Magic and language in fantasy fiction [entries|reading|network|archive]

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Mon 2015-08-10 12:55
Magic and language in fantasy fiction
[identity profile] atreic.livejournal.comMon 2015-08-10 12:17

This post reminds me of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, particularly the start of chapter 6 and the bit in chapter 25 :-)

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[personal profile] simontMon 2015-08-10 12:34

It's hard to be sure, but I think this entire pondering might well have originated in my head (some years ago) from HP's bad Latin; one of the first questions, if not the first, that made me start thinking in this direction was wondering whether I could possibly justify the bad Latin by an in-universe explanation rather than 'Rowling got it wrong'.

(On which subject I also have to give a shout out to ho for hoggwarts!, for its perfect fusion of the HP spell schema with Molesworth. "But surely sir lumos hav a greek nom. ending whereas the root come from lat. lumen luminis a lite as any fule kno?")

I see that chapter 25 suggests some counterarguments, but then, its version of the concept is more mechanistic than mine was anyway...

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[identity profile] cartesiandaemon.livejournal.comMon 2015-08-10 13:09

Yeah, I was thinking of HPMOR. After some frantic re-googling, there's some more detail on language specifically in

Specifically, Harry finds some spells which are easy to cast but Hermione doesn't already know (from a joke book), and describes them to her. If he gives her the instructions, but she doesn't know at all what the spell is for, it doesn't work. If he gives her the wrong instructions, nothing happens at all. If he gives her the instructions very slightly distorted, she gets a spell which partly works. If he gives her the instructions correctly, and an inaccurate description of what it does, it works perfectly the way it's supposed to.

What I think is interesting, is that that description is pretty close to how it works in the books. (I don't think the books stick to it perfectly.) But I doubt JKR thought it through like that: that's just how you'd EXPECT magic to work. Enough to predict the outcome, even if it depends on woolly concepts like what someone "expects" to happen. But not enough to formulate a law of physics about it.

(continued in response to main post)

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