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Looking for the right word...

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I've been struggling with finding precisely the right word or couple of words to describe something in the books I'm currently working on, and hoped the collective wisdom here could help me.

This is for historical fantasy set in the US in 1901-1902.  I have a what is basically a firm of magical hit-men--a family of wizards who undertake assassinations and other underhanded activities under the respectable cover of being "business consultants" (ever wondered just what happened to the Maine in Havana harbor? :azn:)  I'm looking for a (mostly) period correct term I could use to describe them--gangster is just barely possible, etymologically speaking, but has connotations that don't quite fit, and hit-men isn't quite right since murder is only one of the services offered.  :ha  Any ideas welcome--I'm just hitting the wall here.

 :thanks2

#1 - April 01, 2012, 08:53 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
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Mobsters?
#2 - April 01, 2012, 08:59 AM

Love the premise.

Mobsters came to mind for me, too.

Maybe hooligans or ruffians.

#3 - April 01, 2012, 09:14 AM
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Scoundrel?
#4 - April 01, 2012, 09:23 AM
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You could create your own word like Holly Black did for her White Cat series. Don't know if I'm actually helping here. :goldstar
#5 - April 01, 2012, 09:23 AM

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Ruffian?

I like the idea of making one up, though.
#6 - April 01, 2012, 09:24 AM
The Farwalker Trilogy
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Mercenary?

Hope that helps!

Rue
#7 - April 01, 2012, 09:58 AM
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Thanks, guys!  I'm coming to the conclusion that there isn't really a good one-or-two-word descriptive noun for my firm--racketeer and mercenary come closest to the meaning, but racketeer wasn't coined until 1927, and I'm kind of fussy that way.  Besides, the principal partner is a very old-fashioned, correct, and genial sort, well-received in New York society, who would shudder to hear his firm described in such criminal terms.  Ah well. 
#8 - April 01, 2012, 10:10 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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What about privateer?

I'm trying to think of other "hired guns" type terms that aren't totally criminal sounding.

Hope that helps!

Rue
#9 - April 01, 2012, 10:19 AM
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I did a synonym search for "contractor" and came up with "agent."

#10 - April 01, 2012, 10:35 AM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

Too bad The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is already taken.  :) But I'd go for something along that line -- something with an historical flavor. The Good Fellows, for instance was founded in 1917. Something businesslike, efficient, and slightly ominous would fit the bill. Hmmmm
#11 - April 01, 2012, 10:39 AM

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 "The Gentlemen" is what instantly came to my mind when you described this.  :)
#12 - April 01, 2012, 10:53 AM
Verla Kay

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Oh, the firm is alrready named something completely innocuous, as befits a quiet, upstanding business consultancy.  I was more looking for something to describe what it is they do.  And these are not the good guys, though the hero is, to his dismay, the son of the principal partner and expected to join the firm.
#13 - April 01, 2012, 11:03 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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Hmm. I'm not sure why the word entrepreneurs popped to mind.
"undercover entrepreneurs?"

I'll think some more.
#14 - April 01, 2012, 11:14 AM
THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, 2012
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Ah. Then they would be "The Malevolent Order of Clippers, Rapscallions and Provocateurs."  Clipper being slang for an assasin, and the rest being obvious. :)

eab
#15 - April 01, 2012, 11:32 AM
« Last Edit: April 01, 2012, 11:37 AM by Auntybooks »

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Gentlemanly Vizards
#16 - April 01, 2012, 12:16 PM
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Deed Men.
#18 - April 01, 2012, 12:53 PM
SWAY, 2012 from Disney-Hyperion
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Something that draws on the words "expedient" or "dispatchers"? Expedient dispatch? I'm going for something that hints "we get rid of your personnel problems," but sounds really genteel.

Personnel dispatch? Or can the word "removal" fit somehow? Dismissal? Release? "Terminate" and its forms are probably too Schwarzenegger-esque?

Terminus ad quem?

Finishing services?
#19 - April 01, 2012, 01:28 PM
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The Eliminators - We efficiently solve all your problems.

Untouchables

Radicals

Matter Men

Strong Men

Service Men

Discretion Guaranteed

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Solution Finders

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#20 - April 01, 2012, 01:47 PM
Verla Kay

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Setting aside the fact that they're wizards, is there someone who did something similar at that time in history and you can look to see what they were referred to in newspapers at the time?

Thug is all that comes to mind for me, but that's not very gentlemanly. :)
#21 - April 01, 2012, 01:57 PM
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That's the thing, Rob--I can't find an equivalent.   :sigh  But I do appreciate everyone's help!!
#22 - April 01, 2012, 04:53 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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Could you use a word from Shakespeare?  I know it is the US, but at that time an educated Gentlemen would be able to "parse" sections" of Shakespeare's plays.  Thus, the right quote from Shakespeare might give away what he does, while making him look very educated and quite the gentleman.
#23 - April 01, 2012, 05:03 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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Diabolists: devilish conduct or character. Also, dealing in sorcery.

:) eab
#24 - April 01, 2012, 05:48 PM

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#25 - April 01, 2012, 06:49 PM
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I like the words Privateer, and Deed-men, suggested here.

Also there were older words for mercenaries like condottiere. Also patrician for men from a line of noblemen.

Or make up a word like Aristomagus/Aristomage/Gentlemage.
#26 - April 01, 2012, 11:29 PM

I'm liking Task Brokers, Scheme Brokers, Arcane Task Agents, Arcane Task Brokers, Arcane Envoys, Venturers.
#27 - April 02, 2012, 06:07 AM

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This might not fit if they aren't of Italian descent, but what about Mafioso? Or Malefactor might work - to my ear, it sounds less harsh than "thug" or the like.

You could always go for something that is understated / really stretching the truth, ex. advocate or negotiator. "They call themselves negotiators, but they're really criminals.  Their "negotiations" usually involve murder, theft, or blackmail." I know this doesn't fit the one or two word description that you were looking for, but it you can't find a one to two word solution, it's a possible alternative. 
#28 - April 02, 2012, 08:02 AM

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Nope, not Italian.  And Mafiosi doesn't really cover what they are--they're not out for power or to control anything.  They merely offer discreet "services"--it's very business-like and gentlemanly.  And I don't wish to make anything up as this is very much a historical fantasy--emphasis on the historical setting, including historical figures and events.

Again, I think I'm stuck with a sentence explaining what they do, rather than a handy one or two word label...but thank you anyway for all your help.
#29 - April 02, 2012, 08:16 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
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www.nineteenteen.com

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So many fantastic ideas here! I thought of Fraternity, or some off-shoot. Good luck with your search for le vrai mot!
#30 - April 02, 2012, 08:21 AM

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