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Why is it inappropriate to address


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Basically the only time identifying someone by their race is okay (at least in the US) is in a kidding and sarcastic tone between people who know each other.

 

An example being in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Boromir often refers to Legolas as "elf" in their dialogue, it is not said as an insult nor is it taken as one, because they are friends Legolas understands that Boromir calls him that in jest and even more so out of respect, because of the rivalry between dwarves and elves calling him "elf" is a constant reminder to Boromir that Legolas is an elf (most dwarves think of elves as a bunch a prancing wusses) and yet has saved his life many times (a favor Boromir has returned in kind) and is in fact his equal on the battlefield.

 

While this example requires some knowledge of the LotR trilogy (which I don't know if you have) it is pretty self explanatory.

 

Another way it is okay is if it is used as a pet name/nickname to a lover/partner and is usually used as a joke.

 

Adding adjectives like kind and dear to it make it less offensive but should only be used by friends as well because if someone does not know you they might still think it is an insult.

 

But I agree with Bri don't just refer to him as Kivan the whole time, it gets boring, you should try to come up with a nickname or two for party and friendly NPC interaction to keep things fresh, but calling him "elf" in a doragatory (sp?) way would be acceptable if the person saying it generally hate his guts.

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I don't really find calling somebody "elf" to be particularly offensive in a fantasy setting if you use a bit of imagination. It all depends on the context and what we know of the other characters. Were Korgan so say "So yer back, elf?" then we'd probably read it as fairly negative (or at best neutral). Mazzy or Keldorn using it would likely be more endearing. Some characters, it'd just seem completely out of place. As far as PC replies go, no, I wouldn't expect a character romancing Kivan to call him "elf", but by anybody else it could easily be used cordially or in jest. Labelling all uses of "elf" as rude seems a little strange to me.

I don't believe that real-life analogies of vocation or gender provide a good comparison, because in the FR universe we know pretty clearly that "bard" or "girl" can be, but are not necessarily, negative modes of address. Again, it's all about context.

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I certainly do. An excellent example is Quayle speaking to Aerie:

 

"Then you shall have to come and visit me from time to time and tell me what you've learned. Go... go with my blessing, girl."

 

And the first one that jumps out at me for "bard" is Aerie addressing Haer'Dalis:

 

"You've a pretty way with words, bard. Well...I think I'll disappoint you surely, but if you wish to teach me your play I won't object to it."

 

By contrast, there are some fairly negative uses of both "girl" and "bard", but I trust I don't have to list those too? :bday:

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Calling a grown woman a "girl" is always insulting and demeaning, unless the people know each other well and it is accepted by the woman as not an insult. Which is the case with Aerie and Quayle. That's always key -- if person A feels insulted by an appelation, and person B keeps using it, it doesn't matter how person B sees it, s/he is insulting person A.

 

"Bard" is a special case. A bard may be in a tavern where patrons don't know his or her name; in that case, "Sing a song of love, bard," or whatever, wouldn't be rude. It's like calling for the waiter in a restaurant. But for someone in the party to make that exact request of Haer'Dalis would be rude. (Aerie uses it to keep him at arm's length.) In that case, they know his name and he is not there to serve him. It is usually rude to call someone by what they are instead of who they are. By doing so, you are placing yourself above them. Waiters and bards are there to serve patrons, but Haer'Dalis is no one's servant. In Faerun, someone in need may also say "help me, paladin," or something, without being rude. That's like calling someone "doctor" instead of "Dr. Smith", if you don't know their name. But if one knows someone's name, one should address them by name.

 

It's always rude and derogatory to refer to someone as if their race, sex, nationality, religion, etc., were their name. Sometimes friends excuse this rudeness, as teasing among equals. But it's generally better to avoid it.

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Well, I would never think of elf being an insult... Funnily enough, I liked it both in Tolkien (the example Caen quoted) and Salvatore (Bruenor routinely addresses Drizzt as "elf"), so I assumed that it would sound not as intended insult. But the person who brought it up said that it was a mischaracterization for Jaheira (and pretty much every other NPC except for Korgan) to address Kivan as 'elf' which mortified me, because yes, mischaracterizations are something I made a great effort to avoid.

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and Salvatore (Bruenor routinely addresses Drizzt as "elf"),

That's a rather special case. Bruenor addresses Drizzt as "elf" (rather than "drow," which a number of people address Drizzt as and it is offensive) to indicate that he sees Drizzt as a surface elf.

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Well, I thought that (and I never really dwelled on it) was that yes, Bruenor gives Drizzt the distinction of being a dark elf, not drow, therefore he calls him as he would any elf. Anyway, I do not think that elf is an insult, but I will correct it anyway to prevent people thinking that I make NPCs rude.

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Using Salvatore's writing style as a guide would be a rather big mistake anyway, IMO. Actually (ducks) same with Tolkein, though he is at least better than Salvatore. The Hobbit is quite well written. The trilogy, well... it's well imagined.

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I got a point of critique that puzzles me to no end. A reviewer seemed to be really ticked off by characters reffering to Kivan as an 'elf' (Ie : So you have returned, elf.) Is there something Anglophone related that makes such an addressing rude or inappropriate in some way? Does it make an English speaker think of racisism or something? I felt very natural to me, but if it is read as a negative, I would like change it.

 

I would just like to say for the record that I don't think it's offensive. But I can see how it could easily be used with negative connotations. I think it's fine as long as elvish people and those (relatively) obviously his friends are the ones using it. Anomen calling him "elf" for instance strikes me as being a little challenging and could be interpreted as offensive. But Kivan shouldn't get offended by being called elf, should he? He's an elf :)

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