(Lack Of) Research Gone Wrong
I think most writers can agree that research is an important part of writing, and considering I spent a good while researching cellphone reception in Wyoming yesterday it is safe to say I think so too. Unfortunately others may not agree, and it is in this case that we can find some awkward or just plain amusing instances of words that are not being used in exactly the right way.
Example One: Hermione and Herms
Meet Hermione Granger. I’m sure most of you are familiar with her, or are at least aware of her and the Harry Potter book series which she exists in.
In fanfiction it is not uncommon to find people shortening her name for whatever reason. ‘Mione is a common one, and for some reason Mia shows up now and again. While not exactly in-character, those are not the laughable ones. That dubious honour goes to those who nickname Hermione Herm or Herms.
Why? Well, this is a Herm (also called a herma). Yes, that is right. It is a block of stone with the head of the god Hermes (from whom the name Hermione comes from) displaying a very prominent phallus.
Oh, and Herm is also an island, but that is not nearly as funny a connection as a statue with a proudly erect phallus.
Example Two: Stele and… Stele
The Stiehl is a magical knife that appears in Terry Brooks’s Shannara series. The term stele is used in City of Bones as something like a hybrid of a wand and knife:
He slid the thing Clary had thought was a knife back into his belt. It was a long, luminous cylinder, as thick around as an index finger and tapering to a point.
Dictionary.com states that a stele is neither a wand nor a weapon. This points to a possible rearrangement of letters on the part of Clare, who then never checked to see if the word she “created” was an original one.
As a classics major, whose focus is on a) literature and b) archaeology, the word “stele” stands out as a case of “that does not mean what you think it means” (thank you The Princess Bride). I am most familiar with it in the use of the Grave Circles of Mycenae but as wikipedia so kindly shows it is more than just a Greek grave marker.
Still not a knife or a wand though.
Example Three: Vampires and Incubi
The first seed (no pun intended) was planted when I did Bella’s computer research in chapter seven of Twilight. Bella reads about several real vampire legends—the Danag, Estrie, Upier, etc. In the novel, I only mentioned a few of the many legends I read through. One that I didn’t mention at this point was the entry on the Incubus. The unique feature about that legend was that the incubus could father children. Hmmm, I said, and I filed that kernel of an idea away for later. When I decided to write the first sequel to Twilight (Forever Dawn), I knew it was going to revolve around a hybrid baby from the outset.
That comes from Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn FAQ page. Now, there are a few problems with that concept, and thus with SM’s research in general (I could write a whole
rant entry on SM’s attitude towards research, but I think I shall save that for another day).
- Incubi (and their female equivalent, Succubi) are not vampires. They’re demons (of a different type)
- In folklore the child of a vampire father and a human mother is a Dhampir. A incubus’s child is known as a Cambion.
- To father a child, an incubus needs to receive sperm from a succubus who has had sex with a human man. The succubus takes the man’s sperm, transfers it to the incubus who impregnates the human woman. So in order for that to work Edward would have to not be a virgin. Hm.
Sadly, if SM had simply gone to Wikipedia she could have seen all this instead of referring to that Vampires A-Z site (the link I have lost, but I did raise my eyebrows at some inaccuracies listed there) she might have had a little more plausible reasoning behind the pregnancy. I know, I know: Her Vampires Are Different.
Still, looking at the above examples I am glad that for every word I make up I Google it to make sure I haven’t used a drug or sex term. Like Muggle and it supposedly being a drug term.