Musing: Calling a Rabbit a Smeerp

space_bunny by ruelll-d5h9iuw

The Smeerp in his natural habitat.

(The title comes straight from T.V. Tropes by the way.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, this means naming something mundane with a new name for the sake of flavor.  It’s something you’ll see in equal parts of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

My problem with this comes on two points, sacrificing clarity and expecting your reader to memorize arbitrary information.  Fantasy novels tend to have ‘terms’ the reader is expected to know alongside character names (that people tend to make unwieldy and hard to remember).

For this reason I highly discourage “Smeerps”.  On a related note, tf you have a weird creature that doesn’t exist in real life, apply some logic to its naming.  Your reader should be able to pick up on the reason it has been given that name without needing a character to spell it out.

If something is a rabbit, though?   Just call it a rabbit.

Compare a similar concept, if you have a fantasy theme that permeates through the story, you can ‘modify’ an existing creature.  This gets the ‘smeerp’ feel without bombarding the reader with memorization homework.

Be careful not to over use it, though.  The reader will get annoyed for another reasons.  You can only take so much of ‘Majagoo Rabbit’.

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