The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog The Dog Master discussion


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Dog and other "problem" words...

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message 1: by W. (new) - rated it 5 stars

W. Cameron The problem with a book told in a modern language about an ancient people who most likely had an entirely different way of speaking is that it asks the reader to accept certain words that did not, of course, exist. Take, as the best example, "Dog." In The Dog Master, the first domesticated wolf is named "Dog." All this is meant to imply is that the wolf would have been called something, and that it is entirely possible that whatever the name was, it came to mean "one of those domesticated wolves to help us and love us instead of trying to eat us." Like all nouns, then, it was shorthand for something else. No one is saying that the first dog was called, in English, "Dog." The implication is, though, that whatever the name was, it evolved so that when it was used, people pictured a domesticated wolf.

Another example comes from a reader who derided the use of the term "North." But nomadic people would certainly have a sense of direction. One way, it is warmer in winter, the other, colder. One way, the sun rises in the morning, etc. The presence of the great sheet of ice that was slowly grinding down the continent would have cemented in everyone's mind what "that way" meant. Instead of saying, "the direction in which one will eventually come across a big chunk of ice," they would have said something. Maybe they called it "Bob." But it meant what we, in our modern language, would call "North." So, to translate out of Bob and into our tongue, it becomes North.

I sincerely hope that this helps those readers who feel it improbable that Paleolithic humans would use modern words--it's not just improbable, it's impossible, but without writing things like "cave" and "spear" and "water" the book would have been nothing at all!


Avaminn F'nett The only word I had a problem with in the book was "marriage." The author should have used "mating" instead, probably.

I think the way the word "Dog" came about in the book was very interesting.


message 3: by W. (new) - rated it 5 stars

W. Cameron Avaminn wrote: "The only word I had a problem with in the book was "marriage." The author should have used "mating" instead, probably.

I think the way the word "Dog" came about in the book was very interesting."


Hi Avaminn: you are not alone in questioning this, but I'd ask you to consider something. We believe the first domestication of wolves started 30,000 because that's when we see evidence of the ritualistic burial of wolves (and decorative objects) with humans.

But from a Darwinian perspective, ritualistic burials have no real purpose--how does it assure the survival of your genes and your species to have a funeral?

But marriage--that has a real purpose. We all know that declaring "this is my mate" is a way of establishing a connection that says to competitors, "hands off." Particularly when it comes to starting and defending a family, cultural defense of marriage has a real purpose. Marriages, in my opinion, would have come long before funerals, so one could say, "this is my mate and these are our children." After the common defense and cooperative hunting, tribes might very well have formed precisely to enforce marital rules.

But we know that long before there were domesticated wolves, there were funerals. So, I reason, there probably were marriages, rules about adultery, etc.

Remember, these people were US, modern man. They did not have symbolic language that survived the centuries, but they would have had the same feelings we do.

So, to me, there is nothing strange about the idea that in a time when there were funerals, there were weddings and marriages.

Thanks so much for caring enough to post! -- Bruce


message 4: by Ed (new)

Ed Halliday I haven't read this book, although I intend to, but as an author myself I can say that it is almost impossible to write such a story with the restricted vocabulary that would have existed at the time. It would be very repetitive and difficult to read and would probably never make it to the printing press. Authors therefore have a dilemma, do you stay true to the language of the era or do you write something that can be published? I think most readers would prefer to read something intelligible, and that is why authors use a little creative license, so that the book can be enjoyed rather than waded through. Cheers, Ed Halliday


message 5: by W. (new) - rated it 5 stars

W. Cameron Thanks Ed. It was even more ridiculous with A Dog's Purpose, a novel I wrote from the perspective of a dog. Some people have complained about the dog's vocabulary. But a dog's vocabulary is usually a few hundred words at best, nearly all of them nouns. Who could write a book like that? - Bruce


message 6: by Ed (new)

Ed Halliday No problem.
I had a similar problem when I wrote The Grinning Dog. The plot was partially driven by the way the cat and the dog view humans and they exchange opinions about there owners. Wood and miaow don't quite cut it! I'm now hugely looking forward to reading both your books featuring dogs.
Cheers, Ed Halliday


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