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Thread: Etymology

  1. #1
    Junior Haroo Husky's Avatar
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    Etymology

    As a writer of short stories and a sci-fi/fantasy novel, I find that names are crucial to a good book, and remain among the obstacles that often give me the most trouble. Looking at the names of characters or monsters in novels, video games, and movies, I've found that most names are derived from myths, portmanteaus, anagrams, and so forth. For example, take, if you will, someone wants to make a gorgon in their works. Some may call it 'Medusa' if it's an actual character, whereas others will simply just call it 'Gorgon' if it's simply a strain of monsters from the myth.

    Original names are the hardest to find, as more often than not it will seem like a mess of random keys you slammed on your keyboard. The ability to combine two words from, say, Latin, and form a compound meaning still eludes me. Partially because... I don't speak Latin, but then not many do. Compounding English names to form a new one just seems less... impressive?

    State ye here authors your inspirations or driving points you pour into your names. :3
    “Do you have any idea how that made me feel inside? Furious! Outraged! Sick with anger!”
    —Lord Ghirahim

  2. #2
    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    Names have always been kind of a fun thing to me. Can't say I'm actually any good at creating them, but I have fun trying.

    When it comes to sci-fi or fantasy, I feel like consistency is the most important thing. What I mean is, since you're making the names up wholesale a lot of the time in those genres, you best at least do it in a consistent manner, so that it sounds as though all the names you invent could potentially have come from the same culture. But it also pays to keep things somewhat sensible. It's kind of a running gag in those genres that names end up with a lot of extraneous decorations, like unnecessary apostrophes or useless accent marks or whatever. I feel like almost every evil like that being done today can be traced back to Tolkien, who used such things in an intelligent way because he was one of the world's leading experts in Old English (Beowulf era; in fact, his passion was to produce the definitive translation of Beowulf into modern English, but he was such a perfectionist he never was able to finish it), as well as Norse and other old germanic languages. So if you want to go that route, it pays to be a little familiar with such things, and stick to your guns, but otherwise it may just take a little extra thought.

    I invented a race of isolated desert-dwelling kobolds for a Pathfinder campaign recently, and so I figured their language must be some kind of incomprehensible dialect of the language normal kobolds speak, which is Draconic. So to invent words and names for it, I would look up words in an online Draconic dictionary I found (some people are super into this stuff to have written such a thing...), and then would proceed to bastardize the words there into something with some harsh throaty sounds like you hear in Arabic or Hebrew or Dutch, and some rolled R's and back-of-the-mouth vowels like you hear in Swedish or Finnish or French. So now my character's name is Krrød of the Xthilkul tribe, who is seeking out the hidden valley known as Yolltreth Rrengyeh, and worships the ancient dragon god Gärnrryelk. (That last name, incidentally, is a bastardization of 'Glaurung', which is from the Lord of the Rings.) Note the lack of bilabial sounds (b, p, m) or anything else requiring lips.

    See? It can be fun to play around with this stuff.

  3. #3
    Junior Haroo Husky's Avatar
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    What's important is to keep a theme. You have to appeal to the average reader, so that even if they don't necessarily understand your word origins, they still know the inspiration from which they were derived, and come to form a unique opinion for your races, monsters, et cetera. I'm opposed to making up names or scrambling well-known ones, unless they're already a part of my own theme, because to me and anyone else they're just gibberish.

    I think you've put a lot of work into your writing. :3 You mention Tolkien's works, but personally, your names give me a Star Wars vibe. Your kobolds living in a desert setting is reminiscent of Tatooine.
    “Do you have any idea how that made me feel inside? Furious! Outraged! Sick with anger!”
    —Lord Ghirahim

  4. #4
    I found it interesting that in lord of thje rings, there is names like Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas... and then just Sam.

    Maybe because Sam is sort of the everyman in the book.

 

 

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