Adam Targaryen

Recurring phrasings in the books

38 posts in this topic

Okay so I've noticed how GRRM often is quite repetitive when it comes to certain phrasings or... Well, things. For example, the "It was all he/she could do to/not to" thing is very prevalent in AGOT - especially the last half of the book, I think. Another thing is babies being described as red/red-faced, wrinkled, screaming etc. The description of a character at his/her birth as being red is very common in ASOIAF. A third example is the "beaten gold/silver" thing, which is really common when GRRM is describing someone's clothes, hair, armor etc. I could probably come up with fifty more of these in time but at the moment this is all I've got. What do you guys think? Have you thought about this as well?

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Posted (edited)

It's actually kinda funny how much his prose tends to change from book to book. In GoT, a lot of characters refer to each other merely by their last names. For example, Littlefinger often calls Tyrion just "Lannister." Same with Ned. "That's when Martell did X and Y", etc. But that pretty much disappears afterward. Then "nuncle" comes in with a fuckin' vengeance in Feast, and goes away just as quickly in the next book. 

Edited by Renly's Banana

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I'm getting tired of:

"and a (choose your quantity) of (choose you beverage) to wash it down..."

and

"near enough as makes no matter"

 

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"The Crow called the raven black"

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Repetition doesn't bother me, usually. I just assume these phrases are meaningful and the author is giving us a hint about something.

One of the ones I noticed is when a character is thinking about dragonglass and they throw in the gratuitous phrase, " What the maesters call obsidian," or "Obsidian." Maester Luwin insisted," and "The Maesters call it 'obsidian'."

GRRM clearly wants the words "maester" and "obsidian" to appear close to each other repeatedly. I suspect he has his reasons.

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Also that fad in ADWD when the whole of Westeros started eating mashed neeps for a couple of chapters.

 

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2 hours ago, Universal Sword Donor said:

Seriously, are we not doing phrasing anymore?

I got you buddy 

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After writing these books over the course of several years I'm guessing GRRM just sort of forgets how often he has used some character descriptions.  I think half of the men in planetos are bald with bulbous veiny noses.  Definitely noticed the repetition.

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20 hours ago, Horse of Kent said:

Also that fad in ADWD when the whole of Westeros started eating mashed neeps for a couple of chapters.

 

And "nuncle" started to make repeat appearances.

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Wasn't "Nuncle" only used in the Iron Islands chapters?

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22 hours ago, Seams said:

Repetition doesn't bother me, usually. I just assume these phrases are meaningful and the author is giving us a hint about something.

I'm with you on this.

 

There's enough cross-chapter metaphor happening that similar phrases are often meant to tie different scenes together in some way. Often it's s clue that different symbols are being used to tell the same story.

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14 minutes ago, cgrav said:

I'm with you on this.

There's enough cross-chapter metaphor happening that similar phrases are often meant to tie different scenes together in some way. Often it's s clue that different symbols are being used to tell the same story.

Exactly.

I love picking out a word from a descriptive passage and plugging it into the "A Search of Ice and Fire" site, to see how the author uses the word in other situations. The word "nail", for instance, evolves over the course of the books from human fingernails to iron nails used to hold wooden things together to nails used as torture devices or put to gruesome uses (e.g., Kraster nailing someone's tongue to a wall) and eventually there is a character with that name. Jaime's nails on his golden hand are made of metal and Jon Connington's nails are turning to stone. So the lines between humans and weapons or stones are being blurred, I think, and nails help to tell that story.

Most recently I plugged in "jagged," which appears to link swords, stones, towers, crowns and mountains as a symbolic group.

I also searched on "broom" yesterday and found that it is used rarely but it seems to be a key symbol for some major characters, representing who has power or ability and who doesn't. It was very telling to me that Daario shows flowers to Dany to teach her "about the land," and one of the flowers is called broom. Because I had looked at the repetitions or other uses of that word, I started to suspect that Daario might function for Dany in a way similar to Jon's role in Arya's arc. Jon gave Arya a needle; Daario gave Dany a broom.

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If you read enough works by a single author, you tend to notice they often tend to use the same descriptive styles, phrases and the such. It really doesn't always have to be some deep meaning buried within the words.

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On 4/13/2017 at 4:21 PM, Renly's Banana said:

. . . Then "nuncle" comes in with a fuckin' vengeance in Feast, and goes away just as quickly in the next book. 

I think Asha is the only one to use this word, unless I'm mistaken. My guess is that an uncle character when identified with that label has a unique symbolic role in a character's arc - I got this from GRRM's Westeros-based children's story called The Ice Dragon, in which an uncle plays a pivotal role as a sort of "opposite" of the protagonist's father. By using the word "nuncle," the author avoids putting all of Asha's uncles into the single symbolic role that he is trying to keep consistent for characters such as Tyrion / Gerion, Jon / Benjen, Cersei / Kevan. There are too many uncles in the Ironborn plot to have all of them fall into the official "uncle" category, so he calls them nuncles to keep the symbolism clearer. (From Asha's perspective, anyway.)

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When Cercei is thinking in her POV she often uses the phrase "for half a groat..."  I found this jarring because she doesn't say it aloud and no one else seems to use it.  This one isn't actually a phrase, but in ADwD niello makes its first appearance as decor on armor.  Wtf?  Did Westeros suddenly open up a previously unused trade route?

 

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Posted (edited)

49 minutes ago, Seams said:

I think Asha is the only one to use this word, unless I'm mistaken. My guess is that an uncle character when identified with that label has a unique symbolic role in a character's arc - I got this from GRRM's Westeros-based children's story called The Ice Dragon, in which an uncle plays a pivotal role as a sort of "opposite" of the protagonist's father. By using the word "nuncle," the author avoids putting all of Asha's uncles into the single symbolic role that he is trying to keep consistent for characters such as Tyrion / Gerion, Jon / Benjen, Cersei / Kevan. There are too many uncles in the Ironborn plot to have all of them fall into the official "uncle" category, so he calls them nuncles to keep the symbolism clearer. (From Asha's perspective, anyway.)

It's a sort of term of endearment. It's a real life portmanteau of "mine uncle". The same reason Eddard gets shortened to Ned by his family. Could have thematic significance, but it's also just ye olde linguistics. 

And re: mashed neeps - neeps are turnips, a root vegetable, and most root veggies are harvested during the cold seasons. They appear in DWD because Winter is coming.

Edited by cgrav

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When did "much and more" rear it's ugly head for the first time? And Brianne's "highborn maid of three and ten" (though here I have the suspicion that it didn't happen half as much as I remember because I disliked it so much)

But yes, a lot of authors have their pet phrases they use over and over and over again.

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