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[2015-05-24 05:00]

I recently started playing World of Warcraft (WoW) again after having purchased the latest expansion to the game, and it reintroduced me to something in video games that I meet with mixed emotions: the writing.

In such games, I take it as given that the prose is going to be purple and the drama is going to be melo. Yet, every now and then, some text or dialog in the game makes me cringe. It's like hitting a speed bump on the freeway: I'm cruising along, then suddenly... WHAM! There goes my suspension.

I've run into the same thing with Skyrim as well. In Skyrim, for example, one of the characters tells you that the fields outside the city are "ripe with game." I'd not heard this metaphor used much so it was a bit jarring hearing it for the first time. It sounded to me like the writers meant to say that the fields were "rife with game," but it seems that "ripe with" is an acceptible (if idiomatic) phrase.

In the latest expansion of WoW, I had a similar experience with the following dialog:

Though... it was your decision to enter the mine that truly piqued my interest. Your desire to reveal the truth behind the attack. Fearlessly delving into the unknowable. Seeking answers in the dark...

First of all, those last three... them ain't sentences. But it's dialog (and people don't always speak in complete sentences) and artistic license, so that doesn't bother me. No, what caught my ear was the "fearlessly delving into the unknowable" phrase. Unknown? Sure. Unknowable? Hardly, especially when the person saying that was the one that directed you into the mine in the first place.

So this sounded like the wrong word being used, but it also sounded like something I'd heard before, so I figured maybe there was some context that I was missing. The "seeking answers in the dark" fragment also sounded like something I've heard before. A movie quote, maybe?

The earliest use of the "unknowable" phrase that I was able to find comes from H.J. Gonden's "Public Service, Volumes 18-19" published in 1915 in which it is written

Herbert Spencer, in his “First Principles,” states that before delving into the Unknowable, it is best to start well within the Knowable.

Using "unknowable" in the context of religion and philosophy makes sense to me. Using it for something as mundane as "what's down there?" doesn't.

I also found a couple of places (one a blog, one a discussion forum) that use the phrase in close proximity to a reference to H.P. Lovecraft (maybe that's where I've read it). But I haven't found a direct quote or connection to Lovecraft and don't care enough to spend more time on it. So, for now, the origins of that phrase will remain unknowable.

In an earlier expansion of World of Warcraft, one of the characters says something like "It will profit you nothing, save it be a quick death!" That "save it be" line sends me skidding every time.

I always thought that the word "save" in this context is a substitution for "except for" (or "with the exception of"). So "save it be" is the same as saying "except for it be" or "with the exception of it be..." Ouch, my ears!

But, just to be certain, I did a quick search for "save it be" and apparently it shows up a lot in Mormon scripture. For example:

They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
[2 Nephi 28: 14]


So, it still hurts my brain to hear phrases like these, but I guess they are just cases where I don't think it be like it is, but it do.

[2015-05-27] Edit: I just remembered that "Riddles in the Dark" is from Tolkein. Maybe that's why "answers in the dark" sounds familiar.


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