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Thread: Name impressions

  1. #1
    figuring it all out Ms.Pencila's Avatar
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    Smile Name impressions

    Hey fellow SFFers,

    I thought it might be nice to have a thread where we share impressions of/guesses on the names we've invented for our characters. (Yes, there is nothing objective about any set of syllable making a character have certain characteristics, though some sounds lend themselves to some traits better than others-- so far as English is concerned; not going to mix anything up with languages that are really different, like Mandarin or Swahili). If nothing else, it could be fun to see each others' guesses, and maybe get some feedback on what looks too complicated or basic or what have you to fresh eyes.
    So, how about we list our characters and share our impressions of them (personality, physique, role in story, whatever you'd like to add). It probably won't hurt much if you give a smidgen of background, but the less you include, the more name-focused the impressions will be.
    I'll start with a list of some from one of my fantasy wip (It has: no magic, no bizarre races, or unusual creatures; just a place with a different history- I'm not going for anything really bizarre, but I also don't want names from our world, or spelling variations as it's completely unconnected to our world).

    Kelten
    Calea
    Elgo
    Taják
    Denek
    Elonia
    Tevir
    Enen
    Lired
    Nikar
    Jorvín
    Dverixa

    (Accent always falls on the second-to-last syllable, if you care to know- unless otherwise marked, of course).

    You certainly don't need to comment on all of these, I'd just be grateful for whichever ones you pick.
    Last edited by Ms.Pencila; 10-28-2017 at 05:05 PM. Reason: Clarity of purpose
    "Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me; and with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?" -G.K. Chesterton

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    That looks like the name lists I can get from on-line random name generators. They're all plausible as names. They all follow common Indo-European syllable patterns (but those patterns also exist in other languages). They don't, as a list, tell me a thing beyond that about the persons/places/cultures they might be attached to -- they're just random syllable strings. Without context, there's nothing there to give me any basis for an impression. So I guess I don't understand the rules or the point of the game you want to play.

  3. #3
    Dark Gritty Reboot
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    Ooh, fun! I love stuff like this. I like all these names, which have a nice, sonorous quality to them. My first thought is they remind me of some variety of 'Elvish', or any variety of pretty, flower-eating unicorn-riders. But I think they more give me the sense of a romance language, with the j's and the k's making it different enough it doesn't seem too familiar. One criticism: Where are the consonant clusters? The names here follow a fairly regular consonant vowel pattern, with the only exceptions being some well-known diphthongs. Fine for only a few names, but in a whole book of names like these I'd probably want some consonants together.

    As for some names I've been coming up with lately, I...kind of overdid it. I wanted names that sounded weird and magnificent, without being so alien you can't keep it straight. Also, I got kinda into using the letter X. Like, a lot. Very low magic, realistic setting, cause that's how I do. And the accent marks represent long vowels, because I like accent marks. Still trying to find a way to work some circumflexes (circumflexii?) in there.

    Xisipthat
    Sinófex
    Wóhev
    Kamhó
    Vonë
    Xivasóthash
    Anvajoi
    Avuxilzoir
    Giwrë
    Thotupaj
    Vixóthash

    And so on. Probably pretty amateurish, and I suspect I'll be redoing them at some point, but they work for the moment. What's fun is that I came up with a list of words a while back in the conlang, then put them together to create names and phrases. No one knows (or cares) but me, but some of the meanings behind the names are either significant, ironic, or just kind of funny.

  4. #4
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    IMHO, this is likely to be very subjective - the same way two different readers can read the same passage with the same descriptions and come up with completely different mental images of the same characters and settings. Associations will vary. Someone who knows a tall, dark Nick might see "Nikar" as tall and dark due to the similar name, while someone who'd recently read a book with, say, a little blonde sprite named Nikka might see that image until/unless the text tells them otherwise. (And even descriptors might be interpreted differently. One reader's "tall and dark" may be dark haired and dark eyed but light skinned, another's may be darkly tanned, and another's may be black.) Therefore, I'm not sure what good it would do, in general, to ask strangers for impressions based on a list of names like this, floating in the air. For all I know, they may not even be human... or humanoid. Personally, I get no real impression off those names, lacking context. It's not the name alone that makes a character, after all, but how they interact with their world, how they view things, how they deal with (or fail to deal with) the problems the plot throws at them, the kind of words they speak with and think with.
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  5. #5
    Dark Gritty Reboot
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    I think overall you can get a sense of the culture, sound of the language, and if the names sound like they're from an IRL language, then that's a giveaway. But yeah, I don't see any way of getting a character's personality from a made-up fantasy name. Not that it's not fun to try, at least to me. Others may find it highly annoying.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    For something completely different, check out my vignette Spilled Blood at the end of this post on Worldbuilding.SE.

    ⶼ hollered as much in surprise as in pain.

    He was drawing his bow and concentrating on the prey that they had been tracking all morning, when out of nowhere a ↭ attacked *him*! The ↭ is like a fat rope half a span long with a biting mouth on each end and a fin along its length edged in razor wire. One mouth grappled for purchase, teeth chattering against the tough scales on his drawn-back arm. Meanwhile the unusually supple body wrapped around the arm and the razor fin slid along the scales until it found an edge to catch on, slid *under* the scale, and sliced the skin.

    ...

  7. #7
    Awww nuts!!! stiiiiiv's Avatar
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    I find that when people use strange non-English symbols attached to the letters in names in fantasy that's clearly written by an English-speaker to make them look foreign or fantasy, I don't know how to pronounce them (ú, ä, å, etc). I just end up pronouncing the letters without the symbols. The extra bits just tend to get in the way, unless the author can make a plausible case for their existence.

  8. #8
    cutsie-pie Curlz's Avatar
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    I often come up with fictional names when reading car numberplates - ABC might become Abic etc, join several for a longer name.

  9. #9
    Assistant Deputy Backup SillyLittleTwit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stiiiiiv View Post
    I find that when people use strange non-English symbols attached to the letters in names in fantasy that's clearly written by an English-speaker to make them look foreign or fantasy, I don't know how to pronounce them (ú, ä, å, etc). I just end up pronouncing the letters without the symbols. The extra bits just tend to get in the way, unless the author can make a plausible case for their existence.
    Note that in languages that actually use umlauts, a and ä are different letters - there are no "extra bits", because the dots are an integral part of the letter.

    It can represent, for example, the difference between the a in father, and the a in hat. Other languages can be more sensible than English in that regard.

  10. #10
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    One of my pet peeves is the overuse of A vowels in female fantasy names.

    Aliana, alayna, ariella, adaria, that kind of thing. Always gives me a mental eyeroll because it's gender stereotyping in a very subtle way, with super girly aerie faerie names. Not enough to make me put the book down on its own, but the author does lose brownie points with me. Not that they care, I'm sure.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW Sparverius's Avatar
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    I love languages but I agree that diacritical marks in fictional setting are problematic, as they're pronounced differently in different languages. Most readers will ignore them and pronounce the name however they subjectively interpret it. I do use a diaeresis to separate vowels, but even many English speakers are naïve to what it actually indicates. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

    I like when names—in sound or structure—reflect the fictional culture they're from in some way. Even if it's subtle.

    Harlequin, you're right about the A names… >.> I wonder if that trend began somewhere in particular? Or is it just subtly engrained?

  12. #12
    Dark Gritty Reboot
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    One of my pet peeves is the overuse of A vowels in female fantasy names.
    I agree, though I also find myself falling back on this at times as well, usually with the a's at the end. My rationale when I do this, and I try to be sparing, is that it's a translation convention, and the -a is meant to represent whatever feminine suffix the language actually has.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    One of my pet peeves is the overuse of A vowels in female fantasy names.

    Aliana, alayna, ariella, adaria, that kind of thing. Always gives me a mental eyeroll because it's gender stereotyping in a very subtle way, with super girly aerie faerie names. Not enough to make me put the book down on its own, but the author does lose brownie points with me. Not that they care, I'm sure.
    Mine is when names sound/look too similar and I get characters confused, especially when they're constantly in scenes together. Just read a book with the two female main character names starting with the same first two letters, short name length, and since they weren't standard English words, my Kindle had to take its best stab at them and they came out almost the same.
    Last edited by Hbooks; 10-28-2017 at 08:28 PM.

  14. #14
    impostor syndrome! lilyWhite's Avatar
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    I imagine most folks in this thread wouldn't be able to accurately describe each other with just knowledge of their first names. And I'm sure people who share names aren't identical either.

    To be honest about my opinion (and this does depend on the genre—I'd give a JRPG a lot more leeway here than a gritty medieval fantasy novel), a name that obviously is meant to be meaningful often comes off as cheesy. I'm sure parents don't give children names with all kinds of x's in them assuming they'll grow up to be the Dark Deity of Devastation and Destruction. I'll browse baby-names sites for names based off of meanings of random words that may pertain to a character I'm trying to name, but I wouldn't go for a name that's fairly obvious meant to relate to their character.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    One of my pet peeves is the overuse of A vowels in female fantasy names.

    Aliana, alayna, ariella, adaria, that kind of thing. Always gives me a mental eyeroll because it's gender stereotyping in a very subtle way, with super girly aerie faerie names.
    That's not an impression I've ever really gotten from female names with lots of a's. (This made me try to come up with a name meant to have way too many a's, which got me "Aalanaadra"...which sounds more like a dragon's name than a girly girl's name.) Which does speak to how subjective impressions from names are.
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  15. #15
    cutsie-pie Curlz's Avatar
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    Apostrophes in names not mentioned yet?

  16. #16
    Willing to Learn MythMonger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hbooks View Post
    Mine is when names sound/look too similar and I get characters confused, especially when they're constantly in scenes together. Just read a book with the two female main character names starting with the same first two letters, short name length, and since they weren't standard English words, my Kindle had to take its best stab at them and they came out almost the same.
    Same here. I have an awful time with characters that have names that start/look the same.

    I overcompensate in my own work by spreading the names throughout the alphabet as much as possible. If I need a new character, I'll often consult my sorted spreadsheet of character names, pick an underused letter to start the name, and brainstorm from there.
    I wrote my way into this mess, and I'll write my way out.

  17. #17
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Hopefully that trend is dying, curlz!

    Spar I think it's language dependent. Different languages have different associations for what sounds girly. Generic fantasy languages also often have stereotyped sounds.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilyWhite View Post
    . I'm sure parents don't give children names with all kinds of x's in them assuming they'll grow up to be the Dark Deity of Devastation and Destruction.
    Not all cultures use their mother-given name globally or permanently. The ancient Egyption Pharaohs, for example, chose names that were political statements. In some cultures you would rename yourself at important points in your career.

    I'm sure adults didn't bestow the nickname “little boots” on a commander’s kid (who looked so cute dressing up like real soldiers) thinking he would be a murderous sociopath and tyranical emporer. But the name became infamous and associated with him; especially in a foriegn language where the word doesn’t mean anything, it has taken on this connotation and other names simikar to it will borrow the meaning by association.

    So the parents may have used a lot of x's because it is a meaningful thing to do in that language and was actually a fine endearing name. Only after he became the Dark Deity of Devastation and Destruction did that become associated with evil, especially to everyone outside his home region where the underlying meaning of the words is not seen.

  19. #19
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Parents don't name their kids according to their future, that is true.

    However, while in real life you might get Todd Plodd becoming CEO of Exciting Adventures Inc, or a local librarian named Thor, in books you have the artistic license to name your characters more adroitly. Arguably the trick is to make the name fit without it feeling conspicuous (although as others have said, they can always take new names themselves) but that's all writing is, I guess. Tricks you learn.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW yumpty-tum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms.Pencila View Post
    Hey fellow SFFers,

    I thought it might be nice to have a thread where we share impressions of/guesses on the names we've invented for our characters. (Yes, there is nothing objective about any set of syllable making a character have certain characteristics, though some sounds lend themselves to some traits better than others-- so far as English is concerned; not going to mix anything up with languages that are really different, like Mandarin or Swahili). If nothing else, it could be fun to see each others' guesses, and maybe get some feedback on what looks too complicated or basic or what have you to fresh eyes.
    So, how about we list our characters and share our impressions of them (personality, physique, role in story, whatever you'd like to add). It probably won't hurt much if you give a smidgen of background, but the less you include, the more name-focused the impressions will be.
    I'll start with a list of some from one of my fantasy wip (It has: no magic, no bizarre races, or unusual creatures; just a place with a different history- I'm not going for anything really bizarre, but I also don't want names from our world, or spelling variations as it's completely unconnected to our world).

    Kelten
    Calea
    Elgo
    Taják
    Denek
    Elonia
    Tevir
    Enen
    Lired
    Nikar
    Jorvín
    Dverixa

    (Accent always falls on the second-to-last syllable, if you care to know- unless otherwise marked, of course).

    You certainly don't need to comment on all of these, I'd just be grateful for whichever ones you pick.
    I don't get any distinct impressions from any of these really. Some are nice, some are fairly standard Elvish-inspired post-Tolkien and the last one I really don't like (the Dv sound feels forced).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kjbartolotta View Post
    Ooh, fun! I love stuff like this. I like all these names, which have a nice, sonorous quality to them. My first thought is they remind me of some variety of 'Elvish', or any variety of pretty, flower-eating unicorn-riders. But I think they more give me the sense of a romance language, with the j's and the k's making it different enough it doesn't seem too familiar. One criticism: Where are the consonant clusters? The names here follow a fairly regular consonant vowel pattern, with the only exceptions being some well-known diphthongs. Fine for only a few names, but in a whole book of names like these I'd probably want some consonants together.

    As for some names I've been coming up with lately, I...kind of overdid it. I wanted names that sounded weird and magnificent, without being so alien you can't keep it straight. Also, I got kinda into using the letter X. Like, a lot. Very low magic, realistic setting, cause that's how I do. And the accent marks represent long vowels, because I like accent marks. Still trying to find a way to work some circumflexes (circumflexii?) in there.

    Xisipthat
    Sinófex
    Wóhev
    Kamhó
    Vonë
    Xivasóthash
    Anvajoi
    Avuxilzoir
    Giwrë
    Thotupaj
    Vixóthash

    And so on. Probably pretty amateurish, and I suspect I'll be redoing them at some point, but they work for the moment. What's fun is that I came up with a list of words a while back in the conlang, then put them together to create names and phrases. No one knows (or cares) but me, but some of the meanings behind the names are either significant, ironic, or just kind of funny.
    Unfortunately, all of these hit (almost) every single one of my fantasy-name pet peeves. There are 'Z's and 'X's popping up with abandon, random accents, awkward diphthongs, syllable-groupings that seem to come from completely different language families, faux-Norse... All that's missing from the bingo card is an apostrophe or twelve. Sorry...

    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    One of my pet peeves is the overuse of A vowels in female fantasy names.


    Aliana, alayna, ariella, adaria, that kind of thing. Always gives me a mental eyeroll because it's gender stereotyping in a very subtle way, with super girly aerie faerie names. Not enough to make me put the book down on its own, but the author does lose brownie points with me. Not that they care, I'm sure.
    Funnily enough, 2 of those are actual female names - both Hebrew. Aliana (or Eliana) means 'My God answered' {my prayer} and Ariella means 'God's lioness'. As a matter of fact, many Hebrew names make liberal use of A vowels as it is simply a feminine grammatical construct (as it is in Spanish, Latin, etc.) and I think this might contribute to its feminine use in invented languages and names.

  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin insolentlad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curlz View Post
    Apostrophes in names not mentioned yet?
    I do that bit only with names from a Polynesian-inspired culture, because one does find them used in Hawaiian, Tahitian, etc. Generally, I only stick them in when a vowel is repeated, as in Temani'itu.

  22. #22
    Assistant Deputy Backup SillyLittleTwit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yumpty-tum View Post
    Unfortunately, all of these hit (almost) every single one of my fantasy-name pet peeves. There are 'Z's and 'X's popping up with abandon, random accents, awkward diphthongs, syllable-groupings that seem to come from completely different language families, faux-Norse... All that's missing from the bingo card is an apostrophe or twelve. Sorry...
    I suspect I'd hit a fair amount of your bingo card too:

    Teltö
    Rhea
    Kyrmves
    Dyrstin
    Alio
    Tuvena
    Metvet
    Peta
    Suphives
    Nhädiö
    Kortek
    Hyät
    Gykäkkä
    Kärytö
    Eriva
    Rimives
    Vaani
    Nieliini
    Aarti

    And that's just the first names, never mind the surnames.

  23. #23
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    A lot of the A names are real, yes, but I guess my exasperation comes from their overuse, and a tendency I have sometimes observed in male writers to pick heavily feminine names. Especially when their lead or main female char is a feisty warrior/mage princess who's "not like the other girls" (but is, really...)

    I digress.

    Meanwhile, Tolkien gave us Eowyn. An actual feisty warrior princess :-) whose name doesn't annoy the living crap out of me.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW yumpty-tum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    A lot of the A names are real, yes, but I guess my exasperation comes from their overuse, and a tendency I have sometimes observed in male writers to pick heavily feminine names. Especially when their lead or main female char is a feisty warrior/mage princess who's "not like the other girls" (but is, really...)

    I digress.

    Meanwhile, Tolkien gave us Eowyn. An actual feisty warrior princess :-) whose name doesn't annoy the living crap out of me.
    I guess they can be a bit overused, and I also get annoyed by the "she's not like other girls coz she wears a bone in her braid and occasionally swears" thing.

    But really, "Horse Joy" doesn't annoy you?!

  25. #25
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yumpty-tum View Post
    But really, "Horse Joy" doesn't annoy you?!
    It would, were that her name. But it's Eowyn.


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