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the Language of Firefly

From:Rodlox R <rodlox@...>
Date:Wednesday, September 7, 2005, 17:40

the text is as follows (minus the italics)


Not being a professional linguist, I won’t claim that this is the come-all
or be-all of language sites even where it concerns Firefly. All I intend to
do is to lay out several examples of how the languages of Firefly differ
from our own.

First, a bit of introduction, for those who do not know what Firefly is.
Firefly is a tv series (and an upcoming movie – Serenity) which takes place
500 years in the future. Mankind is the only intelligent species, and Earth
is the only planet which gave birth to life – but humans have expanded
throughout this galaxy, terraforming planets and large moons, making them
fit places to live). The predominant language in Firefly, in fact, the only
one we viewers hear, is a blend of English and Chinese.

One can pardon the language(s) not changing too too much – otherwise, we
viewers wouldn’t understand a word of what was being said. But this website
will examine some of the things that are different.

Any help, assistance, and-or contributions would be more than welcome.

Whereas modern Chinese says “Ni dong ma” to say “You understand? You not
understand?” as one person translated for me…in Firefly, they have dropped
the “ni,” having only “dong ma?”

(other examples?)

English in the ‘verse seems to have lost many of its context indicators. For
example, in the following scene from the episode ‘Shindig’…

Kaylee and the rest of the crew are walking through town, and stop in front
of a dress shop. Kaylee says “Ooh, look at the pretties!” admiring the fancy

Note that Kaylee does not say “Ooh, look at the pretty dresses,” she simply
says to look at the “pretties.”

Another matter, and I’m not sure what transpired to cause it, is the use of
the word “shiny.” Its varied uses include – when a machine is working just
fine, “its shiny;” and when events in life turn out for the best, that too
is considered “shiny.”



Kit La Touche <kit@...>