In my story, my characters live in the wilderness, and they have no modern technology. They do see ruins from the past (from now) but other than that they have no idea how advanced other parts of the world might be, or of technology of the past. However, they often see the plane of a more advanced civilization (they are monitoring them to stop them from getting better technology) flying over them. It is thin and grey, very efficient but not too hard to see. I don't want these people, after seeing the plane for hundreds of years, to look up at it and go, 'it looked like a metal bird' because that seems so cliche. I want it to be clear that they have become so used to seeing it that it has been incorporated into their vocabulary. What word could I have them use for it instead? Honestly I would take anything that sounds like a real word and isn't super cheesy.

They're British, if that helps.

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3 Answers 3


Rather than give a fish…

Tie it into the culture, make it do double duty

Everything in your story should do more than one job. The name you pick doesn’t have to be obvious to a contemporary human in our world. If you tie it into their culture, practices, and beliefs, it becomes more meaningful that you’re putting this plane “on screen” and having a scene or scenes with characters thinking or talking about it.

The Greeks thought the sun was carried by a chariot pulled by horses, and named him Apollo. He’s an incredibly complex god tied deep into the culture of Ancient Greece.

We humans didn’t name mysterious, possibly divine things without elaborate stories to more fully explain them to ourselves.

We site users don’t know anything, really, about your culture. We can’t name their perception of this plane in a cultural vacuum except in a superficial, comical way. And we can’t create your culture for you.

To be fair, you might not even know anything relevant to naming this phenomenon through their eyes… yet! This is an opportunity to invent, though. Perhaps it is the Tear of Sallen, and the mythology of Sallen is more important than this thing in the heavens associated with her. Perhaps there is a curse upon a snake that dooms it to hiss across the sky for eternity, and your reader learns the name first in a parable told near the hero about the follies of [insert foreshadowing of plot obstacle/character arc here].

It’s your world. Make this thing count!


Rather than pick a random word, ask yourself questions about your people in the story.

What is their religious background and has the object in the sky been integrated into their beliefs? what would be a natural description in their limited language? How would the people in charge see this phenomena - something that helps solidify their power, or a threat? What myths do they tell that this can fit into?

Read some of Ursula Le Guin's stories about the Hainish Cycle. They involve cultures who have been separated for so long they have evolved differently.

Hope this helps.


What about a "buzzbird"?

It brings to mind a buzzard which watch from high overhead like the plane, and I would imagine the characters can hear the plane 'buzzing' around.

It's also simplistic enough that a less advanced culture would think of it.

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