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Language: Star Wars vs Star Trek?

The old is the new in the latest Star Wars movie, with a return to the original storyline and a back-to-basics (well, multi-million dollar basics) approach to filming real practical effects and less dependence on CGI.


The specific language of the original Star Wars is successful for the same reason that its visual universe is coherent: a mix of the familiar and the new. Whereas 2001, Star Trek, and Space: 1999 showed only gleaming white, clean spaceships, Star Wars showed us something that seemed both strikingly original and intuitively right: old and beat-up spaceships and robots along with junk and clutter familiar to anyone who has a garage.


Death Star, lightsaber, landspeeder, sand people, star destroyer, moisture farm, power converters, bowcaster, tractor beam, the dark side, and Millennium Falcon are made up of familiar parts. Existing terms like light speed, blaster, knight, Rebellion, and Imperial were used for important story elements. Luke uses meter as a unit of measure. And droid shows brilliant faux linguistic aging of the shortening of a familiar word (android), which sometimes happens when they become quotidian and familiar; think of bus from omnibus.

These terms don’t distract us like the made-up phaser or warp speed or tribble (in Star Trek) or centon (a unit of time in Battlestar Galactica). Of course places and creatures require imaginative new names in science fiction, but while Klingon and Vulcan were central to the Star Trek narrative, similar invented names like Corellian, bantha, or womp rat are words of secondary importance in the Star Wars universe. Even in this category Lucas took much inspiration from reality: Wookiee came from the name of a real person and Tatooine was named for a Tunisian town, Tataouine.

Lucas named the most powerful element in his film with a perfectly ordinary word: the Force. The use of the Force as a pseudo-religion is further underscored by the somber salutation "May the Force be with you," an echo of the kiss of peace in the Catholic Mass (“peace be with you”), with its vaguely archaic and ceremonial subjunctive.

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The article above has clearly made up it's mind. But, what about you? Which do you prefer for language, the familiar or the new?

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May 28, 2017



It's got to be the new for me. I love language change, simply because without it there'd be a lot less for me to do.

As much as I'd love it if everyone here still spoke Old English, I find it amazing that it's possible to read four quite distinct variants of my own language from the last thousand years alone, and that if you head far enough south and west on this island you can hear Cornish, the last descendant of Britain's native and extinct Common Brittonic, being spoken.

New all the way, because even the old was new once.


I find language evolution fascinating. The changes aren't random, so each change has a story behind it and a ripple ahead of it.

[deactivated user]

    Thanks for sharing Usagi.

    I don't know why your post is getting down-voted since this is very much language related, heck it's an article by Marriam-Webster :'D


    Somebody was upset mods were removing their swastika comments and had a tantrum on the vote button. :P


    Really interesting point.

    I think the fact that Star Wars has almost universal appeal and 'cool factor', and Star Trek is somewhat divisive and 'nerdy' can probably be attributed to exactly that. If you are a Star Trek fan, you almost have to keep it a secret, while Star Wars doesn't carry any kind of shame because it is meant for everybody.

    But then they are two completely different beasts, Star Trek is an aspirational story of what future people could hopefully make for themselves if we embrace certain values, while Star Wars is unashamedly an adventure story into the unknown, and the science takes a back seat to the spectacle. One is a carefully crafted model that tries to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, and the other is a more straightforward universe that isn't trying to carry any 'baggage'.

    You can delve into the pseudoscience of Star Trek and paint it into a real world, which is constantly reinforced by carefully crafted technobabble often spoken solely for exposition, whereas Star Wars is pretty much totally against that philosophy, it is just happening on the screen and however you choose to explain it is completely up to your imagination.


    Spectacular analysis!


    On the other hand you can spend months learning about Star Wars lore... there's an entire history. I guess the new films are kind of ruining that :P


    Well, both universes have lots of lore, for when you feel like you want more, but the styles are still completely different. I don't think there is anything wrong with the new films though, both series really painted themselves into a corner at one stage, it is really hard for them to make anything new without spoiling the carefully crafted illusion in peoples minds. Essentially everyone who has ever seen them has some idea of where they want to see their favourite show go, which is impossible to live up to.


    Well the new Star Trek films didn't really ruin the lore, since they restarted the series.


    I honestly don't find terms like "phaser" and "warp" distracting. It always bothered me that they defied the laws of physics and went at light speed in Star Wars anyway.


    I like the words Lucas chose because they're more germanic in nature but not necessarily because they're easier to understand or familiar.


    I love this and I upvoted.

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