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 Qui-Gon: Let's see. Electro-axe. Energy mace. "Plasma bow"?? You just took a D&D equipment list and stuck techy words in front, right?

GM: Don't be stupid.

Qui-Gon: Ten foot laser pole...

Darths and Droids

Out of the confusing twists and turns of Techno Babble and Expospeak come the Sci Fi Name Buzzwords. These are short word components that can be clicked onto an existing word portmanteau style to make it sound more sciencey.

These tend to rise and fall in favor over time. Using one from a different era can give your technology a retro, period feel. Note that in the Victorian age, on which most Steampunk is based, it was common to name things using Latin compound words, i.e. quadro-velocipede, electro-fulminator (both from Legend).

Tack on more than two, and you're off in parody land.

A Super-Trope to Space X, Photoprotoneutron Torpedo.

Examples of Sci Fi Name Buzzwords include:


  • General
    • mechano- (early 20th century)
    • electro- (1910 or so)
    • morpho-
    • dyna-
    • gravi-
    • robo- (since the 1920s)
    • cyber- (relatively new, since the 1960's)
    • compu- (predates cyber-)
    • neuro-
    • cyclo-
    • synchro-
    • turbo-
    • meta- (lit. "above", colloquially "beyond")
    • -tron
    • -tor
    • -ium (for elements)
    • e-
    • i- (and it must always be lowercase i, then capital, eg iCarly)
    • -oid (like, but not quite the same, i.e. humanoid, jokeoid)
    • -izer (mostly for ray guns)
    • -inator
    • matrix
    • fusion (possibly used in conjunction with "core" and/or "crystallic". Or if something goes wrong, the words "reactor", "self-destruct" and/or "meltdown")
  • SI scale units
    • macro- (big)
    • mega- (millions)
    • giga- (billions)
    • tera- (trillions)
    • peta- (...really big!)
    • micro- (small)
    • nano- (even smaller, see Nanomachines)
    • pico- (smaller still)
    • femto- (really small)
  • Particles
    • atomic (in The Fifties, everything was atomic)
    • nuclear
    • nucleo-
    • quantum
    • photon
    • proton
    • neutron
    • electron
    • molecular
    • positron
    • tachyon
    • lambda
    • muon
    • particle (used unqualified)
  • Beams
  • Outer Space
    • space-
      • In his 1976 how-to-write-SF article "Living the future: You are what you eat!", Gardner Dozois gave a good tirade that culminated with this (cue the author's Sarcasm Mode):

 "Well, after all, science fiction is pretty easy to write, isn't it? It's just a matter of using fancy names -- just change the names, apply a thin layer of technologese and jargon, right? Say 'helicar' instead of car, 'helipad' instead of driveway, 'tri-vid' instead of television, 'feelies' (or 'smellies,' or 'grabbies') instead of movies. Better still, use the word 'space' as a prefix for everything: spacesuit, spacegun, spacehelmet, spacehouse, spacedog, spacecow. ... Right? Just change the names and you can write a confession-magazine love story, a cowboy story, a gothic, or a nurse novel, and sell it as science fiction. Right?"

      • Which is rather like saying you can compare a story about romance to a story about in-virtro fertilization because both in fact accomplish the same objective.
    • -space[1]
    • star
    • galactic/intergalatic
    • vortex
    • astro-
    • cosmo-
    • hyper-
    • warp
    • phase
    • (sub)orbit(al)
    • planetary/interplanetary
    • stellar/interstellar
    • flux
    • drive (NASA spacecraft engines are called "engines." You never hear of a 747 powered by a "jet drive", do you?)
    • (function or location) node
  • Steampunk
    • apparatus
    • pneumatic
    • gyro-
    • aether
    • magna- or magneto-
    • -graph
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