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Chapter 21b: Struck-out letters


February 10, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder

Enrie sat with her mouth open for a moment, staring at her roommate.  She wasn’t sure what had just happened, but she was certain she didn’t like it, and if there was more coming, she probably wouldn’t like that, either.

Ledryie had turned back to her sewing and shows all signs of completely ignoring Enrie and her friends.  Enrie waited, uncertain what she was waiting for but not knowing what to say, either. Finally, when it was clear Ledryie really wasn’t going to say anything else, she cleared her throat.

“Did I offend you without meaning to?  Did I start a feud and forget to inform myself?”

“Well, that’s the thing with you.  You really can just accidentally start feuds.  And then just wander away from them.”

“I don’t think you know Enrie very well!” Taikie stood up, glaring.  Enrie reached out towards her friend, but Taikie was stomping towards Ledryie angrily.  “You’ve been living with her for months now, and you still think that sort of thing?  You clearly weren’t paying any attention!”

“I don’t have to watch one particular little royal brat.  And neither should you.  Your parents worked hard, right?  Even if you are their only kid, even if they like you, you still had to work for everything you god.  And you, blondie, they don’t even like your entire race here.  Her people would keep your people locked up forever if they could, and you two are following her around as if she is the next Empress.  Oh wait… she might be.  And for what?  Being born to the right parents?”

Enrie stared at her roommate.  She knew there was something she ought to be saying, something that would make things work out, but she could not figure out what that might be.  She swallowed and tried again to find something to say.

“I heard someone talking the other day,” Saydrie said quietly. “One of the teachers.  He was talking about Lyedra. I know it says Ledryainryie on your door…”

“Do Bitrani do that?  Name their kids ‘trash’ and ‘useless?’”

Enrie leaned back, her gears turning.  She’d known Ledyrie hadn’t come with much, but even Enrie hadn’t brought too much luggage; you knew the rooms were tiny and you knew you’d be wearing uniforms the whole time.  It didn’t make sense to pack heavy.

“Bitrani don’t… quite.  But you don’t have to put it on someone’s name to treat them that way, and some Bitrani certainly treat their children badly.”  Saydrie sounded thoughtful.  “But Enrie didn’t name you, and she doesn’t treat you like garbage, does she?”

Enrie shook her head, even though she knew Saydrie wasn’t talking to her.  People that named their child like that, with the initial consonant struck out, pronounced across the top of the mouth… she’d known such people existed, but she couldn’t imagine someone actually doing that to their child.

Ledyrie shook her head slowly.  “No.  But she doesn’t get it, either.  I hear her going on and on about how it’s just a vowel, and then she starts fights with everyone and gets off scot-free.  Even Gianci’s calling her a Lady now, and I bet you nobody ever calls me a lady.”  She glared at Enrie.  “You think it’s just a vowel?  Think about being born Nyerie instead of Enerenarie.


  1. tuftears says:

    Well. For a bit I had thought Ledyrie was trying to be helpful, in a blunt fashion, but evidently this is a different kind of helpfulness.

  2. Rix Scaedu says:

    Enrie does have privilege, and not realise it, but can we aim the three of them and may be some other people at Ledyrie’s extended family?

    Or have her become a lady in her own right with her prefix and maybe a vowel-started suffix and never have to talk to them again….. And have them know that she chooses to ignore them and her husband thinks they are beneath her and, and everything.

  3. Dan Gudy says:

    Err, what? I think I’m missing a fair bit of cultural baggage here.

    • Lyn Thorne-Alder says:

      Oh, I was worried that wouldn’t come through!
      Okay, so Calenyen language has two genders: useful and useless, the useless being noted with a palletized beginning consonant (which in their writing system is a strikethrough.
      The fourth letter in kelkyag here: is the first example I can find.

      • Dan Gudy says:

        Thanks a lot for that link, which explains some of what’s going on here. Incidentally, it should be noted that I am not a huge fan of special letters as pejorative (or in the case of ToMU, divine) markers in conlangs, ever since I first came across that idea in Laadan something like twenty years ago. Maybe that’s my lack of linguistic knowledge showing, but in my experience, that’s just not how living languages work, especially when expressing the pejorative.

        OK, so the teacher talking about Lyedra is bad, I get that. But as Saydrie noted, the name on her door says Ledryainryie which doesn’t have an initial palatalized consonant. So her parents actually named her Lyedryainryie or what?

        And I’m with Enrie on this, I don’t want to imagine someone actually doing that to their child.

        • The Inventrix says:

          I’m an amateur casual conlanger so I’m gonna chime in on this, hope you don’t mind. :3

          Just as an initial bit of pedantry, the palatalized letters aren’t “special”, they’re used all throughout the language. It’s only when you start a word with one that it has the connotation; like how ending a word in English with an “ee” sound makes it sound like a diminutive. (And I’m not entirely sure that counts as a gender in Reiassan but that’s not actually relevant atm.)

          As for whether it’s consistent or not with living languages, let’s look back at English and aforementioned diminutives. While it isn’t a direct correlation, there is a strong cultural history of infantilization/juvenilization (I think I made that word up) as a form of perjorative address. Calling a grown man “boy”, or a woman “girlie”, for example. It’s a put-down, implying the addressee is lesser than the speaker. You can see this exact process happen with “girlie” right there, of adding the “ee” sound making it insulting, and it can be applied to proper names as well. Someone’s name is Sam, you call them Sammy. Richard, Richie. Jennifer, Jenny. Et cetera.

          So the idea of doing a sound-change sort of conjugation to imply a lesser status is historically and linguistically represented and not actually a new idea.

  4. kellie says:

    So its because her name has a “y” in it?

  5. Marina Brave says:

    Oh, that’s why Byittie is the way it is. Poor roomie. Though jeez, roomie doesn’t realize half the shit Enrie starts is because she doesn’t want vowels treated special… also, En isn’t getting away with that unusual an amount, considering how much Taikie gets away with…

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