ANST - "Newbie"

dennis grace amazing at
Mon Aug 4 08:19:35 PDT 1997

Greetings, Cosyns,

Lyonel ici.

Okay, I see by Viscount Galen's last post that I'm not quite making myself
clear.  My apologies, Cosyns, I was not accusing anyone of slander.  

Sir Galen comments:
>I have to go with Caladin on this one.  I see "newbie" as a much
>more endearing term than "newcomer" or "new member", and
>not at all derogatory.  Any term, of course, can be made
>to be derogatory, but I don't believe that anyone working to
>help those-just-joining-our-society view that audience as
>anything less than an important part of our realm.

Generally, I agree.  Few players attending their first event or first few
fighter practices are going to be offended by this term.  Some people,
however, simply don't want to be labeled with "endearing" terms (how many
knights do you know who'd complacently accept the title "knighty"?).  Nor am
I trying to say the term "newbie" is being applied in a derogatory fashion.
I know Caladin--he's the soul of honor.  He certainly didn't mean to offend
anyone when he posted that webpage showing how to wrap a sword.  In fact,
I've yet to hear anyone in the SCA use the term "newbie" as a put-down (not
saying it hasn't happened; I just haven't heard it).

His Excellency further notes:
>And I've never encountered anyone taking offense at having
>the term applied to him, unless he felt he'd already so sufficiently
>assimilated that any synonym would have been equally

That "unless" is exactly my point, Sir G.  The problem posed by the use of
terms like "newbie" or "newcomer" is at least two-fold.  On the one hand,
such terms are relative.  If Sir Galen and Lord Caladin both refer to a
player as a "newbie," are they saying the same thing?  On the other hand,
even if the person referenced doesn't take offense, the term can have
deleterious effects in discussions _about_ the player. If I call someone a
neophyte, she can correct me. The problem generally arises in reference and
indirect discourse.  

Let's look at the effect of both problems together:  Say Lady A tells Sir B
that milord C wishes to become Sir B's squire. Sir B doesn't recall ever
making the acquaintance of milord C and says as much.  Lady A responds, "Oh,
he's a newbie in my shire." Sir B (who thinks Lady A means a beginner with
no combat experience) says he really isn't interested in taking on
inexperienced players as squires.  Lady A may simply mean that milord C has
been with the group for less than two years.  Again, the problem with labels
like "newbie" is their arbitrary and ill-defined nature.

As to taking personal offense, well that's not quite so simple a matter
either. Calling someone a "newbie" doesn't exactly equate to calling an
African-American man "boy."  You're unlikely to hear someone at an event
saying, "You there!  Newbie, go and fetch me a beer." Imagine, however, how
you'd feel if, after two years of steady, perhaps diligent service to your
barony or shire, you heard one of the more experienced players refer to you
as a newbie.  The reference needn't be derogatory to be dismissive.  "Oh,
you haven't met her?  She's that newbie fighter in the salet with the green
torse."  "You know him, the newbie who plays the harp?"  "Oh, I'm sure
you've seen them.  They're the newbies who cooked the feast."

By now, even those of you who disagree with me are probably asking, "Okay,
so what _are_ we supposed to call them, 'Recent Assimilees'?"

I say we call them "players with less experience than ourselves" or "people
who have attended less than two events" or "players who want help with some
aspects of assimilation into the SCA."  Better still, meet them and learn
their names.  In discussion of the problem of assimilating inexperienced
players into a group, I've referred to folks I haven't yet met as
"newcomers," but I don't want to apply such terms to individuals.  Labels
like that have a tendency to stick.

lo vostre por vos servir

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis Grace
University of Texas at Austin
English Department
Recovering Medievalist
amazing at

Micel yfel deth se unwritere.
                           AElfric of York


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