Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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97
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2answers
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 ...
48
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3answers
15k views

What's the deal with “marshmelons”?

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy enjoy some quality time together around the campfire, musing about life, death, baked beans, and rowing boats gently down streams. In ...
44
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9answers
8k 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 ...
38
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10answers
32k views

What is the difference between “Warp” and “Transwarp”?

In Star Trek III, Kirk takes the Enterprise out on a little "joyride", with the U.S.S. Excelsior in hot pursuit (initially). The audience learns that the Excelsior is equipped with "trans-warp drive". ...
33
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5answers
5k views

Why is the Centauri state called a “Republic” when it has an emperor?

A republic is a state that is not a monarchy, while an emperor is clearly a monarch, so how is it that the Centauri Republic in Babylon 5 has an emperor? This isn't a question of accuracy but of ...
33
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1answer
7k views

What is a nerf?

In the classic scene, Princess Leia slams Han Solo by calling him a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder While clearly this cuts Han to the bone, I'...
31
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3answers
2k views

What is a retcon, or retroactive continuity?

I understand that it is short for retroactive continuity, but could someone explain the concept and provide some examples to illustrate?
30
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4answers
9k views

What does punk in steampunk mean?

There's an earlier question about the definition of steampunk, but the answers gloss over the 'punk' part of it, except for vaguely connecting it to cyberpunk. So is there any significance to the '...
28
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3answers
13k 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 ...
28
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4answers
6k views

When did the terms science fiction and sci-fi enter our vernacular?

I know there's some debate on exactly when "science fiction" itself became a genre, but I'm curious if anyone knows either 1) when the term science fiction was coined and 2) when sci-fi became ...
27
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2answers
3k views

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 ...
26
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3answers
6k 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?
23
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4answers
7k views

Why so little steam in steampunk?

In the vast majority of discussions of Steampunk work, in art and culture I see more references to clockwork items than steam-powered paraphernalia. It seems as though the term is more or less ...
23
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3answers
4k views

Why do the Borg refer to themselves as “We” and not “I”

In Star Trek:The Next Generation, there was much made of the Borg being a singular entity, such that one Borg couldn't detach itself from another easily, analogous to a person being unable to easily ...
23
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2answers
2k views

What is Slipstream?

I know it's a subgenre of scifi and fantasy, but what are the defining characteristics? What makes a story slipstream?
22
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2answers
4k views

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 ...
21
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3answers
2k views

Origin of word “matrix” used to describe a virtual reality environment?

What's the origin of the word "Matrix" used as either a name or a description of a virtual reality environment? The best known example is of course from the film of the same name, and it's widely ...
20
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5answers
71k views

What is the difference between Alchemy, Sorcery and Witchcraft? [closed]

From a science fiction/fantasy point of view (I don't want to start a religious debate). From what I understand from the stories I've read, Alchemy combines magic and science. But then what is ...
20
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3answers
11k views

What is a quad?

Quads are mentioned often in the Star Trek universe, in varying orders of magnitude (kiloquad, megaquad, gigaquad, etc.). What exactly is a quad, as it relates to modern technology? (The Memory ...
20
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4answers
2k views

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 ...
19
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3answers
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 ...
19
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7answers
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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 ...
19
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1answer
4k views

What does the term “breeder” mean in The Chronicles of Riddick?

In The Chronicles of Riddick, both Vaako and his wife Dame Vaako refer to Riddick as a "breeder". Is this a race they are presuming he is a member of? I say "presuming" because later on What does the ...
19
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1answer
2k views

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 ...
17
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5answers
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The origin and use of the term TARDIS

In the first serial, "An Unearthly Child", Susan Foreman claims, "I made up the name TARDIS from the initials, Time And Relative Dimension In Space." In "The Name of the Doctor", the guard watching ...
16
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3answers
5k views

Why are only X-Men called mutants?

In X-Men, Wolverine, Magneto, Mystique, Beast, etc. are all mutants. Mutants are perhaps the people in the form of humans who have extraordinary powers. So, in that terms, why aren't Iron Man, Captain ...
16
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5answers
4k views

What is headology in Discworld?

In Discworld, Granny Weatherwax discusses "headology" fairly often as one of the keys to her power. What exactly does she mean by the term?
16
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3answers
624 views

Are there subgenres for science fiction with accurate science vs. made up science?

Are there terms that describe a science fiction story that strictly adheres to, I guess, plausible science concepts and technology versus science fiction were the science is really just made up and is ...
15
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4answers
2k views

What word describes organisations like the Federation, Klingon Empire, and Dominion in Star Trek?

There are many territorial areas and governmental bodies in Star Trek: The United Federation of Planets The Klingon Empire The Romulan Empire The Ferengi Alliance The Dominion and probably a host of ...
15
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3answers
4k views

Is there a single word that describes both Witches and Wizards?

In the Harry Potter world, there's the term "muggle" for people with no magical abilities, "muggle-born" for those with magical abilities who's parents are muggles and "squib" for those with no ...
14
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4answers
865 views

Earliest science-fiction mention of space stations?

Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, published in 1951, involved three space-stations orbiting Earth. I am curious to know which was the earliest science-fiction which involves space-stations. Furthermore, ...
13
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4answers
2k views

SF, Sci-fi, Science fiction and Speculative fiction

In communities discussing written s*f*, I've often found the following terminology: Speculative fiction, or sf, is anything that asks “what if?”: stories about the future, fantasy, alternate history, ...
13
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1answer
2k views

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". ...
12
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2answers
791 views

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 ...
11
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3answers
717 views

Term for tricks in literature [closed]

In A Clash of Kings, A Song of Ice and Fire - Book 2, Tyrion tells three different stories about Myrcella to three different people in order to discover the fink. That was a great tactic. Is there a ...
11
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1answer
1k views

What is a “Plutition Camp”?

Okay, we're deep blue inside baseball here. In the original Blade Runner script, Batty's valedictory speech goes like this: “I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Is there an in-universe name for the “Vulcan Salute”?

I was about to ask someone about their usage of a particular hand gesture, which is similar to the way Vulcans use their "Salute" alongside the standard greeting of "Live long, and prosper" when I ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Where did the term “energy signature” originate?

Lots of sci-fi franchises (Stargate, Eureka, Transformers to name a few) love to throw around the term "energy signature" when they want to indicate that something can be magically identified, ...
10
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3answers
8k views

What does “Wildfire” mean?

In season 1, episode 5 of The Walking Dead, we see Dr. Jenner at the CDC recording a video journal, which, it is implied, he intends to send to his superiors (although he clearly suspects that they ...
9
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4answers
1k views

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 "After the Battle of Yavin". The ...
8
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3answers
1k views

Did the term “congresscritter” originate in SF, and, if so, who first used it?

The title pretty much says it all. I thought it would be easy to find the origin by googling, but although there are many references, none of the ones I scanned included the origin. I remember ...
7
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1answer
218 views

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 ...
7
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1answer
973 views

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 ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Are 'robot' and 'droid' used interchangeably?

In Episode IV, after Luke is rescued from the Sand People by Ben Kenobi, he refers to C-3PO and R2-D2 as robots rather than droids. This struck me as odd as the latter seems to be the preferred term ...
6
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2answers
4k views

Has anyone revealed why the word “zombie” is used in the comics, but not on the show(s)?

In The Walking Dead comics, the word "zombie" wasn't used at first, but fairly early in the series, it was introduced. Rick initially thought it was too silly to mention, but eventually accepted that ...
6
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1answer
287 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 ...
6
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0answers
151 views

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 ...
5
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1answer
2k views

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 ...
5
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1answer
645 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 ...
5
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2answers
2k views

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 ...