Questions tagged [terminology]

This tag is for questions about words, terms, or phrases in Sci-Fi or Fantasy.

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Is there common fantasy term for a group of people composed of various species that the speaker is not a member of?

In our own language we have the term alien, which we also use in sci-fi settings. In Warhammer 40K humans use the term Xenos to describe a group of intelligent beings that contain none of our own ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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What is a tabukuk?

Near the beginning of Keith Laumer's A Plague of Demons,* two spies are meeting in a restaurant in North Africa, and one sweeps their table for surveillance devices. We went through a ritual of hand ...
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18 votes
2 answers
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Was Tolkien's concept of an Oliphaunt borrowed from Afrikaans?

The Afrikaans word for an Elephant is an 'Olifant' which is phonetically similar if not identical to the mythical elephant-like creatures called the Oliphaunt. There is even a scene in the movie where ...
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0 votes
2 answers
141 views

Could it ever make sense to use megahertz as a unit of energy? [closed]

I'm reading Nnedi Okorafor's book Noor. In it, the author describes a character who has invented a way to transmit energy through the air using some kind of light wave. OK, I get it, it's sci-fi, I ...
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3 votes
0 answers
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Why do "The Gamesters of Triskelion" refer to "thralls" instead of "slaves," or speak of them being "vended," rather than "sold"?

My favorite episode of the original Star Trek series, "The Gamesters of Triskelion," is about slavery. However, although the characters do occasionally refer to the situation using words ...
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7 votes
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What is the industry term for a early shot that identifies a movie (or television show) as science fiction, when that might not otherwise be obvious? [closed]

I remember once hearing somebody in the film industry use a term for a brief early scene or shot that marked out that a film would be part of the science fiction. For example, the films Predator (...
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19 votes
2 answers
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Why is it called 'Lightspeed' if the ships aren't traveling at the speed of light?

In the Star Wars franchise, they can travel through hyperspace to other systems and planets. But Han in Star Wars: A New Hope said they needed to make the jump to lightspeed. And there have been ...
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10 votes
1 answer
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Origin of the use of exclamation marks to attach modifiers to distinguish different versions of characters

In online fandom communities, I've noticed a not-uncommon convention (though I'm not sure it's the prevailing convention; more common seems to be a simple space or a hyphen) of using an exclamation ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Is there a term for scifi set in space that isn’t space opera? [closed]

The term “space opera” implies far more than merely being set in space. It is patterned after “soap opera” and has implications of melodrama and so forth. Is there any term for scifi set in space that ...
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4 votes
4 answers
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Is there a name for the genre of fiction in which problems are solved by the main character "just being special"?

There is a trend in some science fiction/fantasy art (literature, TV, movies, etc) to make main characters special in some deep way, and then use their special qualities to solve the major conflicts ...
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On the words "science fiction" and "scientifiction"

One of the many mysteries surrounding the origins of science fiction is when this word was used first and who invented it: it was my understanding that both "scientifiction" and «science ...
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18 votes
6 answers
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Does cyberpunk exclude interstellar space travel?

I'm wondering about the 'definition' of cyberpunk. In the ones I've read, space travel was only nearby stuff: earth orbit, moon, mars and maybe other solar system areas. Which I appreciate because ...
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68 votes
3 answers
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Where did the concept of a (fantasy-style) "dungeon" originate?

Everyone knows what a dungeon is: it's a dank, bleak underground jail where medieval prisoners get locked up. Unless you're in a fantasy story, of course! In that case it's an area, generally ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Was the term "lifesigns" meant to be "countable" from the beginning?

Lifesigns is a common term on (as far as I can remember) all Star Trek series. "Lifesigns"/"no lifesigns" can be an aspect of sensor readings when scanning a remote location such ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What does "whip me" mean?

Harley Quinn is on her skates being towed by rope behind Huntress' bike: Harley Quinn: Whip me!
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Where did "eleven-dimensional chess" originate? [closed]

Unusual chess variants, often with boards in more than two dimension, are not uncommon in science fiction. The most famous examples come from Star Trek. You can even buy something like the Star Trek ...
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1 answer
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What's the meaning of "shockwave through time measurable"?

In Terminator Dark Fate (2019) there is this conversation: T 800: When my mission was completed, there were no further orders. So for 20 years, I kept learning how to become more human. ...
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26 votes
2 answers
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What work originated the term "dark lord" as a conventionalized title for a preternatural overlord?

In a comment on one of my recent answers, someone snarked at my calling Darth Vader "the dark lord," as if that title were specific to Voldemort from the Harry Potter novels. Actually, the title is ...
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22 votes
2 answers
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What's the meaning of "411 on the late-night drop box"?

Nick Fury walks up behind Captain Marvel: Nick Fury: Uh, I'd like to ask you some questions. Maybe give you the 411 on the late-night drop box. Could I see some identification, please? What's ...
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19 votes
1 answer
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What’s the first use of the term “Downwell”

Downwell is used as a term for being on-planet, down a gravity well. I first heard it recently reading the Imperial Radch trilogy, and just saw the term used in promo for another story, and was ...
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28 votes
3 answers
14k views

What is the meaning of "wiped my face with a planet"?

In Avengers: Endgame (2019), Tony Stark says about Thanos: Tony Stark: I didn't fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet... while the Bleecker Street magician gave away the store. What is ...
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4 votes
1 answer
186 views

Is there a name for the style/genre of Sci-Fi using floating, illuminated technology elements?

Astral Chain, Mass Effect, Halo 4 (with the Forerunner technology and weapons) and Black Panther are all examples of Science Fiction that make use of floating, illuminated elements in their technology....
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-6 votes
1 answer
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Futuristic visual style - Thor: Ragnarok, Transistor video game [closed]

What is this colorful and futuristic visual style you can see in Thor: Ragnarok the Transistor video game? Thor: Ragnarok - end credits - YouTube.
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47 votes
9 answers
12k views

Term for immortality that only prevents death from old age

Is there a term for immortality that only prevents death from old age? For example, the elves from The Lord of the Rings are "immortal", but only to the effects of dying from age. They can still be ...
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4 votes
2 answers
148 views

Has the term "bosonics" ever been used explicitly in a story or film?

The BBC article Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search by BBC Science correspondent Pallab Ghosh is interesting for several reasons. One was a curious error that has since been ...
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12 votes
2 answers
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Is there a term for real-world science-based SciFi? [duplicate]

I've read just a few books in SciFi genre, never liked it, because it's usually written by writers, not scientists. Though, recently I've read few books written by Peter Watts and Stanislaw Lem. There ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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What is the genre of fantasy stories that take place in a science fiction universe?

There are some stories that superficially look like they belong squarely in the fantasy genre but contain hints (or even major revelations) that the world was a sci-fi setting all along. The ...
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6 votes
1 answer
654 views

Where did the term "the living impaired" originate?

In The Simpsons episode 9F04, "Treehouse of Horror III" (1994), Lisa refers to the "zombies" that Bart has just summoned and Bart snarkily replies that Please Lis, they prefer to be called "the ...
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101 votes
2 answers
7k views

Is there a term for the science fiction trope where a character lists two historical things and a future thing?

In Babylon 5, for example, a character lists famous bombings like "Hiroshima, Dresden, San Diego" with the first items in the list being real and the last being fictional. This dialog technique of ...
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-20 votes
2 answers
656 views

What does MCU stand for?

I see the acronym MCU being used a lot on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange. What does it stand for?
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19 votes
7 answers
8k views

What is the in-universe term for Muggles in other countries?

Muggles, as we know, are the people who have no magical ability and are born in a non-magical family. Non-magical people are called Muggles in the British magical community and 'No-maj' in the ...
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3 votes
1 answer
164 views

Terminology for a macro scale "Grey Goo" Scenario

Ive recently been playing which, in large part, features the typical grey goo scenario (Automated manufacturers consuming all life on Earth in their efforts to endlessly reproduce). The difference ...
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1 answer
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Who came up with the term "Earthling"?

Or, to make matters a bit more attainable, what is the earliest occurrence of the term attested in writing?
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3 votes
1 answer
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"Nadir" and "zenith" in Alliance-Union universe space navigation

In C.J. Cherryh's Chanur novels (part of her Alliance-Union universe) there's sometimes talk of starships arriving in a solar system at the system's nadir or zenith. At first I thought this just ...
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5 votes
1 answer
835 views

What is a clan-fam?

While reading through The Gunslinger, I came across the following line in the 2nd paragraph of Chapter 5: sullen, inbred clan-fams, toiling silently in the fields by day. I googled the term and it ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Was "Sanctuary Moon" a proper name specifically limited to the forest moon of Endor, or a category representing a general type of moon?

The forest moon of Endor is sometimes referred to as "the Sanctuary Moon". Is the term "Sanctuary Moon" a proper name, unique to the Ewok's homeworld, or is the forest moon of Endor merely one of ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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What is the difference between a "scanner" and a "sensor" in Star Trek?

In Star Trek, they use the terms scanner and sensor a lot. Is there any technical difference in the meaning of the two terms? Or are they 100% interchangeable? If there is a difference, what is it?
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8 votes
3 answers
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What is the etymology of parseltongue/parselmouth?

Where/how did Rowling come up with the terms "parseltongue" and "parselmouth"? Are they inspired by, or in any way rooted in, relevant real-world words/terms (perhaps related to snakes), or was it ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Who introduced the term "the Northern Thing" for fantasy works inspired by Germanic mythology?

The works particularly of Tolkien and some other writers like Robert Howard and Poul Anderson are sometimes described as being influenced by "that Northern Thing", meaning mythology and medieval tales ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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What is an "Otik Style" nymph?

Under "Unanswered" questions, in July, Tark described a wonderful story I'd like to see too. Tark describes it as "Wood nymph (otik style) who becomes a scientist" What does "otik style" mean? (I'm ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Is "Smegheads" useable as a term for Red Dwarf fans?

"Star Trek" fans are called "Trekkies". Is "Smegheads" useable as a term for Red Dwarf fans, such as the following? There's more Trekkies than there are Smegheads.
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8 votes
4 answers
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Why is time in the galaxy far far away described by reference to Yavin rather than Endor?

In the Star Wars universe, dates are usually given as "[number of years] BBY" or "[number of years] ABY" - that is, X years "Before the Battle of Yavin" or X years "...
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20 votes
5 answers
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Why are downloads destructive in the Star Trek universe?

There are numerous places in various Star Trek episodes where references are made to the fact that "downloads" are a destructive operation: you download something from one place, and unless you ...
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2 votes
4 answers
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Who was the first alien "person" or "man"?

It is fairly common nowadays, for example in Star Trek, to refer to aliens collectively as people when they are to some degree similar to humans and fairly relatable. What was the first instance of ...
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19 votes
3 answers
5k views

Is the term "muggle" pejorative?

I am curious as to what the origin of the term "muggle" is, and whether there is any reason why non-magic folk should not be offended by it. In other words, if there is a reasonable origin that ...
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6 votes
0 answers
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Is there a precedent for the use of "sol" or other terms for solar day?

In these two questions in Space Exploration Stackexchange the origin and use of the word "sol" to describe a solar day on astronomical bodies besides the Earth are being discussed. Like so many things ...
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13 votes
1 answer
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Who or what is a "J.G. Scrunt"?

In the M. Night Shyamalan film Lady in the Water, the character of Story — a water nymph from the "Blue World" — is tormented by a grass-covered wolf-like creature called a "Scrunt". ...
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13 votes
1 answer
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What separates a cyberpunk setting from a futuristic setting?

I understand this is a commonly used style in science-fiction. However, I can never determine the difference between what some call a "futuristic" setting and a "cyberpunk" setting....
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6 votes
1 answer
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What do the terms 'Doylist/Doylian' and 'Watsonian' mean? [closed]

Having been a bit of a lurker recently I've noticed a rise in the terms, 'Doylist', and 'Watsonian' when referring to opinion based replies or to describe character thoughts, feelings and reasoning ...
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26 votes
3 answers
7k views

Is there a polite term for "mudblood"?

Clearly the term "mudblood" is a slur in the Harry Potter universe. Is there a polite way for witches and wizards to talk about magical people born of muggles?
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