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Look to the West : Glossary

This is a glossary of alternate vocabulary and terminology appearing in Thande's long-running Look to the West timeline.

The page consists of several vocabulary lists and is arranged according to topic and the entries alphabetically. Alternate geographic placenames are included. The OTL term is listed first and underlined, followed by the timeline's ATL term in bold lettering, and then a brief explanation.

Don't read it if you haven't read the timeline yet and you're worried about possible spoilers.

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Physics and Chemistry

Black hole: “Black star”, based on an older proposed, nowadays unused OTL term for the same concept.

Cellulose: “Xylose”, derived from the Greek word for wood, xylon. The term also exists in OTL, but describes a somewhat different material.

Chlorine: “Muriatine”. A back-formation from the fact that the old name for hydrochloric acid (before chlorine was discovered) was “muriatic acid”, meaning 'salty' (as it was made from sodium chloride and sulfuric acid, or sea salt and oil of vitriol as they were known at the time).

Helium: “Coronium”. From Latin corona, meaning “crown”. It was in the sun's corona (outer atmosphere) that helium was first discovered.

Hydrogen: “Aquaform”. The same meaning as the OTL word, but from Latin rather than Greek roots.

Infrared light: “Subrubric light”. 'Sub-' is an alternative Latin prefix for 'below', 'rubric' is from the Latin word 'ruber' meaning red. 'Rubric' in OTL is usually used to mean academic marking schemes, as annotations are traditionally done in red ink.

Iodine: “Amethine”, derived from “amethyst”. Both this and the OTL name iodine refer to the purple colour of its vapour.

Laser light: “Synchlight”. A contraction of “synchronised light”.

Mass-energy equivalence (E=mc²): “The Lightspeed Square Law”. Named by analogy to the existing Inverse Square Law, Inverse Cube Law, etc.

Negative and positive charge: “Surfeit and deficit charge”, respectively. This reflects a thematic revival of the monist theory of electric charge that occured in LTTW's early 20th century.

Nitrogen: “Illuftium”. From the Swedish illaluktande luft - “foul air”. Named by Swedish chemist Carl Scheele both in OTL and LTTW, but only recognised internationally in LTTW.

Nuclear: “Carytic”. An adjective equivalent to 'nuclear'. This is from karyos, the Greek word for 'nut', which is used in OTL to mean nucleus in another sense when classifying cells as eukaryotic or prokaryotic.

Oxygen: “Elluftium”. Derived from Swedish eldluft (“fire air”). In both OTL and LTTW, Swedish chemist Carl Scheele coined the term before Lavoisier, but in OTL his work was ignored.

Plastic: “Pseulac”. A portmanteau of “pseudo-lacquer”, stemming from the fact that the first synthetic plastics in TTL were marketed as an alternative to lacquer.

Plutonium: “Hesperium”, for the same reason Fermi chose the name in OTL.

Quantum theory: “Inversion theory”. While the theory itself is framed a bit differently, the core concept is the same. The name comes from how physicists noted that the new theory reversed two of the previous assumptions of classical physics: classical physics said that atoms were indivisible and energy was made up of endlessly divisible parts, while quantum says that atoms can be split (though not indefinitely) and energy only exists in fixed discrete amounts that cannot be further divided.

Radiation: In LTTW, the electromagnetic spectrum is referred to generally as “light”, as it was recognised early on that all forms of electromagnetic radiation are part of a continuum. “Oeculight” (short for oecumenolight) is sometimes used to specifically refer to the whole thing, “Eigenlight” to visible light only, “Infralight” to all invisible wavelengths longer than visible light, “Paralight” to all invisible wavelengths shorter than visible light, and “Cryptolight” for both infralight and paralight together. Because damaging radiation is all paralight (UV, gamma, X-rays etc.), it is sometimes called “deleterious paralight” or “del-para” for short. This also suggests a connection with nuclear reactors, as in TTL these are called “paradox engines”, but this is just a coincidence.

Silver chloride: “Muriate of silver”. Actually naturally occurring as the mineral chlorargyrite. Unlike in LTTW, in OTL, this was not described until the late 19th century.

Silver iodide: “Amethiate of silver”. The name used for iodine in LTTW is amethine, derived from ‘amethyst’. Both this and the OTL name “iodine” refer to the purple colour of its vapour.

Silver nitrate: “Illuftate of silver”.

Chlorine gas: “Air of muriatine”. In LTTW, chlorine gas has been named after muriatic acid, the eighteenth century name for the acid we now call hydrochloric acid. In OTL, the acid was renamed after the element, in TTL it’s the other way around—in part because chlorine/muriatine’s was discovered earlier, or rather Karl Scheele’s OTL discovery was recognised earlier.

Sodium thiosulfate: “Hypobrimstite of natrium” (earlier “hyposulphite of soda”). Note that in OTL, the scientific community eventually adopted a common name derived form for the name of sodium (from ‘soda’) and a scientific name derived form for the name of sulfur, whereas in TTL it happens to be the other way around: Sodium is “natrium” from the Latin term (hence its symbol being Na in OTL) and sulfur is instead given its common name of “brimstone”.

Ultraviolet: “Supracynthic light”, a contraction of “suprahyacynthic”. 'Supra-' is another Latin prefix meaning 'above', while 'hyacyntho' is Latin for the colour violet.

Uncertainty principle: “Eleatic particle problem”. A reference to the “Achilles and the Tortoise” paradox of Xeno of Elea, which the physicists proposing the idea used as a metaphor for the issues surrounding it. Note that the “problem” terminology comes from these physicists originally using this as a criticism of quantum theory (“inversion theory” in TTL) but it eventually became used even by the theory's supporters–much like “Schroedinger's Cat” in OTL.

Uranium: “Xanthium”. Named for its yellow compounds (from the Greek word for yellow) long before its radioactive nature was known.

Biology, Medicine, other natural sciences

Amino acids: “Chantrics”.

Antibiotics: “Culicides”. A contraction of “animalculicides”, meaning “animalcule killers”–animalcules being an older name for bacteria and similar microorganisms.

Chromosomes: “Vaphisomes”. Named for the same reason as OTL, that they dye very strongly in microscopic experiments. Chroma in the OTL term means “colour”, while vafi in the ATL term means “dye”.

Doublethink: “Ericsson Syndrome”, after the Swedish alienist (psychologist) Nils Ericsson who first described it in the 1830s. Unlike the OTL example, this is supposed to be an actual mental illness that is only later pejoratively applied to other people's political beliefs, suggesting they are not merely hypocritical in their contradictions but literally insane. It was first used in this way by Pablo Sanchez in 1841.

Freudian slip: “Baumgartner’s Tongue”.

Gametes: “Syzygic cells”. Gamete means “wife” in Greek, syzygos means “spouse”. Hence the ATL term.

Genes: “Teuches”. From the Greek word meaning book or issue (as in, Pentateuch). As an aside, in OTL, Gregor Mendel made an important breakthrough in genetics in the mid-nineteenth century (though his work was ignored for decades) because he happened to look at a very simple set of genetic traits in peas which obeyed the dominant-recessive rule in an easily observed fashion. The vast majority of genes interact in more complex ways and such a pattern is not so easily seen. Therefore, it can be argued in the vast majority of timelines that the chances of anyone stumbling upon the rules in this fashion are actually quite remote. The order of discoveries in TTL are thus rather different to OTL.

Evolution (and natural selection): “Environmental Breeding”. Proposed by Frederick Paley, son of William Paley of watchmaker metaphor fame. Not entirely the same as the OTL theory, though. For example, it denies the idea of species.

Ice age: “Glacial Aeon”. The general idea of the theory dates back to the 18th century, but the OTL term was not coined until a century after the POD, being a calque translation of the German term Eiszeit.

Microorganism: “Animalcule”. Older name for bacteria and similar microorganisms. Another early name was “ravdic” from the Greek word for 'rod'.

Proteins: “Megalins”. So named in LTTW because of their large size and molecular weight. In OTL, megalin is the name of a specific protein.

Multiple personality disorder: “Legion Syndrome”. Named after the Biblical story of the man possessed by the spirits of many demons who had them exorcised by Jesus Christ.

Mutation: “Metallaxis”. Named by American researcher Carl Powell,

Psychology and Psychiatry: “Alienism” is still the preferred term. A practitioner is an “alienist”.

Psychological profile: “Alienistic cameo”, the commonly used term.


Aircraft: “Aerodrome”. A term briefly used in OTL to describe early heavier-than-air aircraft, before being reassigned to mean their landing ground.

Airship: “Steerable”. An English version of the French dirigeable etymology noted above.

Assembly line: “Process production”.

Bicycle: “Celeripede” (speed-foot in Latin), another term akin to velocipede used in OTL but which was only ever applied to a specific type of bike - in TTL it becomes the generic term.

Bit (computing): “Meros”, the Greek word meaning “part”. For example, a 1-bit system is unimeric and a 6-bit system is hexameric. Incidentally, this terminology is used in OTL to describe a large molecule made up of a number of subsections, especially a protein.

Car: “Mobile”. Self-explanatory.

Computer: “Ypologist”. From the Greek word for calculator (the OTL Greek word for computer is the related “υπολογιστής”). Popularised in the ATL by a punny song which had early computer pioneers nervously “apologising” to a mob of angry arithmeticians who were out of a job. Prior to this word catching on, early computing experiments were based on programmable looms, and these machines were often just called “programmables”, a term that was also used for some early computers.

Cotton gin: “Cotton-thresher”.

Guillotine: “Chirurgeon”. The French word for “surgeon” (referring to the clean cut of the blade).

Hologram: “Trisicon”. From the Greek tris + 'icon' (“three-picture”), referring to the three dimensions.

Hovercraft: “Amphloaters”. A portmanteau of “amphibious” and “floater”.

Laser: “Synchlamp”. This is due to laser light being known as “Synchlight” (synchronised light) in this timeline.

Nuclear reactor: “Paradox engine”. Based on one classically educated scientist's quip that “splitting the atom” is an oxymoron or paradox as the word “atom” means “indivisible”.

Particle accelerator: “Gordian Ring” or “Ring of Gordias”. A classical reference to the Gordian Knot, the complex knot which Alexander the Great supposedly 'solved' simply by slicing through it with his sword. The idea behind the analogy is that scientists are similarly using a very direct, violent and destructive method to solve a complex problem: deducing subatomic structure by banging atoms together until they break.

Photography: “Asimicony”, later worn down to “Asimcony”. An individual photo is called an “asimcon”. From the Greek words asimi ('silver') and icon ('picture'), referring to the fact that early photographic methods used silver salts that turned dark on exposure to light.

Pixel: “Iota”. From the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet and proverbially used to refer to a very small but significant part of a whole (“not one iota of difference”), stemming from a schism in the Church over the spelling of a word concerning Christ's nature with or without an iota.

Radar: “Photrack”. A portmanteau of “Photel” (LTTW's term for radio) and “Tracking”. As far as pronunciation goes, photrack rhymes with 'coat rack'.

Radio: “Photelegraphy” or “Photel” for short. A contraction of “Photonic Telegraphy”, meaning 'far-writing with light'.

Sonar: “Echotrack”. As well as being descriptive, named because it rhymes with TTL's term for radar, “Photrack”, and sonar can be considered an undersea analogue to radar.

Submarine: “Submersible”. “Submarine (boat)“ is still used as well. However, both terms are used only for unarmed civilian versions used for things like deep-sea exploration. In LTTW, “submarine” remains only an adjective and has not also become a noun as it has in OTL. Nobody in LTTW would refer to “a submarine” in and of itself.

Telegraphy and Telegrams: “Lectel”, a contraction of “Electric Telegraphy”. Named in contrast to Optel (“Optical Telegraphy”, semaphore) and eventually Photel (“Photonic Telegraphy”, wireless radio).

Telephone: “Quister”. A contraction of “Ventriloquist machine”. This was originally a sarcastic term coined by an “it will never catch on” figure sceptical of the telephone's merits. After the invention's success, the term was used in an ironic sense by its supporters.

Television: “Motoscope”.

Typewriter: “Soloprinter”.

Politics and political sciences

Anglo-American / English-speaking: “Hanoverian”. While Hanoverian still remains a demonym for someone or something from Hanover, in a political quirk of LTTW, it also has connotations to the British Isles and North America due to the British royal family's ties to Hanover since the 18th century.

Astroturfing: “Rat-Revolt”. An anglicisation of the German ”Rattenfänger Revolte” coined by radical leader Wilhelm Brüning; Rattenfänger is the name in German for the figure known in English as the Pied Piper. Refers to German nationalist revolutions supposedly spontaneously organised by the people but actually 'led along' by the tune of the Saxon government's piper. Most people using the English term do not understand where it comes from and think it has something to do with pejoratively describing members of such movements as rats.

Cold war: “Quiet war”.

Ethnic cleansing: “Racial purging”.

Left, Centre and Right: “Cobrist” describes Left, “Argentist” describes Centre and “Doradist” describes Right. This comes from the politics of the United Provinces of South America, which originally had the three political groupings of progressive Colorado (red), centrist Blanco (white) and conservative Amarillo (yellow), each taking its name from one colour of the UPSA flag. However, after these parties started shifting around from their starting positions, political thinkers needed terms to describe those starting positions independent of the parties, and they used the metallic equivalents of the colours in Spanish–cobre (copper), argent (silver) and dorado (gold). The centre of the political spectrum is called the 'argentus', and a political party that holds the centre ground and draws majority of swing voters is said to 'straddle the argentus'.

United Nations: The “Assembly of Sovereign Nations” seems to be a close-enough analogue, given its voice and influence in international treaties and the like.

Military terminology

Blitzkrieg: “Guerre d'éclair”, “War of Lightning” in French. Comes about much earlier than the OTL version but has the same basic idea of emphasising speed, bypassing enemy armies and swiftly seizing the capital and other key parts of the enemy country. Later the “Guerre de tonnere” ('War of Thunder') idea is introduced, which specifies that the rapidly advancing armies must supply themselves and not live by marauding the locals, as this will only store up problems for the occupation. This requires that the supply train move quickly as well as the army.

Bolt-action: “Chamber-access”, such as “chamber-access rifle”.

Guerilla fighter: “Kleinkrieger”.

Guncotton: “Xylofortex”. The name evokes the Greek root word xylus (“wood”, as the guncotton uses cellulose) as well as aqua fortis, an older Latin name for nitric acid (azeltic acid). One early OTL name suggested for guncotton was “xyloidine”.

Machine gun: “Cyclogun” is used for early rotary versions, similar to the OTL Gatling gun. True machine guns are called “belt guns” or sometimes “cingular guns”, abbreviated “cinguns” (from Latin cingulus 'belt').

Nuclear bomb: “Threshold bomb”. Refers to the critical mass of fissile material required before nuclear reactions can take place. An area hit by such a weapon is said to be 'threshed' in the same way we say 'nuked' in OTL.

Submarine: Armed military versions are usually called “ironsharks” in English, a translation of the German term Eisenhaifisch. The semantic distinction between civilian and military is in part due to arms-limitation treaties, and is comparable to how in OTL Winston Churchill was adamant that German submarines always be called “U-boats” to create the idea of a moral distinction in the public's minds. In LTTW, “submarine” remains only an adjective and has not also become a noun as it has in OTL. Nobody in LTTW would refer to “a submarine” in and of itself. Because there was no American Revolutionary War in LTTW, there was no Turtle by David Bushnell. Robert Fulton also did not work significantly on submarines in this timeline, due to the more prominent focus given to steam power (in LTTW, he worked only in Britain and the ENA).

Tank: The English use the term “Protgun”, a contraction of “protected gun”. The French use Artillerie Blindé, meaning “armoured artillery”. The Russians use Armart, a contraction of the English “ARMoured ARTillery”, thus combining both English and French terms. The Germans call their tanks Panzerkanone, i. e. “armoured cannon”.

Torpedo: It has preserved the OTL archaic meaning, i.e. a bomb in general. A torpedo can be a sea mine for sinking ships, and even a landmine in a potential future ground war.

Humanities, social and economic sciences

Animal rights movement: “Neo-Franciscanism”. A reference to St Francis of Assisi.

Capitalism: “Carltonism”, although this refers to a somewhat more narrow definition than OTL “capitalism”. Named for Richard Carlton, a Carolinian economist who republished Adam Smith's writings and built on them. (Adam Smith published much the same works as OTL, but due to the increased prejudice against Scots in TTL, his work was not as widely recognised in his lifetime).

Environmentalism: “Stewardism”. Referring to the Biblical admonition that humans are the stewards of the Earth.

Eugenics: “Superhumanism”.

Feminism: “Cythereanism”. Derived from the Greek mythological story that Aphrodite (Venus), symbolic of femininity, was born from the sea on the Greek island of Cythera.

Micromanagement: “Passeridic management”. The notion that a single ruler would decide every such appointment, known as Passeridic management in the world of business, is a highly modern idea born of the dramatically increased easy access to information and organisational data that exists in the world we now live in. (from “Counting Potsherds to the Heavenly Mandate: A History of the Voting Franchise” by Dr Daniel McCluskey and Prof Davina Fenworth, 1988)

Phrenology: “Craniography”. A form of pseudoscience attempting to survey the physical and mental health and social attitudes of a person by observing the shape of his skull. Like in OTL, it eventually died out during the 19th century.

Proto-Indo-European: “Old Eurasian”.

Timeline: “Linear history”.

Alternate history: “Speculative romance”. More or less the OTL alternate history genre, but with a few twists. It's a broader category, and can include plots such as aliens landing on Earth in the present day (Speculative romance is often considered the most ‘realist’ school of the three parachtonic romance branches, focusing on how strange events change the world as it actually is (or was), not how the author wants it to be to make a point, as is often the case in scientific romance (science fiction).

Comic books: “Sequents”, singular “a sequent”. Nobody is quite sure if this is an abbreviation for 'sequential art' (see above) or a mistaken back-formation from less educated people assuming that 'sequence' was the plural form (i.e. thinking it was sequents) and therefore 'a sequent' is the singular.

Fantasy: “Fantastic romance”. It is OTL “fantasy”, and to an extent, some “horror” fiction too. It uses settings involving supernatural elements, other than mainstream religious ones.

Science fiction: “Scientific romance”. There is a difference in that SR has an emphasis on futuristic settings. For example, aliens landing on Earth in the present day would not be put in this category. That would fall under the aforementioned “speculative romance”, i.e. what we would regard as the alternate history genre.

Speculative fiction: Collectively referred to as “paracthonic romance” (from Greek para-cthon ‘beyond the world’). Somewhat different terminology and different dividing lines between genres are used in the world of LTTW, dividing ATL speculative fiction into three basic schools: “Scientific romance” (science fiction), “fantastic romance” (fantasy, horror, general supernatural fiction), “speculative romance” (alternate histories and related works).

Trick photography: “Asimconic hoaxes”.

Geography, placenames and demonyms

American: “Novamundine”. A term used by some authors in LTTW as a more neutral descriptor for ‘the Americas’, without saying “American”’, as that is the specific demonym of the ENA. Novamundine is derived from the Latin name for ‘New World’.

Angel Island: “San Cristobál”.

Antarctica: “Australia”. This is because, even before the discovery of Antarctica in OTL and LTTW, there was a long-hypothesised “Terra Australis” at the south end of the globe.

Australia: “Antipodea”. After the idea that it's “antipodic” - with the sky and ground turned into the opposite direction when compared with the Northern hemisphere.

Balaklava and Sevastopol: The latter city was never founded in the LTTW timeline, so Balaklava continues to be viewed as a town in its own right.

Government House (New York): “George House”. Built after the demolishment of Fort George instead of the OTL building.

Iroquois: Due to political and historical reasons, “Howden” and “Iroquois” both exist as popular and competing demonyms in the LTTW timeline.

Korea: “Corea”.

Japan (and Japanese): The names Japan and Japanese are still recognised, but are considered archaic, like Siam/Siamese vs. Thailand/Thai in OTL. The more usual modern terms are “Yapon” and “Yapontsi”, the Russian names for Japan and Japanese respectively, as Japan became a Russian colony in TTL. The island of Hokkaido is still known by its old name of Ezo / Yezo but in the Russified form “Edzo”.

Los Angeles: “Las Estrellas”, “Star City”. Formerly named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de las Doce Estrellas (“The Town of Our Lady of the Twelve Stars”). The Virgin Mary is often depicted with the “Crown of Immortality” in Catholic iconography, the crown consisting of twelve stars. Of course, the very long full names of Spanish colonial cities were rarely used, and it was soon worn down to the shorter name, later also anglicinised.

Marylebone Park: Roughly “Regent's Park” from OTL, more or less.

Montral/Montréal: “Mount Royal”. Anglicinised by the Empire of North America for political reasons.

New Zealand: “Autiaroux”. A Frenchified form of the native Maori term Aotearoa. The Maori themselves are called “Mauré” by the French.

Oruç Reis: “Aruj Reis”. More archaic Turkish spelling of the name.

Port Arthur: “Lusan”, a more native name.

Portland (USA): “San Luis”.

Praça Afonso de Albuquerque (Lisbon): “Praça da República”.

Saint-Quentin: “Diamantbourg”. Renamed during the French revolutionary era, in honour of “Le Diamant”.

San Francisco: “Cometa”. The ATL nickname is “Comet City”. Discovered on the feast of St. Lawrence, and at a time when Messier's comet (C/1769 P1) could be seen in the sky, the city was originally named in Spanish as San Lorenzo del Cometa Brillante (“St. Lawrence of the Bright Comet”). Due to the large number of other places in the Viceroyalty of New Spain named San Lorenzo, and the fact that the settlement was initially very small, the preferred name became El Pueblo del Cometa (“Comet Town”). It stuck even after anglicinisation.

Santiago de Cuba: “St. James”. Anglicinised by the Empire of North America for political reasons.

United Provinces of South America demonym: “Meridian” is commonly used due to 'South American' being clunky and imprecise (the UPSA does not include all of South America, just as the OTL USA does not include all of America). The word stems from the Latin name America Meridionalis. By analogy one could call people of the ENA 'Septentrian' but this term is rarely used - though the national personification of the ENA is named Septentria.

United States of America: The “Empire of North America” can be seen as something of a loose analogue, but ostensibly monarchical in nature, rather than republican. The United States never comes into being in the LTTW timeline due to several major divergences in North American history since the early 18th century. In LTTW, the demonym “American” is closely tied with the ENA and lacks the “American in the wider sense” connotations it has in OTL (those connotations are instead covered by “Novamundine”).

Washington College: “Kent College”.

Wilmington, North Carolina: “Newton, North Province”. Newton was a name used before Wilmington in OTL, but Wilmington was renamed back to Newton after the Second Glorious Revolution, due to Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington being a supporter of William IV’s faction.

Wilmington, Delaware: “Pulteney”. Renamed after the Second Glorious Revolution, due to Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington being a supporter of William IV’s faction.

See Also

timelines/glossary_look_to_the_west.txt · Last modified: 2019/03/29 15:13 (external edit)