bones has been a trendsetter from the very beginning, with a highly diverse, multiracial cast, showcasing awesome ladies in empowering careers, and being one of the few shows out there with an excellent crew/TPTB who are not afraid to write not just one, but two amazing love stories, without having the constant need to showcase unnecessary drama that would otherwise result in a break-up/divorce, to name a few. It constantly defies stereotypes (hello, Moonlighting curse), and even after 11 seasons, is still one of the few shows out there that has, in my view, not at all gotten stale. The Bones cast are so amazing too, and the love and gratitude that I have for each and every one of them has no bounds. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I LOVE BONES, and I will forever be grateful for all the happiness, joy and excitement (and squeals!!) that this wonderful show, characters, cast and crew have brought me for the past 6 years (and counting!).

Sometimes I’m like maybe I’ll just tell everyone in a trans guy 100% man he him hello stereotypical gender roles and expectations burn everything a bit feminine I own and marry a cis straight woman and live my like completely unauthentically and tell everyone they were right being nb is just a phase haha

MBTI types' inaccurate stereotypes

Hello all, here’s something for us to get to know ourselves and each other better! Write one stereotype about your type that you disagree with, and if you want to, write another stereotype about the OPPOSITE type that you disagree with.

Let me start off :)

My type (ISFP) - I don’t like how us ISFPs are always stereotyped to be emo artists. Being in tune with our emotions doesn’t make us “emo”, and also we aren’t only limited to art when it comes to expressing our creativity. It can be music, or handicrafts, any medium you can imagine. It entirely depends on the individual.

Opposite type (ENTJ) - I think ENTJs are unfairly described as ruthless dictators. Yes, they are often well-planned and value efficiency and results, but that doesn’t make them ruthless and emotionless. They’re fun to be with and can be great friends and partners too!

Hogwarts Houses: Stereotype vs Reality

Hufflepuff:

Stereotype: hahahahahehehehehifriend!!! I’m going to be you friend forever! I don’t stop talking ever and will make your cookies hehehehe 2+2=5 right?? Hold on lemme party and then cry

Reality: I value kindness and loyalty above all other things. I believe in being a good person to others above all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other things I focus on as well.

Gryffindor:

Stereotype: hi little piece of shit wanna fight haha I was the one who pranked the teacher I have no self control I just like messing with everyone hahaha wait we’re also the best house if you’re not in here you are inferior tbh

Reality: I believe standing up for what you believe in is the most important thing. Even if I’m scared, I want to try to have courage for when no one else has.

Ravenclaw:

Stereotype: Hello, human. I have no interest in you unless you are intelligent. I will be in my room reading books and solving puzzles now. Please don’t call on me if you have nothing important to say. Also, my GPA and IQ score are higher than yours. Take note of that.

Reality: I think knowledge is powerful. Knowing things is really useful in all situations. I will strive to become knowledgable.

Slytherin:

Stereotype: Hi. I’m evil and hate everyone who isn’t me because I’m the best there ever was.

Reality: I focus a lot on understanding and bettering myself. I think it’s important to strive to achieve what I want.

Mistaken Racial Identity Based on Stereotypes

Hello, I have a black female character who is a superhero. Her uniform/armor covers all of her body (think power rangers) and she is a very private person and refuses to speak to the media. Because of this the media and general population do not know her race.

Originally I was going to have the media and fanart assume she is white, but felt this hit a little bit to close to home. So I changed it so that the media assumed she was Japanese (for laughs) because she ate California rolls for a week straight and hangs out with an asian Super. 

The point of this was to show how you shouldn’t assume someone’s race based on a few external things. But I don’t know if it comes off that way or if it is offensive.

Is this offensive? Personal Opinion: do you think I should have her be mistaken for white or Japanese?

Thank you for your time. 

I think it’s offensive, period, and that this shouldn’t be done. I understand your intent is good, but it’s pandering to stereotypes in a really bad way. 

–Jess 

I get micro-aggressions exist and I do not mind them threaded it here and there but I think the fact that this is at another race’s expense especially that has nothing to do with this superhero, who is Black, is unnecessary.

As a Black hero It doesn’t affect the main character directly like it would if it was stereotyping her because she ate soul food and so they said hey she’s Black, haha! This pulls in Japanese people just to throw racism at them and I can see this being hurtful to readers.

I’d want to know if that other Asian superhero was Japanese or if there other important Japanese characters to call this out because in a weird way, it also feels objectifying to have racism where the subject isn’t even involved in the incident in the first place.

Kinda how when people throw Black people into the conversation and start being anti-black when we’ve got nothing to do with the subject at hand in the first place.

I’m with Jess. I’d avoid it.

-Colette

Also, the very costume is racist.

There’s a general trope where PoC superheroes in the west have full-cover costumes, making their race basically invisible. It’s very rare to see exceptions. See: Black Panther and Cass Cain (half Asian) for some of the more prominent examples. The Cass Cain example is particularly potent because she’s a legacy character (one of the Batgirls) and all the other Batgirls have had costumes that show their hair and part of their face.

Like, exceptions exist— Falcon and Miss Marvel— but the general principal of “PoC superhero has all skin covered”… I would question it. Deeply.

-Lesya

I honestly thought people at Paris were nicer but I should’ve known better - I went to Starbucks before I got here cause I was starving you know, the flight from Stockholm to here isn’t that long but still I was hungry as fuck. — Either way long story short this fucking baquette eating, beret wearing, smelly kid pulled my bagel out of my hand, threw it in my face, and screamed “sucer une bite, putain!” at me and I was so caught off guard that I spilled my coffee all over my shoes. Viva la France!