Thursday, October 14, 2010

That Word You Can Only Say In German

It's been a quiet week here, I know. Things have been very busy on my side of the screen, but they've been a productive sort of busy so I don't mind. I finished another project and managed to chew a very large chunk out of another. I suspect that that second project will see the light of day very, very soon, so keep an eye on this blog for further details.

This Sunday is the 25th session of Watchfires & Thrones, something I'm extremely happy about. When we started the campaign back in March, my intent was to just play and let the details take care of themselves. There's no metaplot marching things along and I'll keep guiding the players through my world for as long as they keep showing up. I've got a little something special planned for this coming game and it should be fun.

The real surprise of the week is how much fun I've been having writing material for Secret Antiquities. While I'm still flailing about somewhat trying to determine where I'm going with that project, the lack of any firm guidelines has produced some cool ideas and I'm looking forward to figuring out how it all gets stitched together.

With that in mind, I was turning over a concept this evening and I lack the necessary linguistics to treat it properly. I dare say the majority of people reading this are familiar with the "doppelgänger" in game terms if not in its origins. Five seconds of research tells me that doppelgänger means "double walker" in the original German. Now my question for those who speak German is what would you call the doppelgänger of a place, location, or country? A locale that looks exactly the same as the one you call home, but isn't. I hope that makes a vague sort of sense. I'm poking at an idea and, should the German term for this concept work just as well as doppelgänger does, I might go that route. Suggestions are most appreciated.


Anonymous said...

There are a number of words that can mean 'place', 'area', 'location', 'district', etc., such as Ort, Stelle, Platz, Gebiet, Gegend... Of course they all are slightly different.

Since this is your neologism you have license to find what sounds best. 'Doppelplatzen' (pl), maybe? 'Doppelgegend' (sing.) might be the closest.

Also, 'Heimat' is the word for home area or homeland. 'Doppelheimat' could approach the uncanny valence you are going for.


rorschachhamster said...

The correct german term for something very similar looking is "Abbild" or "Ebenbild". It is seldom used for places, though. You shouldn't use "Abort", because that's an old word for an outhouse...

I would use something like "Anderswelt" (Hm, Otherworld in English... never heard that before...)or "Spiegelort" (mirror place).

(Oh, and it is "Doppelplätze" not "Doppelplatzen". That would mean something like to double burst ;))

Anonymous said...

I thought it was Doppelplätze but used an online dictionary to make sure. Will never use that one again!

Alex Schroeder said...

Trying some neologisms:

Ortskopie (place copy)
Traumort (dream place)
Falsche Heimat (false homeland)
Doppelboden (double ground, also bottom, floor)

Some suggestions from and inspired by #drsrm, a German RPG channel:

Wiederheim (again home)
Wiezuhaus (like-at-home)
Ortstäuscher (place deceiver)

bighara said...

It's been years since German classes, but I was going to suggest Doppelplätze myself. Not that I know it's grammatically the best but, from a narrative perspective, it's enough of a cognate to be an evocative term to the English-speaking ear.

shlominus said...

i would go with anything featuring "spiegel" (mirror) as well.

spiegeldorf/stadt - place
spiegelort/platz - location
spiegelland - country

if you prefer a word containing an umlaut (which might sound slightly more mysterious to your players ;)), you could also go with "ähnlich" instead, which means similar.

Michael Curtis said...

Thank you very much for all your suggestions. You've given me a plethora of words to wrk with. I appreciate everyone taking the time to help me out on this.

PTR said...

This is not strictly relevant to your question but I thought you might appreciate the flavour of it:
Capgras syndrome is the delusion that a loved one close to you has been abducted and replaced by an exact double.

limpey said...

My German is terrible, so I won't torture any native speakers with my mangling of their language other than to suggest you check your Fritz Leiber --- as I recall, in one of their adventures they met a German named Karl Treuherz who had gotten lost between worlds and ended up in Newhon, and one of the things he said was, "Gotterdamnter Nirgenswelt!" (which means, I think, "Goddamn nothing-world!")
I am intrigued that the Navajo "Skin-walker" (who is, I think, a person with the power to assume the form of other creatures) and the German "Doppleganger" both have a form of the word "walker" in their respective names. I wonder if "walker" part of the name was chosen to indicate that the creature was a monster of the physical realm (as opposed to ghosts, etc.,) since "walker" implies that it walks the earth and has physical form. Although in the case of the 'Skin-walker," the Navajo might have been inspired to use the word "walker" since this creature might sometimes appear as a 4 legged animal like a coyote. I'm not trying to imply any philological connection... just feeling a little Joseph Campbell today.
OK. Enough musing. When I saw the title of your post, I assumed it was gonna be about Schadenfreude or Weltschmerz... both of which are pretty much a "given" for me these days...

Alan said...

When in doubt, you can always use the prefix "bizarro". ;>

akfu23 said...

While it isn't specific to a place per se there is always the word "unheimlich" from Freud.

To quote from Wikipedia:
The Uncanny (Ger. Das Unheimliche -- literally, "un-home-ly") is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.

rorschachhamster said...

"Unheim" would be very cool to use in German for that other place - because it sounds like "unheimlich", wich means as much as spooky in normal use...