This entry is part 3 in the series A Good Name Is Hard To Find

Photograph by Geri-jean

This is the third part of this series on character names. Part 1 discussed the value of a good name, and examined the attributes and benefits that characterized a good choice of name. In Part 2, I explored “Name Seeds”, the heart of a system that I have developed for the creation of passable-or-better names for my own use. It studied the process of converting a central conceptual point into a Name Seed by means of structured and directed association. I also skipped ahead a little to reveal the basic process of converting a name seed into an actual name, a topic that will be the central theme of Part 5 of this series.

But before you can complete the transformation from Name Seed to Name, an essential step is to determine the Name Structure. Different constructions can add layers of meaning, informing about the society of the character as well as the individual and their place within that social structure.

The name structure contains hints as to the ability to expand, the level of cultural development, the attitude towards family and children, the educational standards, and the respectability of a profession, and much more. This is often the most overlooked aspect of generating a good character name.

There is a sociological hierarchy to the development of names of increasing complexity that runs all the way from the primitive to the decadent. This hierarchy is going to be our roadmap through the subject of today’s discussion.

The stages of this hierarchy (and related subjects) that I’ll be talking about are:

  • One-word Names – Monosyllables, Bi-syllables, and Polysyllables
  • Bi-structured names – First names and Second names, Christian Names and Surnames and other binary structures
  • Tertiary names – Middle names and Maiden Names and other nuances
  • Decadent naming structures
  • Abstract names and Descriptive Names
  • Alien & Non-human names
  • In, Of, and other unlikely critical naming elements
  • Reflected Cultural Values & History
  • The Emphasis Of Inheritance
  • The Importance Of Titles

From time to time, I’ll be departing from this script, but that’s the overall agenda. Its way too big a subject to cover in just one article – In fact, this week will barely make a dent in that list! So, without further ado…

One-word Names

I’m sure there’s a specific term for “one-word names” but I couldn’t find and identify it. Would anyone care to enlighten me?

There are three uses for One-Word Names:

  1. Some writers use only one word for alien names to use the strangeness of the name structure to add to the exotic flavor of the name.
  2. One-word names can denote simplicity, power, primitiveness, and strength.
  3. Superhero and stage names are often a single name for similar reasons.
Alien Names: There are better ways

Pulp and Space Opera adventures often use single-word names for aliens – “Blarg” and “Zaph” and “Xoorm” and so on. Because this usage is traditional, it is reasonable to permit it as an exception to the rules. But in any other sort of campaign, this choice of name is not a good one.

The more populous a species, the greater the need for additional names to identify a discrete individual. That’s why humans started with one name, which evolved to be one name “of” somewhere, then two names, then three or more. And that’s despite the incredible number of languages and dialects here on Earth, all of which carry different naming standards and conventions – i.e. more names to choose from. Unless the alien species in question consists of a single individual – a colony or hive mind, if you will – or something equally unusual with equally tight integration – one-word alien names should be reserved for the occasions when reasons 2 or 3 are valid.

Monosyllables

The ultimate in primitive names is the monosyllable. Names like “Bam”, “Gork”, and “Durg” are almost grunts instead of speech. But there are only so many of these to go around – at first glance, you might be able to name a couple of hundred individuals, but that seems like the limit.

Or is it? There are 21 consonants in the English language (counting “qu” as one) and 5 vowels. Add in “th” to make it 22 consonants. So a simple consonant-vowel-consonant structure gives enough variants for 22x5x22= 2420 words – and that’s without adding in an “r” or an “l” before the last consonant, or even an “rl”. These alternatives come close to quadrupling the number of possible results (there will be a few that are invalid) to 9680.

Actual results would fall short of this mark because “l” and “rl” don’t work with every consonant, and there will be homonyms to eliminate – “c” is either the same as “s” or “k”. Even so, 4000 sounds like a fairly conservative estimate, and 7000+ a more likely result.

But there’s a problem with this logic. Presumably, this range would have to accommodate the primitive society’s entire vocabulary. I have read that 4,000 words are enough to form a basic vocabulary, but that the results are totally lacking in nuance. A functional vocabulary for anything above a stone-age culture would have to contain at least twice this number of terms. That means that each member of our fictitious society is actually named for some everyday, ordinary object, action, quality, or relationship.

And not all the vocabulary would be acceptable for the purpose. Perhaps as many as 10% of the words in the vocabulary would be unacceptable for reasons of meaning – calling an individual “child” or “father” or “mother” (or their monosyllable equivalents) as their name just won’t work. A similar number of terms would fail to make the grade because they would be demeaning or insulting, something no parent would saddle a child with. And twice as many again would have to be excluded because they would cause confusion – try reading a passage from any novel, replacing the character’s name with something like “work” or “kiss” and you will soon see what I mean!

With as many as 40% of the potential names excluded for the purpose, our 7000+ looks more like 4200. So that is the theoretical maximum number of individuals who could be named using the one-syllable approach. In practice, this approach would be abandoned because of lack of choice when only half, or so, of the available names had been used.

In other words, Monosyllable names only work if there are no more than about 2000 individuals to be named – or less – total.

That’s not 2000 in a tribe, that’s 2000 total across ALL tribes. Okay, if there were more than 20 tribes, it would not be unreasonable for a name to recur in several – as many as 5 of them, perhaps. But expecting a total population of more than 5000 to be serviced in this way is impractical. So save the monosyllables for the most extreme cases.

Generating a monosyllabic language the easy way:

1. Generate a list of consonant-vowel-consonant combinations, using the principles discussed above. For ease of use, these should be organized alphabetically. Include “St” and “Th” and “Qu” but not “C”, include combinations like “Br” and “Dr” as consonants at the start of the resulting monosyllables and “rb”, “rd”, and so on at the end. Exclude any which are known English words.

2. Randomly rearrange these by moving all occurrences of a given consonant to a different place within the order at the same time. “Ta”, “Te”, and “Tu” might be followed by “Be”, “Bi”, and “Bo”.

3. Get a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus.

4. For each of the numbered Head Words in the thesaurus (not the index of words and phrases), attach one of the consonant+vowel combinations, in order. If an entry in the thesaurus indicates both a noun and a verb form, use a separate entry for each. Simplify the “entry word” as necessary by skimming through the entries in the thesaurus. DON’T try translating adjectives as well, you’ll run out of combinations.

That means that the ‘alphabetic’ sequencing of the list of combinations associates similar sounds with words and phrases relating to similar subjects:

Tath = Existence (noun) = Reality
Teth = Existence (verb) = Begin
Tiv = Non-existence (noun) = Nothing
Tiz = Non-existence (verb) = Destroy, Break
….. and so on.

5. The end result is a vocabulary of 990 nouns to describe objects in general and a similar number of verbs to describe actions. Since the results are in the same logical sequence as entries within a Thesaurus, a little practice will make it easy to run down any word that you need to translate.

6. From time to time, you may encounter something specific that deserves it’s own name. For example, this technique will yield one word for “Animal” and one word for “Weather” – but “Horse” and “Bear” are not the same thing, and neither are “Rain” and “Snow”. Simply generate a new, more specific, word for your list based on the existing general word.

Two-syllable primitive names (bi-syllables)

Once again, I’m sure there is a technical term to describe one-word two-syllable names, but I couldn’t find it. “Bi-Syllabic” and “Bi-Syllables” will have to do.

The preceding analysis makes it quite evident why it became socially necessary to expand beyond the one-syllable name (and the one-syllable word, for that matter). Five different approaches to adding the extra syllable present themselves:

  • Descriptive Addenda
  • Atavistic Addenda
  • Locale Addenda
  • Occupational Addenda
  • Familial Addenda

The choice between these options immediately sets once society apart from those who choose an alternate option and begins demonstrating the attitudes of that society and the impact of those attitudes on its citizens.

Descriptive Addenda

Adding a second syllable which derives from a one-syllable descriptive term is something that only works when the individual has achieved sufficient maturity that the qualities to be exemplified have begun to manifest. This accords in most species generally with the onset of puberty, as the child begins to become an adult. The implication is that either the infant/child mortality rate is so high that few child names are important prior to this point in life (and that the birth rate is corrospondingly high); or that children are so few in number that only a few names are needed until this stage of life is reached (with a correspondingly low birthrate and long lifespan).

Children are going to be valued less in the first of these societies; they will be a drain on resources in the short-term but this will generally be considered an investment in the future. The thing is that most people only invest disposable income, after the necessities are taken care of. Consequently, children will be poorly cared for, will receive only the leftover food after the adults have fed, and so on. This in turn implies a naturally hardy species. This sort of structure also suggests that child-rearing is a whole-tribe activity, performed only after more urgent duties are completed; the bonds between parents and child will weak or even non-existent. Children will be considered part of the tribe or extended family, not a part of a family group. These characteristics all accord with the usual interpretation of Orcs and Goblins in fantasy RPGs. There would almost certainly be some form of rite-of-passage at which the second name was conferred. Characters with this name structure will have names that are genuinely representative of their personality and individuality.

In the rare-child society, children would be greatly valued and sheltered from harm at all costs. Again, child-rearing would be a whole-society function, with reduced or no emphasis on individual family relationships. With greater rarity, it becomes more likely that children would be perceived as distinct individuals from an early age. There would be a tendency to confer second names quite early. This in turn means that there would be more chance of getting it wrong, so second syllables would be less strongly reflective of the individual’s actual characteristics. This social structure would be appropriate for less civilized elf-kinds, or other simple fey.

Avatistic Addenda

Many primitive societies seek not to identify with personal attributes but with the attributes they wish to acquire, or to identify with a creature that they believe will shape their attributes and lives. An individual desirous of strength might associate with “Bear”, for example, whole one desiring keen eyesight might choose “Eagle”. If these are defined as direct translations of a monosyllabic tongue, adding them to a character’s name is a form of avatism, and the resulting name has an avatistic component.

Unfortunately, this form of name construction doesn’t work as well as other options do when using the “Name Seed:” technique. This is because a Name Seed already embodies any desired avatistic element, the first syllable of this construction being already based on the character’s most defining characteristic. Either a character ends up with a name in which both halves mean roughly (or precisely) the same thing – vastly reducing the number of possible combinations available – or the initial name seed is in danger of being overshadowed by a second, less symbolic, name element.

Overcoming this problem can require a little lateral thinking. There are three solutions:

  1. The second syllable can reflect some associated trait or alternative aspect of the Name Seed represented by the primary syllable. How does possessing the attribute described by the first syllable usually make a character feel?, for example. A character named “Strength Leader” suddenly manifests as an aspirational name, even if neither of the individual syllables mean that within the monosyllabic language. (‘Leader’ expresses the name seed ‘confidence’, which describes how a strong character usually feels). But this name could translate into at least two alternative meanings: “Confidence In Strength” (a far more gung-ho jarhead personality than ‘Strength Leader’); and “Strong Leader” (denoting a character who possesses more than a little Leadership capacity).
  2. The second syllable can reflect some contrary or counterbalancing influence. “Hidden Strength” still means “Strength”, but also carries connotations of subtlety, for example, while “Strong Control” suggests a character who is more manipulative and forceful than one possessed of outright physical strength.
  3. The second syllable can derive from an opposing level of abstraction to that of the original syllable – i.e. if the original Name Seed was an abstract interpretation of the chosen character theme, the second syllable can be a literal interpretation of the same Name Seed, or vice versa. This produces character names like “Strong Bear” or “Tall Mountain”.

Any of these three approaches will work just fine – so choose the one that best fits the character that you are naming. The more complex and sophisticated they are, for example, the more prominant option #1 should be in your thinking. The more focussed the concept is on a single central attribute or theme, the more prominantly option #3 should loom. And option #2 is at its best when you have only a vague concept for the character, since it throws up interesting possible personality profiles that you might not have thought of.

Locale Addenda

This is one of the most common ways of extending a name. The “Zog” who lives by the lake is not the same person as the “Zog” who lives near the big tree, who is not the same person as the “Zog” who lives in the big cave, who is not the same person as the “Zog” who lives in the Marshes.

While it is more common for whole names formed in this way to be two separate n-syllable names, the principle can apply just as easily to forming a two-syllable one-word name.

Occupational Addenda

This, in comparison, is a very rare method of extending monosyllabic names, simply because societies who are so primitive that they are only now getting started on polysyllables rarely have differentiated labor and professions. Each person does whatever is necessary for the maintenance and operation of their own household.

That’s not to say that certain individuals would not get a reputation for being better at some task than others; this is the foundation for a simple trade in services. “I caught an extra fish today. I will give the fish to you if you give me a handful of your lemons”.

Accordingly, even in a society where other sources of second syllables predominate, there will be the occasional smattering of names using this structure. Such names will only occur in cases where the individual is comparatively gifted in the subject denoted by the second syllable.

The other exception generally concerns a form of leadership – temporal or spiritual or ritual or military. The theory is that someone’s mode of address contains an active reminder of the special status of that individual. It is this line of though that eventually leads to the creation of Titles, a subject to be discussed separately. There is no good reason why the invention of “Titles” cannot precede the invention of two-word names.

That would mean, of course, that whatever the second syllable was that the person had prior to taking up their new authority, it would change when they did (people who are only figuring out two-syllable names aren’t nearly ready for “title plus two syllable”. Accepting the office results in the office-bearer changing his name. The new name is thus a constant reminder to everyone of the authority, significance, and responsibilities of the person being addressed, which would have a powerful symbolism in any society utilizing this approach.

Familial Addenda

This is at once one of the most powerful forms of name extension for conveying information about a society and – at the mono-to-bisyllabic levels – one of the least likely. We’ve already established that most societies at this standard of civilization would practice communal child-rearing; it would be quite easy for a mother in such circumstances to neither know nor care which of the young she had given birth to, and it would be even less likely that a male would know whether or not he was a father.

Events such as pregnancy , with a substantial gap between cause and noticeable effect, would be ‘the will of the gods’, not a consequence of Biology. At best, sexual activity on the part of the mother might (eventually) be construed as signaling the mother’s readiness to produce young.

It is this unlikelihood that makes this name construction such a powerful tool for communications about a society. If the familial name is Matronomic then that has implications for inheritance and property ownership, which in turn can have implications for the structure of authority and wealth. If it is Patronomic then either women are (or were) considered the ‘property’ of a male, or there is some other reason why males dominate in this respect – a reason that will have implications for rituals, ceremonies, taboos, superstitions, religions, inheritance, social organization… the list goes on and on.

Perhaps because the naming pattern which most of us are used to in modern times is Familial (and usually Patronomic) in nature, this is often the first approach that occurs to writers and GMs, and especially to beginners. Because few of these recognize the implications, it is also one of the most-frequently abused.

Save this approach for those occasions when the society you are creating and the implications are in accord – at least when it comes to bi-syllabic names.

My Name Runneth Over – streamlining syllable soup

The human tongue is lazy by inclination, almost as much so as the human operating it. Unless a rigid formality or love of enunciation are strong social values that you want to bury within the naming structures used for a character or series of characters, sloppy articulation will cause syllables to run together over time. This is especially true if the syllables are both defined as “consonant-vowel-consonant”. Over time, one or both of the resulting sets of consonants will tend to get lost, partially or completely, to make pronunciation easier.

With Prep: To make your names functional, realistic, and easily-vocalized by an always-too-busy GM, this needs to be taken into account. Doing so is not all that difficult if names are prepared in advance; simply repeat the name three times aloud, quickly. The first time, you will probably get it right, exactly as written; the second time, your tongue will stumble or catch at any tricky points; and the third time, your tongue will generally “smooth over” the stumbling block – rendering the name in its final form.

Take the example “Boptklik”, which is made up of the syllables “Bopt” and “Klik”. This technique quickly uncovers the first “k” as the stumbling point, and on the third enunciation, produced “BOPTLIK” – a perfectly serviceable two-syllable one-word name.

Without Prep:When creating names on the fly, you generally don’t have the luxury of enunciating a name before you use it. In this circumstance, an alternate technique is to say the name to yourself a few times, moving your tongue as though saying it aloud without actually vocalizing anything. This is generally a less-efficient and less-effective approach, but it will usually get the job done.

Be aware that names can be vocalized more easily at low volumes like this than they can be spoken aloud at volume when you are concentrating not on the name but on everything else that you have to communicate.

Polysyllables

Polysyballic names should not be confused with Decadent Naming Structures which can also tend to produce polysyllables. The distinction lies in the purpose of the extra syllables; in a polysyballic name, they are used to generate a one-word identification symbol for a specific individual, in a decadent name structure, they are used to enhance an already-adequate name in some (or several) respects. I’ll go into more detail on the subject of decadent naming practices in a dedicated section in Part 4.

When names start stretching to polysyllable one-word names, most of the original meaning of the syllabic approach will have been lost. Most of the monosyllable words in the vocabulary will have been replaced with a multitude of more subtle and nuanced variations in meaning as the language grows.

It’s at this point that you can forget about symbolism and direct meaning, and start considering the sort of criteria that were discussed in part 1 of this series, and the examples that were offered in part 2.

This is actually a rare naming structure. Far more commonly, name structures will evolve into multiword structures in preference to bigger one-word structures. Consequently, this choice once again almost-subliminally buries important information about the culture into the name structure. That quality can be summed up in one word: concise. This is a population who will never use two words when one will suffice, even if that one word has to be larger.

Like an iceberg, nine-tenths of the significance of this choice is not on overt show. This same conciseness would pervade every other aspect of the society. There would be nothing done purely for ‘show’, all undertakings would have a minimalist approach. Future needs would rarely be accommodated in the planning and construction of buildings, furniture, implements, etc – so long as it us fit to serve the function it is to have “right now”, it would be good enough, and anything more would be excessive. Efficiency – of thought, of plan, of deed – would be the most highly-prized virtue.

Bistructured Names

Technical terminology can be a pain at times, but there are also times when its absence is keenly felt. Trying to come up with a term to describe names that consist of two discrete, generic, sub-names, was one of those times. Hopefully, the reader will be able to tell the difference between a “Bisyllabic” name (one-word, two syllables) and a “Bistructured” name (two words, no particular syllable length). This text panel is to call out the problem and bring the difference to the reader’s attention.

This name structure will be familiar to just about everyone, as it is the most common name structure on the planet (while most of us have middle names, they are rarely used in ordinary usage). It breaks a name into two separate words, usually a christian name that denotes the individual and a surname that denotes a related grouping of individuals. Usually the christian name precedes the surname, but this order can sometimes be reversed.

Christian Names

Since the naming of individuals is generally a matter of free will on the part of the person or persons responsible for naming the individual, it would – at first glance – seem to have little to do with the attributes or personality of the named individual. Deeper thought reveals that this is going to be the name with which the person is most closely identified (by both the individual and by others). It will be directly reflective of the personalities and attitudes of the individual’s parents (or whoever is most responsible for rearing the individual as a child), and therefore offers a clue as to the individual’s home life.

It will also be the name the individual will most-often respond to, will in fact get in the habit of responding to. The attitudes and opinions of the people around the character and especially of their peer group will be (in part) shaped and informed by this name and its social connotations or ‘flavor’ within the society. How many children are teased by others using a derivation of their name, especially in their most formative years?

The resulting experiences will undoubtedly have a marked influence on the personality, ambitions, and activities of the named individual.

The causal connections may be indirect, but they are definitely pertinent and very real.

Relevance to the ‘name seed’ approach

Ultimately, the individual’s personality and parameters can be considered analogous to a sausage. A whole host of influences and experiences combine to produce that individual, but – much like a sausage – they are chopped up and minced together in the process. The more that is known about the individual’s history, the more of these connections between behavior and circumstance and influence can be traced. In seeking to use the name to encapsulate the end result, we are attempting to establish a one-to-one identification between the name and the individual – in effect, stating that the name is the result of the same influences and circumstances that produced the individual. But tracing out and identifying all those causative influences and their relative impacts can be a long and tedious process, akin to trying to turn hamburger back into steak-plus-additives.

The ‘Name Seed’ approach ignores the process and considers the end result, this one-to-one relationship between individual and name, to generate a name that describes the individual. The economy of this approach is that we don’t need to identify all those influences in advance and chart their impact on the character’s life; instead, we can create the name and – if desired – work backwards as much as necessary to identify the strongest of the influences and their implications on the character’s past.

Surnames

What, then, of surnames? Since the character – and those with the responsibility for naming him – have no volition (or, at best, limited volition) over this element of the name, surely it doesn’t hold as much relevance to the personality and attributes of the named individual?

Well, while the peer group / outside reaction to the surname would be less than in the case of christian names, it would still be present. In addition, the surname is usually reflective of socio-economic status to at least some degree, which can have lasting effects. Finally, the surname may publicize affiliation or association with a particular social, religious, or ethnic population, and that exerts both direct and indirect influence over the named individual. Furthermore, as discussed in the earlier section on second syllables, the surname may well reflect cultural patterns (inheritance rights, for example). All told, it’s possible that the surname exerts an even greater influence over the individual’s development than the christian name!

Placement within scope

I often think of the relationship between the two names this way: the surname dictates the scope and the nature of the opportunities that will be or have been presented to the character; social reaction to the christian name dictates, in part, how the character will react to, and how well they can utilize, these opportunities.

Backtracing the cause-and-effect sequence – hamburger into steak – means that this relationship pattern should be reflected in the name of an individual whose personal circumstances are dictated by the plot or by their current status. In effect, the Name Seed approach inverts the cause-and-effect sequence; rather than considering the name to be the end result, we consider the Name Seed to be the ’cause’, and use it to derive a set of possible ‘effects’ which we then choose between. Restoring the cause-and-effect arrow to its normal direction produces a name which reflects the ‘effects’ that have shaped the character.

This clearly relates back to the reasons a good choice of name can add to the depth and solidarity of a character. The many benefits of such a name listed in part one are the direct consequence of the closeness of relationship between name and individual – the closer this identification, the better the name.

Other Approaches to binary name structures

The christian-name-surname combination is not the only pattern that is possible. One of several alternative approaches that has already been mentioned is for the christian and family name to be reversed in sequence. This implies that family, clan, or tribe, are more important within a social structure than the individual.

Or perhaps the father’s christian name is used as the character’s surname – “Lionne Perlesque” meaning (literally) “Lionne, son of Perlesque”. This places the parental authority over the family unit in more prominent position.

Or the character’s surname might be the christian name of the oldest living family member at the time of their birth, or the oldest male, or the oldest female, or simply of the family/clan/tribal ‘leader’ at the time. All these choices are subtly different and imply different relationships, social values, and authority structures within the family unit, and hence within the societies that these family units are, in turn, part of.

Perhaps the surname is the christian name of the most-recently deceased member of the household, suggesting a form of ancestor worship (or at the very least, a veneration and respect for the ancestors that goes beyond what we would consider normal). Note that you get very different societies if this surname is restricted to only male or only female ancestors, or if gender is disregarded!

There is the traditional Amerindian practice of a surname reflect an event of significance (metaphorically speaking) that takes place on a vision quest or at the onset of manhood, usually relating to the first living thing that the adult individual sees, coupled with an anglicized christian name – “John Running-Horse” immediately identifies the racial and cultural origins of the character.

Ullar: An extreme example

"Ullar" is both an abbreviation of the full name and the name chosen by the character for use in his relations with humanity in general. It was inspired by the cries of the Martians in Jeff Wayne's 'War Of The Worlds.'


In the society from which the original superhero of the Zenith-3 campaign background derives (a character created by me to learn the system), part of the character’s name derived from the mother’s name, part from the father’s name, and a third part chosen by the parents to bridge any pronunciation gap between the two. Another syllable was added to represent the character’s current social class, one for the highest educational standard achieved to date, and one for the (broad) career chosen.

As the individual matured and different stages of life, there was a formal recognition of this growth by changing the “bridging syllable”:

  • the infant choice by the parents
  • the child-name by a pair of older relatives (one from each side of the family) (the parents would choose if there was no-one else)
  • then two the child’s teachers (the student-name)
  • the child’s career planner (the teen-name)
  • the child’s two closest friends (chosen by the teenager) (the semi-adult name)
  • and finally, the individual themselves (the adult name).

Each transition was accompanied by a traditional coming-of-age ceremony, and carried proscribed levels of independence and responsibility.

From this mélange, the individual chose a two-syllable combination as a name for every day use by friends, another for use by family, another for use professionally, and other combinations as necessary to reflect some chosen group identification – the individual might choose a new name for use in his chess club (or equivalent) if chess became important to him – the theory being that each person presents a slightly-different face in each different social setting. Six syllables, taken two at a time to form a name, yields 36 combinations.

When they married, the male would choose one of his wife’s syllables to add to his name and she would choose one of his to add to hers – each losing the syllable chosen by the other. Only when addressed in high formality would the full name be used.

These choices were not arbitrary or capricious, but were the subjects of careful consideration. Whichever syllable the wife appropriated would change the character’s name in those affiliations in which he had used it, and hence would both advertise his changed status to that group and the nature of the relationship between the couple.

In that society, knowing an individual’s full name told you everything you needed to know about them (most of the time). It was very easy to build in personal history – a character from that society whose records showed that the parents chose the character’s semi-adult name was immediately marked as a loner without close friends, for example.

This is perhaps the ultimate example of a name reflecting hidden cultural values to those with the wit to grasp them.

Sources Of Surnames

In addition to the directed free-association approach demonstrated in the previous article, there are many other sources of surname choice that can be considered. I won’t bother to list them here, because the list is exactly the same as the possible sources of a second-syllable in a two-syllable name, given earlier in this article – descriptive, locale, occupation, and so on. If free association comes up blank, or if you want to emphasize one of these sources as important within the society in general or for this character in particular, draw apon these for inspiration. “Ludwig of Salzburg” is a perfectly valid combination of names, for example – though technically, since I haven’t yet discussed Bridging Words like “of” in a name (I’ll get to that next time), at the moment it would be “Ludwig Salzburg”.

Still to come:

Whew! Out of time already, and still with a lot more to discuss in part 4:

  • Tertiary names – Middle names and Maiden Names
  • Decadent naming structures
  • Abstract names and Descriptive Names
  • Alien & Non-human names
  • In, Of, and other unlikely critical naming elements
  • Reflected Cultural Values & History
  • The Emphasis Of Inheritance
  • The Importance Of Titles
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