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Insistent Terminology / Literature

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  • In the Amber Brown books, Amber hates the term "babysitter" and insists on referring to anyone who babysits her as her "Amber-sitter".
  • In Artemis Fowl, The Time Paradox: Artemis would like everyone to remember that the silky sifaka is a lemur, not a monkey.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Segregationist": The patient keeps calling one of the two heart transplant options "plastic", while the surgeon insists it is a fibrous cyber-heart. While the surgeon is more correct, the patient is making an emotional decision to insult the pseudo-organic option by lumping it into the same category as plastic bags, preferring the stronger titanium-alloy replacement.
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    • "The Tercentenary Incident": The titular incident refers to an Assassination Attempt on the life of President Winkler. The severity of the situation is downplayed by claiming the President's robot duplicate had malfunctioned explosively. At worst, government figures admit "A mechanical device was destroyed. Nothing more." Which is part of a cover-up to hide the fact that the President was assassinated, and his duplicate replaced him.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, when HMS Surprise is bought from the Navy, Jack Aubrey hates it being referred to as a Privateer, which were seen as little more than legalised pirates. He prefers the term "Letter of Marque" or "Private Man-o-War".
  • The Barker and Llewelyn series by Will Thomas, set in Victorian London, features Cyrus Barker, the city's premiere private detective—sorry, private enquiry agent.
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  • In the Curious George parody Bi-Curious George:
    The man picked him up quickly and popped him into his shoulder bag.
    "It's a man-purse." said the man.
  • In Black Legion, Khayon insists that Black Legion aren't the Sons of Horus. He notes that, first, the Sons have died before the Legion was born, that they severed any ties to Horus and that they consist of many ex-members of different Nine Legions.
    • He's also rather adamant that sorcery isn't magic, despite Lheor's constant teasing.
  • Blowing Up The Movies: "If, in 1977, when I am 13, you show me a movie called Star Wars, it's still called Star Wars now."
  • In The Book of Wizard Craft the narrator refers to sea monsters as "Physically Gifted Marine Presences" in the section about them because he believes it's more politically correct— he catches himself calling them "monsters" once after introducing the term and immediately apologizes "Er, I mean presences."
  • From The Lotus Eaters: in the Republic of Gaul's navy, "There is 'My God' and 'My ass', but there is no mon capitaine."note 
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  • From The Curse of Chalion, it's a Death Miracle, not "death magic".
  • As with the Poirot article above, in the CHERUB Series there is a Ukrainian character named Yosyp Kazakhov. Call him Russian, and you'll get an earful and a half (if you're lucky).
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: "First off, let me get this straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary."
  • Discworld
    • Mort has Mortimer, who, whatever the topic of conversation, would reflexively correct anyone who called him "boy" or "you" by giving his name. In the final duel, this becomes a Berserk Button.
    • From Making Money, Unseen University has a Department of Postmortem Communications, who summon the spirits of dead people to talk to them. They are not "necromancers". Necromancy, in fact, is strictly forbidden at Unseen University!
    • From Unseen Academicals, the Bengo Macarona football chant, adjusted (at Macarona's insistence) to include all his academic appointments and titles. An Overly Long Gag as well, since after a couple repetitions the list has gone on for two pages. Worth slogging through if you like puns.
    • Ankh-Morpork's Guild of Seamstresses prefer to be known as the "Ladies of Negotiable Affection". Not prostitutes, "Ladies of Negotiable Affection".
    • Unseen University's Librarian is an ape, not the M-word. Knowing the difference is part of natural selection.
    • Hogfather has the Assassin Johnathan Teatime, which he has to remind people is pronounced "Teh-ah-tim-eh".
    • Miss Susan Sto Helit (the granddaughter of Death).
    • Mister Vimes, who insists on the title (even after he is technically Sir Samuel Vimes or even the Duke of Ankh.)
      • Technically certain titles of his override others in proper use, but his some-time ambassadorial attaché insists on introducing "His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes"
    • Rincewind's ability to do magic may well be in the negative territory, but he is a wizard, okay? It says so on his hat. With two z's.
    • The Assassins' Guild do not kill their targets, and their members can most definitely not be hired. Assassins are gentlemen, and being hired is being an employee, a servant, and no gentleman is anyone's servant. Killing is uncivilized business done by the lower orders. Assassins can, however, be contracted (or retained or engaged) to inhume (or remove or dispose of) a certain individual in exchange for a minor gratuity (or consideration or compensation).
    • There's also a running gag that Ankh-Morpork has a very low murder rate. There are, admittedly, a lot of suicides, like walking into a tavern frequented by barbarian warriors and calling yourself "Vincent the Invulnerable." The difference is that the Watch doesn't need to investigate suicides too thoroughly.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology:
    • The first Prince of Gujareeh was almost named a king, but he declared that because the goddess Hananja was the only queen, while living he would be a prince and only become a king upon death at Hananja's side.
    • Gatherers gather those whose souls they send to Ina-Karekh; they do not kill. Since Gathering is a sacred rite that creates a Dying Dream of transcendent peace and joy and ensures the soul's safe passage to the afterlife, they feel quite strongly about the distinction.
  • In The Dresden Files, do not call the Sidhe "faeries". To them, the difference is as pronounced as calling a human an ape.
    • In Skin Game, Murphy asks if Harry really, really, actually really intends to rob Hades. Harry responds that he intends to burgle Hades, and that, in spite of his reputation, he is not about to offer violence to a god.note 
  • Dwarves: "It's dwarf, not groundling!"
  • In Everworld, Sobek insists on being addressed as "Sobek, god of the crocodiles of the Nile, called Rager, son of Seth and his consort Neith, nurse of the crocodiles". As he's a living god with thousands of crocodiles at his command, no-one disputes it.
  • Harry Potter
    • Hermione Granger gets rather snippy when people refer to her "Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare" by its acronym.
      • The name is even better in Dutch: "Stichting Huiself voor Inburgering en Tolerantie" (The House-Elf Society for Naturalization and Tolerance).
    • Also, whenever Harry calls Snape "Snape", the nearest adult (or Hermione) corrects him: "Professor Snape."
    • All wizards insist on referring to Voldemort through alternate titles, usually "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named", out of fear. Dumbledore is one the few people brave enough to call Voldemort by that name, a trait that Harry and eventually his friends pick up on. Interestingly, whenever Dumbledore is speaking to Voldemort in person, he makes a point of using Voldemort's real name, "Tom", which Harry also copies during their final showdown.
  • In Heart of Steel:
    • The chimeras aren't minions, they're assistants.
    • Alistair's engineered guardian animals aren't just wolves, they're dire wolves. Justified in that they're wolves the size of vans.
  • Help! My Story Has the Mary-Sue Disease: Played straight with Mary-Sue Disease, but zig-zags between using Sue and Chief Infected Character.
  • Heralds of Valdemar has horse-shaped creatures called "Companions". They are not "horses", however, and they get quite upset when anyone mistakes them for one.
  • Belgian Hercule Poirot objects to being called French — which is an error of fact, not of terminology, but produces similar comic moments.
    Poirot: I am not a 'bloody little Frog!' I am a bloody little Belgian!
    • Parodied by his Expy in the movie Murder by Death
      Milo Perrier: I'm not a Frenchie! I'm a Belgie!
      • There was also a "I am not Belgian, I am FRENCH!" moment, followed immediately by "My apologies. Correcting people has become a reflex."
  • In The Hitchiker, a short story by Roald Dahl, the titular hitchhiker insists that his profession is "fingersmith" rather than a "pickpocket". He's an artist, as skilled in the use of his fingers as a blacksmith is with metal, not a common criminal who robs blind old ladies.
  • In a bit of an inversion, when Bilbo Baggins balks at getting hired as a "burglar" in The Hobbit, the dwarves miss the point and tell him he can be an "expert treasure hunter" instead.
  • In Honor Harrington, the Committee of Public Safety regime in the People's Republic of Haven is quite insistent upon the honorific "Citizen" before military ranks and titles of office.
  • Count von Glöda in Icebreaker insists upon being called Führer in part of his mimicking of Adolf Hitler.
  • In Idlewild, Halloween repeatedly defends that he is not a necrologist, he is a thanatologist.
  • In The Immortal Journey, Death doesn't "kill" people, he "reaps" them. In other words, he doesn't directly causes the deaths but makes sure they happen at the scheduled time. He's also very adamant about not refering to zombies as "dead" but as "undead", since they are technically two very different things. These vocabulary details cause Emily to pull out her hair more than once when Death keeps correcting her mid-sentence.
  • Left Behind: Captain Rayford Steele. Always Captain Steele. While the character doesn't explicitly insist on it, the author is very careful to write his name this way when being addressed by others.
  • The Kzarchians from Invasion of Kzarch all have apostrophes in their last names, and they insist on that apostrophe being pronounced, although no-one aside from them can tell the difference. Also, Bloody Jack insists on being called Bloody Jack, for some odd reason.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Tahart Ligo is not "fat". He is "heavily muscled".
    • Kasile would never call Eric her "tool". He is her "co-conspirator".
    • Sias is not "insane". She is "possessed of a unique mindset".
  • The Last Dogs:
    • The Vanishing: When Dandyclaw's name is introduced, Rocky (Deadpan Snarker dachshund that he is) starts deliberately calls him different names like "Dandypuff", so the poodle responds with "It's Dandyclaw". When Rocky, Max, and Gizmo start to leave the Enclave and Dandyclaw is furious, Rocky snaps at him and calls him by his actual name. Dandyclaw starts correcting him, only to realize that Rocky actually got his name right this time.
    • In the same book, Dandyclaw insists that the dogs in the Enclave go by the names he gives him instead of what their owners named them ("Softspike" for Gizmo and "Sturdystep" for Brahms).
  • Isaac Asimov's The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr: Lucky's sidekick, "John Bigman Jones, who allowed no one to call him anything but Bigman, and who was five feet two inches tall if he stretched a little." He often won't even put up with being addressed as "Mr. Jones", insisting on Bigman instead.
  • The titular character in Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil insists that Lestat call him "Memnoch", not "The Devil", Satan, Lucifer, or any other names the humans have come up with for him. Besides, all those names carry with them certain preconceptions, and Memnoch would rather Lestat let him tell his story from a fresh perspective.
  • The Kandra in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy are carrion feeders. One of the kandra prefers to let his meat sit until it's aged just right. When Vin points out how people don't like being around rotting meat, the kandra reiterates that it's aged meat.
  • In Monster Hunter Alpha Travis, who served with the main character during Vietnam, was not a minotaur ("Do I look Greek to you?"). He was a bullman.
  • Peter Grant would like you to know that it isn't Black Magic, it is Ethically Challenged Magic, thank you very much.
  • Aahz, of Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures books, is a demon from the dimension called Perv, and quite firm about the correct term for his race being "Pervect", not "Pervert", the latter being a racial slur.
    • In the comic book adaptation, Aahz's apprentice Skeeve correctly addresses another Pervect, who starts to scream at him... then stops, astonished to realize someone actually got it right, and asks politely what he can do for Skeeve.
      • It's all especially funny because all racial terms in the books are insults. Skeeve, for example, is a Klahd because he's from Klah, and the characters from Trollia are Trolls or Trollops, depending on sex. Pervects are thus asking for respect that no one else gets. Then again, they are Pervects, so they mostly get it.
  • Noob has Saly Asigar insist on calling Keynn Lucans "Emperor", despite Keynn himself being a Don't Call Me "Sir" type of guy.
  • When Sara of the Origami Yoda series brings the Fortune Wookiee, a cootie catcher version of Chewbacca, to school, Harvey's comment on the chapter is literally nothing but a remark on how it's a "salt cellar", not a "cootie catcher".
    • In the 4th book, Dwight insists that Cassie call him "Captain Dwight".
  • From Pandora's Star: It's a flow wormhole generator, not a hyperdrive.
    • Also, a slightly more meta example: Peter F. Hamilton never misses a chance to remind you that the concrete is enzyme-bonded.
  • Project Tau: They're not "human clones," they're "Projects."
  • In the Redwall series, hares do not like to be called "rabbits". If the hare has a short enough temper, you may get beaten up for calling them a rabbit repeatedly. This is actually a justified instance, though, because most rabbits in the series are portrayed as stuck-up, prissy weaklings while most hares are soldiers. They're also world-class goofs, so they probably object just as much to the implication that they don't have a sense of humor. There is a distinction between hares and rabbits in real life, so there's that too.
  • Relativity: There's no such thing as an "orphanage" any more. The place Sara runs is a "group home".
  • In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, one of the school's secrets is that there's a cavern under the school that used to be the lair of the notorious pirate Captain Belyzbub. When the heroes discover the cavern, one of them notes that technically he was a sea raider (attacked settlements on land) rather than a pirate (attacks ships at sea), and from then on there's a running gag that any time he gets called a pirate it gets corrected.
  • In the final book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Ishmael always says "call me Ish", but no one ever does.
  • Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Ramsay Snow isn't a Snow. He is emphatically a Bolton (and that was before he was officially granted the right to use the family name).
    • Arya Stark is not a lady (technically she is, but insists on just "Arya").
    • The Faceless Men do not "kill", "murder" or "assassinate". They "give the gift".
    • The Brave Companions are not "Bloody Mummers". Neither are they "the footmen" or "the goats".
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, the twelfth expedition into Area X discovers a buried structure, which most of the members describe as a "tunnel" but which the biologist insistently refers to as a "tower".
  • A minor Running Gag in Star Carrier: Earth Strike has the Book Dumb Marine Lieutenant Ostend trying to describe the native wildlife of Haris in terms of Earth biology (e.g. spiders), and getting corrected that, no, the terms he's using don't really apply except as a rough simile. One of his more learned compatriots uses the term "florauna" because it's the closest English can get.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, Thrawn refuses to acknowledge the New Republic as anything other than "The Rebellion", although the trilogy took place five years after Return of the Jedi, by which point Coruscant itself had been retaken. This is a case where changing the name of a thing changes the thing itself. The New Republic is a foreign power. The Rebellion is an uprising of Imperial subjects. In the same way, Abraham Lincoln never called the states in secession from the Union by the name "Confederate States of America".
    • The Hand of Thrawn Duology has Grodin Tierce, part of the triumvirate who are collectively endeavoring to make it look like Thrawn has returned, once talk about The Rebellion, despite this taking place ten years after Thrawn's death, by which point the New Republic is a Galactic Superpower and the Empire has been reduced to a single sector in size.note  Normally he just calls it Coruscant, which is its seat of power; he never calls it the New Republic and calls it the Rebellion exactly once. This is one of many little bits of Foreshadowing, because Tierce is a clone who was specifically grown as an attempt to make someone who thought like Thrawn.
    • In Iron Fist, while suffering her first pangs of Double Consciousness Lara Notsil repeatedly catches herself thinking of the anti-Imperials as New Republic forces, and with vehemence corrects herself, Rebel forces.
    • When the Old Republic became The Empire, the capital planet Coruscant was renamed "Imperial Center"; though a number of characters, even Imperials, complain about this, some use the term exclusively and don't like hearing the old word. When the New Republic takes the planet back, they change the name. They try to change the name of the Imperial Palace, where the seat of government had been ever since the Senate building had been torn down, but none of their alternate names stick.
  • Madame Weatherberry from The Tale Of Magic is very adamant that she and her students are fairies, not witches.
  • Talion: Revenant: He is Nolan ra Sinjaria, not ra Hamis. Being called the latter (due to Hamis annexing Sinjaria) gets him angry.
  • Tasakeru: The intelligent mammal species are called "sentients". Only non-intelligent species are referred to as "animals".
  • Transformers Trans Tech: Shockwave will have you know he is not evil, he's "morally ambiguous".
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, the White Queen refers to her times spent with Kyousuke as "dates", regardless of the coercion and bloodshed they invariably involve. This is one of many indications that she's a Yandere.
  • The Underland Chronicles: "Fo-Fo? Fo-Fo? I am he called Photos Glow-Glow and will answer to no other name!"
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In earlier books, Miles is very insistent that he's not a mutant (his prenatal damage is teratogenic, not genetic). By Komarr, he's relaxed a little on the subject.
    • Miles (and, later, his parents) are equally insistent on the correct terminology for their relationship to Mark: he's not Miles' clone, he's Miles' brother.
    • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan is insistent that he does not have claustrophobia—he has a perfectly rational fear of dark, enclosed spaces.
  • In the Wild Cards books, Tom Tudburry hates hit when people call him "The Turtle". He's the Great and Powerful Turtle, dog gone it!
  • The Wandering Inn: Drakes get very angry, if you call them lizards, as they are, according to a certain drake, "...just amphibians that learned to walk on two legs.", while they are proudly descendants of dragons.


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