East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Swingy Thingies


One of the most entertaining and refreshing aspects of working with a great editor is sometimes you spend a whole night discussing swingy thingies.
Which disproves the old legend that authors and editors are often at odds, and engage in fiery discussions.
We were somewhat at odds, but we had a good laugh.

Consider the following contraption


This thing appears in one of the stories that will be published in the forthcoming Aculeo & Amunet collection – The Hand of Isfet.

Now, in my story I called it a swape.
I know that in Egypt is currently known as shduf or shadoof, but you see – it’s an Arabic word, and they did not speak Arabic in Egypt in the Third Century.
A silly conceit, probably, but that’s it – I did not call it a shaduf, I called it a swape.
My Webster dictionary gave me the go-ahead*.

The problem is, the Shortened Oxford dictionary defines “swape” a dialectal word.
Hence my editrix arching a critical eyebrow at the idea of a swape in my story.

Compound to the dialect issue the fact that 9 readers out of 10 will probably be at a loss understanding what the frigging swape actually is – it’s not a common word, or a common contraption – and you get trouble.
Granted, I doubt my readers would be more familiar with a shaduf.

The smart thing, this being Egypt and the Third Century, would be to use the Greek word for the tool – kēlōneion.
Another word I suspect my readers are not familiar with.

So, what?
We wasted our evening making plays on words and laughing like silly – which of course means we did not waste it at all.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that writing should be a painful and sombre activity – and neither does my editrix.

But the swape/shaduf/kēlōneion problem remains.
What should I call the cursed thing?
In the end, I’ll probably just call it swingy thingie with a bucket, and forget about it

* The huge problem of writing in a second language is, sometimes you consider commonplace, words that are actually pretty weird to native speakers.
Many years ago I was told by a young lady that my speech was peppered with very old-fashioned, uncommon and polite words.
It was hard explaining it came from reading a lot of Robert E. Howard.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

8 thoughts on “Swingy Thingies

  1. 😀 While still partial to keloneion, I must say I love the “swingy thingie” notion… How about Latin? Did the swingy thingie have a Latin name back then? Not that I’m suggesting you use it in the story, but my curiousity is piqued: what would Aculeo call the contraption in his own mind – if not keloneion?


    • Considering he thinks of the khopesh as “one of those fancy blades the Egyptians were so fond of”, I guess Aculeo’d probably think of the keloneion as “the swivel-thing for lifting buckets they used thereabouts”.


      • Highly unpractical, yes…


        • Plus – it’s in-character… that’ Aculeo for you.
          Minus – I can’t use that style more than once or twice per 10K story, or it becomes cliched and stilted.
          But that’s not a problem.
          I’ll simply remove the well and the shaduf, and replace them with a pile of Perrier water bottles… 😀
          After all, if someone can place a Jesuit in the First Crusade, what can be wrong with bottled mineral water in 3rd Century Alexandria? 😛


  2. Oh – and I’m constantly told that my English sounds half-Dickensian with the occasional Elizabethan overtone…


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