I'm writing a novel following a naive young man who thinks that he can make his fortune going around helping people. When he visits a space station on the fringe of the galaxy, hoping to help people who have suffered from the war that rages across it every few years (it's a particularly violent sector, that one) his guide tells him that it's useless, because:

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and... adventurers.

(That last bit was said with a glance at the kid and a scowl)

Now, this sounds a little odd, (I think) because the monosyllabic/simple sentence suddenly has a big, fancy word right at the end. It's also said by a character who almost never uses big words, though that context is hard to replicate here, since I'm tryin'a sound fancy 'n' all. Is there a single, simple word, that means "someone going to help, and probably failing/not doing much"? If so, what is it?

Ideally, answers shouldn't be slang, but if there's something that fits well, please feel free to suggest it.

I'm new here. As such, I haven't got the foggiest what the tags are. Any help there is greatly appreciated. Also, I read the On Topic article, but I'm not totally confident that I understood it, so if this is off-topic, please let me know and I'll try to fix it.

  • It's not a shorter word, but it would make more sense to me if the character said, "Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and opportunists." Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 4:06
  • @MarkHubbard Whoops, accidentally deleted a sentence explaining that it's the gruff guide who says that, not the idio^H^H^H^H main character.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 4:11
  • Something related to idealist/idealism?
    – shawnt00
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 15:15
  • @ermanen Fixed it up, I think.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 19:41

10 Answers 10


One option that wouldn't carry the whole sense you are after, but fits pretty well, I think, is thrill seekers.

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies and thrill seekers.

If you also want the sense of people trying to help, you could add a fourth option—do-gooders.

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, do-gooders and thrill seekers.

  • 1
    "Do-gooders" would've been my sally if you hadn't already roved there.
    – JEL
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 7:29
  • 1
    Actually, "thrill seekers" doesn't really fit the concept in my head, but it is a good category to add. "Do-gooders" carries the "ugh, not these people" and "naive kid trying to help and failing" sense, at least when said with a scowl. Thanks!
    – anon
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 15:27
  • I'm choosing this answer because it fits my particular usage best, though Elian's answer has a bunch of great suggestions too.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:31
  • @ermanen I think I phrased that badly, tbh. I was looking for a word that didn't sound out-of-place with the rest of the sentence, like "adventurer" or "samaritan" does (hence why I just said Elian's answer is cool, rather than accepting it). "Do-gooder" fits the character better than other, similar-syllable-count words, and I don't actually know why. Maybe because it's made of two simple words?
    – anon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:47



[from the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30–37] : a person who is generous in helping those in distress. M-W


The blacks have a similar elite of pukha Locksmen and pukha Natty Dreads and have spawned the growth of black social worker agencies, run no longer by Johnny too Bads but Johnny do Goods What is Situationism?

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and... johnny-do-goods.

drifter (or floater)

: a person who is continually moving from place to place, without any fixed home or job. OED

: a person, with no real place to call their home. They wander from place to place, sometimes looking for something. Sometimes because it's the only way to get away from everything that made them become drifters in the first place. We all have our reasons for it.

Drifters move from place to place...once their problems catch up to them, or they've had what fun they can get out of the place they are at, they move on again. They are but simple wanderers, for whatever reasons they have to be one.

Some consider them bottom feeders, just wasting everything from everyone else. Hobos are often considered drifters. They may be homeless, but hobos can't get around, or rely on themselves, thus they go to homeless shelters. A drifter may not have a home, but they are self reliant. They live alone, and have to rely only on themselves.

Only when they find a reason to stay somewhere, will they no longer be a drifter. Urban Dictionary


A good choice might be "mercs, spies and tourists." Colloquially, "tourists" are sometimes derisively referred to by locals as "FTs."

  • 1
    I like it, but I'm trying to get the sense that they're going to help, rather than to admire the blood-spattered view. "Tourist" does capture the sense of dislike the natives have for them, though.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 4:16

Consider roamer. It is often used to describe an adventurous wanderer.

A person who roams; a wanderer, rambler. [OED]


The boy was a roamer and an adventurer. His profession made him that.

W. Le Queux Voice from Void - 1922

I have been quite a roamer in strange places, and at first had a fancy for a life of adventure.

Amanda Minnie Douglas A Little Girl in Old St. Louis

  • "Roamer" is a good suggestion (and a word I should use more often, because it's fun) but I'm trying to capture the sense of traveling there specifically to try to help, out of a naive sense of justice.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:51

Try gypsies, vagrants, or nomads.

These terms don't strictly apply to the notion of adventure, but more specifically to individuals with no fixed home address; a typical characteristic for an adventurer.

  • I like the words, but I was trying to focus on the sense of going to help people, rather than just traveling.
    – anon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:50

If you want to keep it monosyllabic, you might consider tramp. In the same vein as vagrant and vagabond, it has a downtrodden feel to it, but it also recalls Heinlein's Tramp Royale. An additional meaning that might be familiar in a space-station setting is "Any ship which does not have a fixed schedule or published ports of call".

  • Ooh, cool word, though the adventurers in this case are far from downtrodden -- they're rich kids who thought it'd be cool to run off and help people like the white knights they aren't. I like the marine meaning, though; that's a sense I'll keep in mind when I write the spacey bits
    – anon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:52

Here; I compiled a short list of surplus character nouns that you might find useful for this, or similar occasions. Arranged as a spectrum, or scale, in order of perceived indication of virtue:

paragons, saviours, heroes, rogues, vigilantes,

rebels, rascals, rapscallions, crooks, scoundrels..


Idealists might work... or even fanatics, although that might be too strong without some modifier. This would be in the sense of those whose ideas outweigh their common sense.

Reformers or activists might work for "someone who wants to do good", but that that good is not effective doesn't come through unless modified by something else.

Something like "starry-eyed" or "naive" or even "wanna-be" can be added to any of the above to emphasize the disconnect from reality.

Oh, meddlers might work pretty well - for someone involving themselves without right or invitation or interfering officiously (dictionary.com). So people who are trying to help but aren't, and are pretty clearly unwanted.

"Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and ... meddlers"




Or you can invent a word. It is fiction, after all.


Well I would say he is good-hearted.

As for the quote, the easiest way to find a synonym is to check: www.thesaurus.com

Like here: http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/adventurers

You can find a word you think fits best. I personally like: seekers, explorers, pirates, venturers, voyagers.

If u want to keep it short pirates or seekers might work best. I don't know about you, but I like:

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and... pirates.

(That last bit was said with a glance at the kid and a scowl)

It might not work because of the look the guy gives him at the time. But I also like this one:

Ain't no one there but mercs, spies, and... seekers.

Hope this helps and good luck w/ the writing. It can be really tough.

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