Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It's normally easy to name a lycanthrope species: just place "were" in front of the name of the base creature, i.e. "werewolf", "werebear", or "weredragon".

Sometimes, though, the base creature's name is an open compound word, i.e. the komodo dragon. The "komodo" part of the name is crucial to the identity of the creature; komodo dragons are not remotely regular dragons. Is the lycanthrope form a "werekomodo dragon"? The sounds like a dragon species with "werekomodo" as a qualifier. Someone once suggested "komodo weredragon", but that doesn't sound right to me, either. That sounds more like a dragon-based lycanthrope (which it is not), with "komodo" as some sort of qualifier. The final option I suppose would be "werekomododragon", which I favor most, but I still don't feel right about it.

How about the Mongolian death worm? This one not only has spaces in its name, but "Mongolian" is capitalized. Does the lycanthrope form end up being a "wereMongoliandeathworm"?

share|improve this question
4  
I'm not sure you can really call it "the lycanthrope form". The were- prefix actually means "man" (wer = vir as in virile). And so far as Google Books is concerned, even "weredragon" didn't exist until 1990, so there's no real precedent for using it on double- or triple-barrelled base forms. To maximise legibility, given your fantasy animal will probably be completely unknown to the average reader, I'd go for "were-komodo-dragon" (with the quote marks, alerting the reader to the fact that you're being "creative" with your written forms). –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '13 at 19:39
    
And remember that George Martin uses weirwood for his “man-trees” in A Song of Ice and Fire saga. –  tchrist Oct 24 '13 at 19:48
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The "were" always prefixes a noun and does not prefix an adjective. Also, I don't think taking a group of words and gluing them together would be proper nomenclature.

So I would definitely go with

  • Komodo weredragon
  • Mongolian death wereworm

and my personal favourite:

  • Three-toed weresloth
share|improve this answer
3  
I think wereworm all by itself has just become one of my favorite words. Imagine the Gothic horror tales -- and it sounds just right. –  John Lawler Oct 24 '13 at 19:50
add comment

Lycanthrope has a respectable history in English, but it absolutely is not the 'general form of werewolf'; it is a synonym, from Greek lycos wolf and anthropos man. Enough people in Europe actually believed in the possibility of shapeshifting into wolves to need a special word for the concept, but nobody even considered the possibility of turning into any other animal; Saki made fun of the concept here.

With the growth of fantasy games and fiction (also known as the Death of Western Civilisation), you can of course use any word you please for a concept you invent; but you can't expect general acceptance of werebear or weredragon (at least until the first specimen appears on the evening news ravaging Tokyo) let alone the correct form of Mongolian weredeath worm.

share|improve this answer
    
Your google books link failed the first time I tried it (with a "You've reached a page" etc message saying they won't show the page). An alternative link is http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1477/1477-h/1477-h.htm#page59 in gutenberg –  jwpat7 Oct 24 '13 at 23:01
    
Thanks @jwpat7; replaced (I forgot how unreliable google books is). –  TimLymington Oct 25 '13 at 9:28
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.