The Language of Cyber Noir 2020

Here’s something to pull back the curtain. Maybe you should only read this page if you are trying to better understand what we are doing on this blog – it certainly isn’t necessary, if we are doing it right. What follows is not a hard-and-fast list of rules, but it is a set of prompts and signposts.


We wanted to explain some of the ‘future noir’ language we use. Most things you’ll probably guess, but this is in case you want to be sure.

First up: something about the tone. Certainly when I write, I’m thinking of myself as some kind of semi-washed up ex-alcoholic. One with a life that isn’t going anywhere in particular, and who has found a way to vent his cynicism. I’m not fundamentally unhappy in real life, so please don’t think this blog is a cry for help (though I have given up drinking – five months as at the time of writing). But it is a way for me to address some of my frustrations in life. When I write, I access that side of my character. I imagine someone maybe a bit more worn down than I am right now, someone who probably feels a bit boxed in by living in the urban sprawl of a giant city. A self-aware observer of life with a fairly wide vocabulary, but lost about his place and how he fits. Disconnected, but also someone who, despite his misgivings, probably has quite a bit of optimism when it’s not omen a leash. He’s willing to take chances, though his experience warns him that he’ll likely get burned.

As for Onyx? You’ll have to ask her.

CN20Door_smlThe language we use, to fit into the noir setting, is one that expresses a beat-down and cynical side to, well, everything. As mentioned in the About page, it aims to strip the glossy veneer from life, and reveal it in its day-to-day mundane self. That does mean also stripping out naturally upbeat references and phrases, too. We want you to remember that life isn’t perfect. To do that, we purposely stress the less-than-average.

Irritation, defeat, grudge, frustration, and anger… these are all okay to express, precisely because in life, the answer to ‘how are you?’ is too often ‘I’m okay’, even when that isn’t the truth. We are not always okay. Here, we will remind you of that.

The real-world doesn’t always oblige (see: rainbows), but whenever possible the negative aspects of the weather will be emphasised. Humour is absolutely allowed, especially sarcasm and gallows humour. When life brings us low, sometimes that’s all we have left to cope with. Sure, then, we will use it here too. If good stuff does happen, well, it has to happen in the frame and understanding of what makes it good. What is it good in comparison to?

Weather terms – an example:

  • Sunny: Glaring, harsh, too-bright, sharp, eye-watering.
  • Heat: Scorching, uncomfortable, blistering, searing.
  • Raining: Wet, wash, washout, downpour, soaking, drizzle, monsoon, sheets.
  • Cloudy: Murky, gloomy, overcast, grey, dark grey, mottled, bland, disappointing, faded, featureless, roiling, thunderous, angry, sullen (this is written in Britain… we know our clouds).
  • Wet: Damp, soaked, drenched, sodden.
  • Wind: Gales, cutting, raging, scuttling, gusty, pushing, intruding.
  • Cold: Biting, bitter, draining, frigid, breathless, sharp.

Above all, though, please do remember that this is a fun creative exercise and a chance to talk through day-to-day thoughts without just being another blog-journal. There are not hard and fast rules on how we will do this, and our hopes are to bring in one or two other voices as we go. If someone does have to be unbearably upbeat, well, that should make for a great counter-tone.


The Lexicon:

This blog is about reminding ourselves we are in the future, to our past selves and our predecessors. So all the cool tech we have and use on a day-to-day basis needs to be emphasised, to remind ourselves of how awesome it actually all is. Even the mundane day-to-day stuff. The best way to do that is to call it something else. We imagine what it might be called in a clinical, dystopian, alternative future, and call it that. So here’s a list. There may be one or two conflicting uses between us, but pick the one you prefer and go with that. If you’re stuck trying to work us out at any time, think Sin City meets Fifth Element, meets Blade Runner. When I’m stuck, I start with those, too, then add a bit of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Replacement terms, to cyber everything up in this place:

  • Monitor: Terminal
  • Phone: Comms unit
  • Tablet: Data slate
  • Car: Speeder
  • Motorbike: Light speeder
  • Van: Hauler
  • Truck: Heavy hauler
  • SUV: High capacity speeder
  • Bus/Train: Transit
  • Local bus: Local transit
  • Underground: Sub-terra transit system / sub-terra
  • Bar: Bar
  • Pub: Bar
  • Night Club: Disco / night haunt
  • Coffee shop: Caf bar
  • Healthy food: Sustenance / rations
  • Unhealthy food: Grease rations
  • Fast Food: Pre-rendered protein rations
  • Restaurant: Boutique food joint
  • Hangover: Hangover plus description / metaphor / analogy
  • Workplace: Labour, office, plant
  • Plane: Jet / turbo prop / cargo jet / mil-spec hauler / mil-spec fighter
  • Monorail/cable car: Aerial transit system / Sky pod
  • Helicopter: Hover pod.
  • Chores: Maintenance routine
  • Freezer: Cryo box
  • Local doctors’ office / surgery: Med bay
  • Doctor: Doc
  • Hospital: Hospital
  • Small church: Shrine
  • Church: Temple
  • Cathedral: Cathedral / Mega Church
  • Tattoo / piecing: Body mod
  • Alcohol: Usually no need to change, but add reference to price / quality into the description.
  • Energy drinks: Stim pack
  • Flat / apartment / house: Hab-unit
  • Bedroom: Hab-pod
  • Streamed TV or films: Stim-show
  • London: Citadel / The Citadel
  • TFL Travel Zones: No change needed (real life futuristic convention, right there)
  • London zones 1-2: Central
  • London zones 3-4: Metro area
  • London zones 5-6: Sub-metro area
  • London zones 7-9: These don’t exist and anyone who says they live there is lying….
  • Beyond zone 9: The belt (roughly analogous to being within the 25 miles outside of the M25, which circles Greater London)
  • Beyond the Belt: The old lands (mostly making fun of us Londoners, there)
  • Tokyo: Tech City

More may get added as we go, but this isn’t an exhaustive list. Feel free to use that imagination of yours, that’s what this blog is here for.


Le Sueur, 2020