Because T-V distinctions are interesting and I am a nerd

So! In Argentum in Aqua, the action takes place in the city of Sacaan, a fictional city on a fictional continent in a fictional world. That being the case, the characters aren’t meant to be speaking English – translation convention is in full effect, because writing an entire book in conlang is an exercise for those with a good deal more time and linguistics knowledge than I.

Which brings up an interesting problem, because I actually sat down and worked out a few things about Sacaask (the language they’re meant to be speaking). And one of those things is the fact Sacaask, unlike most modern dialects of English, has a T-V distinction: there’s a formal and informal ‘you’. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if I was writing in, say, French or German, as those languages still have T-V, but to represent it in English, I’d have to start dropping thees and thous into things.

And, because I’m procrastinating right now, that’s exactly what I went and did. This is a section of dialogue from the draft of Chapter 1 of Blood on the Snow which is currently online (here), rewritten with informal (thou) and formal (you) second-person used as the characters would use them if they were being written as speaking Sacaask. See if you can spot why I picked this particular one:

For crying out loud! “If thou hadst not noticed, I was trying to change the subject.”

“Tha wert tryin’ t’come off all high an’ mighty by pretendin’ tha ain’t fussin’ over me like some sort of fuckin’… whatever-it-is. Bird. Woman. Woman bird.”

“Mother hen,” Archer said, despite himself.


“I’m not fussing.” And then, since they’d apparently started on this argument again anyway, “I’m pointing out that if thou dost not stop drugging thyself into a stupor every couple of nights, thou’rt going to get thyself killed. And given thou art my friend, I’d rather that didn’t happen.”

“It ain’t goin’ to.”

“And thou knowst that how, exactly?”

“It ain’t goin’ to,” Sabbat repeated. The joking undertone had drained out of his voice, replaced with an iciness that gave even Archer pause. “And even if it was, it ain’t thy bloody problem.”

“Really? Because-”

“You ain’t my fuckin’ da, Archer. Y’might want t’remember that.”

Ah. Archer hadn’t ever been entirely certain what Sabbat’s relationship with his parents had been, but he’d picked up enough in the time they’d been together to know that there were waters there deeper than even he wanted to dare at the moment.

And, speaking of moments… He checked his watch. Damn. “Point very much taken. Though-”


“We’re going to be late. And, to forestall the inevitable comment, yes, that’s your bloody problem.”

“Aye, an’ it wouldn’t be if tha’d shut up fer five seconds,” Sabbat retorted, though the words were delivered with something a good deal closer to his usual tone, absent the dangerous coldness which’d been underlying them just moments before.’

Copyright © 2019 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

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