Last week, Dave Haddock posted another great entry in his ongoing Writer’s Guide to explain some of the Cathcart dialect and pirate terminology we’ve seen in some of his stories. While, the introduction of a SciFi thieves’ cant in the Star Citizen universe was something I craved, the terminology mentioned and the Creole-accent basis initially put me off a bit. Some forum posts have rebelled a bit in these aesthetics and I can’t blame them.
This weekend, I tried to get some fiction writing in and, of course, my next short story includes Cathcart and Spyder as settings. I looked at my base dialog and thought, “How am I going to make this work?”. The terminology that Dave has given us and the accent itself just didn’t seem to work. I wasn’t feeling the odd contractions and the slang origins seemed stretched thin and anachronistic at the same time. AntiLaz? Too obscur. Dingo? Too randomly Australian (especially in Creole). This is an intentional mix of ignorance driven slang mixed with an accent that exudes ‘backwoods’ and used by people that have command over technology and science that is beyond our comprehension. Even if you limit the usage to the most ignorant and assume the tech is so easy to use that language doesn’t matter, the pirate ranks must be filled with those who maintain and understand the technology enough to build and maintain Spyder itself. Spyder residents crave imported entertainment from the UEE. Why would they talk like this?
Then, I thought more about it. Dave’s examples, as he points out, are just examples. The language is WAY bigger than this. Likely so big that fiction authors can probably just make up words that fit the general theme without any worries of clobbering continuity. On top of this, this terminology is ‘meant’ to be impenetrable to outsiders (the point of a thieves’’ cant). It is both a mark of pride (a self identification as a ‘pirate’) and a form of cryptology among the speakers. When you think about the speech, you have to think about it not as a modern backwoods drawl, but as an evolution of street slang mixed with complexity of any engineering discipline. Take the innate need for words that technology requires to adequately describe and operate and layer on a obfuscation meant to make it even less discernible.
As an author, this is all likely a good thing. I can make the speech easy or hard to understand, obscuring techno-babble that other SciFi battles. I can give my pirate characters a bit of freedom and color without stressing the consistency or even the minor tech implications. Most of the time, the pirates themselves aren’t stupid and can speak as clear or obfuscated as they desire to non-pirates or the readers.
For role players in the game, it may be a little harder. We just don’t have enough terminology and auditory cues in our mind’s ear to get a hang of it yet. In-game, such usage will likely come through emulation of the fiction (plus voice actors) and the NPCs they interact with so we’ll have to see how that pans out.
So, all you scrum, I’ve bought the new Cathcart lore and I’ll see if I can help flesh out this dingo. The Creole part will probably still take a bit to get used to though.