I’ve been rereading the Wheel of Time book series, half because it’s fun and half because soon the antepenultimate installment will be released. In case you couldn’t tell. And there’s one particular way the author, Robert Jordan, describes how people in different societies react to each other’s use of language — especially terms of art and ritual language — that gets to me. I can only recall it happening maybe three or four times as of the 7th book, but it gets me every time.
“Yes, but there is the matter of the Bargain.” That word was plainly capitalized in Harine’s tone.
Much as this particular narrative technique grates on me, let’s set aside the translation from whatever orthographic conventions we imagine the folks in this universe use into the notion of English spelling. Let’s just pretend that “that word was plainly capitalized” means “that was clearly a special word, denoting a special referent.” I have to wonder: what features of pronunciation, either of the word or the utterance, could tell you that? If “tone” includes pauses, then perhaps a longer-than-average pause before “the Bargain” might do it. Though the way most characters in the books seems to simply presuppose that outsiders know How Things Work, this would be a marked difference. Or maybe Jordan simply meant that Harine used air quotes.