“Shush.” Mattis pressed a finger to my lips. “I was frightened for you.” Shielding me from view, he pulled me into his arms and claimed my mouth in a kiss. It was fierce, desperate, as if he was drowning out the world. I wrapped my arms around his neck. My arm grazed the fresh wound on his cheek and Mattis gasped with pain.

from: Brida Anderson: Poison Patch (Rule of Thorns, Season 2). Coming in fall 2015

So, about that skilled kisser. Does he speak Elfish? Or Elvish?

Are his looks Elfin or Elfish, or elven?

(copyright) Nicolas McComber, iStock

(copyright) Nicolas McComber, iStock

Elfish

When I was writing Hedge Games, I chose to use “Elfish” for everything: the language, the adjective, the people themselves. The same way I’d use Spanish: he’s Spanish, he speaks Spanish, the Spanish swords are of excellent quality.

I love the word “elven” and that the language of elves has its own name, Elvish, but I wasn’t sure if using that gets the LOTR fans up in arms when used in another world.

The editor of Hedge Games concurred, and so Elfish it was.

Elfin

Now the editor of Poison Patch corrected many instances of Elfish to “Elfin”.

To my ears, Elfin sounds like a human who has Elfish/elven qualities, especially a child. It probably got that way because it’s used outside of Fantasy literature to describe someone, usually a girl or a child, with fey qualities.

So I spent the morning researching Elfin, Elfish, elven, and found interesting theories on when to use which.

Elven

My editor would point out that Wikipedia and Google finds are not a trustworthy source, especially when it comes to spelling. ;-) If you ignore that, an interesting theory from two different grammar forums was this:

  • if you write in the tradition of Tolkien, D & D and other computer games/roleplaying systems who follow in that tradition, it’s elves with a v and the adjective is elven. The language is Elvish.
  • if you write in a remotely Walt Disney kind of style or world—one poster called it “Tinkerbelly” :-)—the plural is elfs (doesn’t have to be, though) and the adjective is Elfish. The elfs in that tradition are usually based on Tinkerbell-kind of fairies or Christmas elfs which usually don’t have their own language.

One argument that nailed it for me (revisions, here we go!) was the comparison to thieves. Thief / elf, plural thieves / elves. The old noun based on that wasn’t theft but thievery. The adjective is thieving.

So elf / elves / elven / Elvish makes a lot of sense, even if you had never heard of Tolkien. I’ll change it in Hedge Games and Poison Patch. But let’s get back to the more important things ;-)

Not wanting to ask Mattis for assistance, I used elven sorcery on his glamor. Elven magic worked with intent instead of sigils, so I scrunched up my face in concentration and thought with as much force as I could, Put something decent on me.

The dress flared green for a moment then disappeared. Which left me, once more, buck naked. Ooops.

“Okay, you win,” Mattis drawled by my ear, “I prefer your spell.”

from: Brida Anderson: Poison Patch (Rule of Thorns, Season 2). Coming in fall 2015

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brida_anderson_photo_babs_huber_thumb Brida Anderson writes Urban Fantasy and Steampunk. Hedge Games released in December 2013. You can find her at www.brida-anderson.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She and her family currently live in the Middle East with the newest addition to their household, a fae-cat called Robin.