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June 9, 2005

Slush: noted in passing
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM *

1. If an author says in their cover letter that they’ve had one or more books published, but they don’t have an agent and they don’t mention their title(s) or publisher(s), they were published by PublishAmerica.

2. Today I saw an error I’ve never seen before. If you’re writing SF or fantasy, and you need to make up a new name for someone or something, please don’t use a common English suffix: tion, ality, esque, izer, cious, teenth, matic, et cetera. I’ll stumble every time I read it, wondering where the other half of the word has gone.

While you’re at it, run your new words through Google. It’s surprising how many of them turn out to be the names of drugs, Indian side dishes, or obscure islands.

Comments on Slush: noted in passing:
#1 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 01:50 PM:

I've always wondered where authors get their new names. I mean, if you're Tolkien the language comes first, and then you just run the linguistics, but where do authors tend to find inspiration/ideas for names?

(In the opening to the novel of Nightfall, I seem to recall a note decrying the practice, but the right ones make the story much richer.)

#2 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 01:50 PM:

Lord Masala Dosai swept into Acchar Palace, his shock troops leaving a trail of dead or dying Gulab Jamun mercenaries behind them.

"Curses!" declared Lord Dosai. Neither Princess Restoril nor King Cialis could be found within the palace walls, although the emaciated body Grand Vizier Uthappam, Dosai's chief spy, had been found in the dungeons.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:02 PM:

And that doesn't apply only to the names of people and places. I remember the old "Galactica" for having the radar operator warning Adama that the Cylon ships were only microns away. Which prompted Mad Magazine's parody where the Viper pilots fear they might not make it back because they had only 10 anchovies of fuel left.

#4 ::: Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:03 PM:

I can think of two ways.

An enthusiasist (read: someone looking to distract themselves from actually writing) will build a language. Someone less enthusiastic might run a name generator three or four hundred times and pull out the interesting looking ones.

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:03 PM:

Damn you, Brennan. You beat me too it.

A well known fantasy author's first work has a major character apparently named after a support group for the spouses of alcoholics. Made it damn hard for me to suspend my disbelief.

". . . names of drugs . . ."

Of course, that could be a form of product placement.

#6 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Once, long LONG ago, I made up a villain named Xanax.
(And yes, he put people to sleep.)

My first novel has characters named after towns in New York's Southern Tier. It doesn't seem to have hurt the book any-my first reader loved it, and she's from that area. (Now watch. I'll get e-mails saying "Why didn't you just name someone Horseheads?" ;) )

#7 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:33 PM:

Melissa Mead: (Now watch. I'll get e-mails saying "Why didn't you just name someone Horseheads?" ;) )

Or Painted Post.

#8 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:36 PM:

Re: no. 1: and since they're in your slush, they haven't gone to PublishAmerica, which is a good thing.

(Shameless self-promotion: The Only Thing You Need to Know About PublishAmerica.)

#9 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:36 PM:

...even the lowest kitchen drudge, Martha's Vinyard, had fled the scene.

#10 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:38 PM:

I think the worst names I ever came up with in stories (unpublished all) were "Anna Polis, MD" and a very-old-money character named "Arch St. Greenwich" (which makes more sense if you've ever driven north of NYC o Connecticut on I-95)

#11 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:44 PM:

One of Jordan's Aes Sedai is called Kiruna. Still makes me giggle every time.

#12 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Internal consistency in an invented language will certainly not prevent it from tossing up an existing brand name, or for that matter an airplane part. Proprietary drug names pose especial risks, as they're usually a combination of a bit of an impossibly awkward, though chemically accurate, generic (all those Box and Cox inhibitors we had) with a euphony enhancer that may have been made up in a caffeinated haze the night before the presentation and may also have been spat out by a computer program with the intelligence, inattention, and insouciance of a small wing-beating bird.

And sometimes you get nailed after the fact. When I named a character "Rogaine" in early 1983, there really wasn't a prescription med with that name, and indeed the drug was first announced as "Regaine." I think they decided there was too much implicit promise in that, but coulda been anything.

#13 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:01 PM:

It’s surprising how many of them turn out to be the names of drugs, Indian side dishes, or obscure islands.

Or anagrams for lesbian.

#14 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Names of Indian side dishes have been used deliberately in an episode of Red Dwarf: Tarka Daal and Bhindi Bhaji, representatives of the mighty Vindaloovian Empire.

A well known fantasy author's first work has a major character apparently named after a support group for the spouses of alcoholics

Which I completely missed until someone pointed it out. Guy Kay's Prince Aileron did bother me a little.

#15 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:05 PM:

John M. Ford: I see you know my secret pain. The pharmaceutical companies keep naming impotence drugs after my characters, or coming damn close. For example, I had a female character named Iagra, because I had this thing for the name Iago, and it was pronounced Yah-gra, but when Viagra came out, I reluctantly put her away until I could come up with a name that fit MY perception of her mentally.

I also had a Lady Ciallis. Now I live in fear that some pharmaceutical company is going to co-opt Zyastra. (The ONLY google hit for her name right now is my journal. I've had the name forever, and it's now on the third, and hopefully final character. I'd say iterations, but the first two Zyastras are as different from Zy number three as they are from each other.)

(Query: Is it a sign of Mary-Sueism if you use your character's name to play World of Warcraft? Too much self-identity?)

#16 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:08 PM:

John M. Ford: And sometimes you get nailed after the fact. When I named a character "Rogaine" in early 1983, there really wasn't a prescription med with that name, and indeed the drug was first announced as "Regaine." I think they decided there was too much implicit promise in that, but coulda been anything.

Actually, in many overseas markets, it is sold as "Regaine". The FDA didn't like the implied promise, so it needed a different name in the US.

#17 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:09 PM:

Diana Wynne Jones, may she live forever, has a whole story on creative word invention: Nad and Dan adn Quaffy. Her intro to the story says that she got the idea from a favorite writer--can anybody give me a hint who it is?

#18 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:13 PM:

I also wanted to name a fantasy country after the Meherrin Indian tribe, because I really like the way Meherrin falls together as a word. I kept running into it every time we drove north from Raleigh into Virginia, and we'd pass over the Meherrin River. And I thought about just co-opting the river (ditto the Farollan Islands outside of San Francisco, and the Canterra Tower in Calgary) and reworking it somehow, but then it might throw the reader out of their suspension of disbelief if they were somehow familiar with the original sources of the names.

#19 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:13 PM:

Oh yeah! I'd almost forgotten Dr. Viagro. Fortunately somebody pointed that one out in time and suggested that I change it.

Larry, are you from around Steuben County, by any chance?

#20 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:18 PM:

And speaking of characters named -tion, there is a Tion in Wheel of Time.

#21 ::: Deborah Green ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Will wrote:

I've always wondered where authors get their new names. I mean, if you're Tolkien the language comes first, and then you just run the linguistics, but where do authors tend to find inspiration/ideas for names?

I've warped the names of fashion designers. Since I get Women's Wear Daily, there's always a copy near my computer. I also like my book of medieval poetry when I need a Latin sounding name.

My current favorite method (and very little work) involves listing the names of students who have left their sewing supplies after class since I'm picking up their rulers and such anyway. Of course, I still have to work on men's names.

Sometimes it's impossible to come up with anything. In a fit of frustration once, I named a mountain range The Nameless Ones since I couldn't think of anything.

#22 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:21 PM:

Melissa - Larry, are you from around Steuben County, by any chance?

Nope - I just used to drive from NYC to Rochester a lot, so goodly chunks of NY17 and I-390 are burned into my brain.

#23 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:23 PM:

Here at Large Software Company(TM) employees volunteer their names to be used in demos and advertising, thus enabling us to avoid lawsuits from other people who happen to be called J. Twombly Fibblefish.

#24 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:26 PM:

That's going to cause confusion. Mind if we call them all "Bruce" to keep clear?

(please pretend I signed my name and email with bruces in place of all the kips, then chuckle politely)

#25 ::: domynoe ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:29 PM:

It’s surprising how many of them turn out to be the names of drugs, Indian side dishes, or obscure islands.

Or something in another language you have no clue the meaning of.

#26 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:33 PM:

I named a character in "The Ten Teeth of Terra: The Decadents" thus:

EVA ACITU

because of the many times I rode the subway to high school, and saw UTICA AVE reflected in a window. Perhaps she has a sister, TIXE?

#27 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:35 PM:

When I was a kid I used to drive with my family to the beach among unending fields of maize. At one point the company supplying the seed decided to advertise and planeted signposts with the name of the brand. It sounded so deliciously alien to us that we played for quite a while the game of inventing tacky titles with the name in it. "The Third Moon of Maize Brand." "Maize Brand's Last Stand". "Son of Maize Brand." "The Black Moons of Maize Brand."

Eventually, I stared working on my multi-volume space opera. I grew up, travelled, learned a few things about the world, but I still have a hard time giving up my heroine's planet being named "Asgrow".

#28 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Once upon a time I got to see the big list of suggested names for a chimeric protein to be used for cancer treatment. In retrospect, yeah, lots of them would have made, uh, let's call them acceptable charachter names.

But thinking about it, what else would you expect - you've got these geeks and they're making up words....

#29 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:45 PM:

Ingly, brave Ous warrior, cruelly imprisoned in the dungeon of If.

#30 ::: MaryRoot ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:46 PM:

It happens in real languages, with real names too. I read a story to my writing group. There was a character named Orla, a reasonably common Irish girl's name. Two guys giggled through the whole story. Found out why afterwards - Orlah (same pronunciation) is the Hebrew word for foreskin.

#31 ::: Jonathan Verbal Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Can someone gives the normal form of the true story of the detergent manufacturer who hires a consultant to design a new product name? There's a lot of detail on phoneme analysis, of this sort: "We want to start with the letter D as in Draino, which has connotations of cleanliness, and end in a K, for crispness and finality..."

The WASPy nerds at last present the highest ranking name at a Board meeting: [beat, beat]

DRECK!

#32 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:02 PM:
And speaking of characters named -tion, there is a Tion in Wheel of Time.

There's also one in Dave Duncan's The Great Game. It didn't bother me there because it was a proper noun and so capitalized. Uncapitalized I think I would have had the same reaction as Teresa.

#33 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:07 PM:

I try to devise a naming system for a given story. The one for a novella I'm currently working on:

Royalty have Eastern European names (I impressed a Hungarian friend by naming a prince Laslo).

Servants are named after characters in literature (a variation on the Roman habit of naming slaves after Gods).

Clergy and Doctors have Arabic, Hebrew or Latinized names.

It seems to be working out fairly well, though I did accidentally name a long-dead princess Vespa. Luckily someone caught it.

#34 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:09 PM:

I don't think it's worthwhile trying to create character names that have no meaning in other languages, but avoiding names that sound like really bad words in Germanic and Romance languages is a good idea.

Hey, even IKEA makes mistakes and they're the masters of Scandinavian-sounding nonce words. A few years ago, they named a children's bed frame "Gutvik". When it hit the market, heads exploded all over Germany.

I'll refrain from translating the pronounced version, but you can try it yourself, remembering that German "V" = English "F" and it does mean what it sounds like.

#35 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:13 PM:

My wife and I were in Budhapest when the movie Snatch came out there. They translated the title quite literally so we saw posters all over that said Podfük in big black letters.

#36 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:16 PM:

For several years, the city in my first novel was going to be called Lorem, which I thought was a perfectly serviceable gibberish fantasy name. I eventually had a moment of clarity and named it something else.

For creating and polishing fantasy names, I like to use online phone directories-- French, German, Hungarian, etc. Too many times, I've pretzelled my brain for hours on end trying to come up with the perfect gibberish name, only to find that 50,000 people in Albania have it as a surname.

#37 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:18 PM:

I thought the tradition was to name people after places and places after people?

The definitive article on the Corporate version of this is Ruth Shalit's The Name Game.

This works the other way too - I used to think 'Tarka Dal' meant Otter with Lentils.

#38 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:23 PM:

In an early draft of Joe Kertes's novel "Boardwalk," he made up the character names by picking obscure words from a dictionary. My favourite was a female professor named Ootid Fedge. (If I ever have another daughter....) By the time the book was published all the fun names had been replaced by more conventional ones.

#39 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:35 PM:

Years ago, writing a short story set in Latin America, I let my brain generate a few appropriate-sounding Spanish names and thought no more about it. It wasn't until a few weeks later I discovered they were all politicians in Argentina (or somewhere S. American); presumably I'd read a story mentioning them in the paper that morning and forgotten the context. (Thankfully, I don't think anyone else noticed)

Serge: I've lost count of the amount of bad sf I've read where "parsec" seems to be interpreted as roughly synonymous with "kilometre"...

#40 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:37 PM:

JVP:

Ursula LeGuin reports naming the city Omelas in the great short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by a similar method.

SALEM, OREGON

#41 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:38 PM:

This may be the right time, Teresa, to preemptively admit my embarrassment that my novel in your pile somewhere has a kingdom named Midden.

I think my vocabulary's a bit above average, but I honestly did not know when I wrote the book that "midden" was a word. Seriously. I do now, and this is at the very top of my list of things to correct (now that it's too late, of course).

#42 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:39 PM:

I think the Diane Wynne Jones story is alluding to C. J. Cherryh, at least if I'm recalling right. It's the one about the fictional author's coffee-fuelled non-stop writing sessions being reflected by the sounds-like-coffee-fuelled non-stop piloting of the characters, with a strong resemblance in feel to the tech of the Alliance-Union stories.

Strange things happen.

#43 ::: James Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:39 PM:

At the risk of appearing to be a nattering nabob of negativity, I would avoid retasking one or two real words as well. In particular, I would not call cyborgs "Tools" and if I had to call them that, I would not call the top models "major Tools."

At least, I _think_ that was the adjective. It was in a back-swing*/singularity novel so I am not going back in to check. I remember it was an unfortunate choice of words, given the use of Tool to mean a cyborg.

* "Gee, the world is so crowded that my hero is having trouble with his sword's back-swing. Better kill off a few billion people to give him more room."

#44 ::: Steve Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:56 PM:

We google character names and titles, too, after the coincidence of sharing the title Agent of Change with another Steve Miller -- both books published the same year. When we needed a new element we borrowed one from Compton Crook (aka Stephen Tall) and used Timonium, his home town and a place I edited a newspaper. Kay's Aileron mentioned above was bad, and I've seen folks using the names of currently active actors, which seems wrong unless usefully referential

#45 ::: Stef ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:02 PM:
A well known fantasy author's first work has a major character apparently named after a support group for the spouses of alcoholics. Made it damn hard for me to suspend my disbelief.

My high school girlfriends and I had fun with that. "And ifh you REALLY gesh in trouble, you can break open the elfshtones and DRINK them!"

#46 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:15 PM:

One of the early Man from UNCLE novels had a villain named Tixe Ylno, quite consciously.

I think those islands off San Francisco are actually the Farallons, so Farrolon is not a bad name to consider.

#47 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:15 PM:

When one of my former employers announced the name of a company were were buying software from, several of my co-workers broke up laughing -- apparently, the name (which I have, alas, forgotten) is a very rude word in Arabic, or certain dialects thereof.

I once read a self-published fantasy novel in which the military ranks were anagrams or near-anagrams of ours -- joram from major, for instance. (I don't habitually read self-published books; this was written by a friend's grandson, and showed potential, IMO; it was a fun read, no huge problems, a bit trite, but not unreadably so, to me. Similar to Deed of Paksennarrion.)

#48 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:19 PM:

I hate to tell you this, Deborah, but it's been done.

#49 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:24 PM:

Sometimes writers do it on purpose, but subtly. Lois McMaster Bujold has a young character named Martin, and his last name is never, ever mentioned, but his brother is Corporal Kosti, and his mother is always called Ma Kosti.

There's an NPR reporter named Martin Kaste (pronounced the same), and I shall ask LMB if she did that on purpose the very next time I see her.

Steve, I've been known to call the Republican party "a stinking midden where true conservatives smother in the effluvia of right-wing extremists." If your kingdom is nahhhsty, maybe it's not such a bad name.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:29 PM:

To Andrew Gray:

About 'parsec' being used to mean 'kilometer'... Of course, there is the INfamous example of Han Solo using 'parsec' as a unit of time and that had lots of people mad at George Lucas (even more than his later cooking up the ewoks?). Anyway, I remember an interview with Mark Hammill where he pointed that lots of people had pointed to George the slight problem with that, but he kept it in anyway, to show that Han Solo doesn't always know what he's talking about, I think. A notion that's not really reassuring to a passenger of the Millenium Falcon.

#51 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:31 PM:

A distant cousin of my wife's wrote (and had published) a fantasy novel called "The lament of Abalone". We have a copy, passed on by my mother-in-law, so I know this is not a spoof. There's no reason to suppose I'll ever meet the author, but sometimes, when I run out of other things to fear in the night, I wonder what I could possibly say to her.

#52 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:31 PM:

Tom: I realised after submitting that I had switched the A with the O. :)

Stef: I think I know which character you are referring to, since I hit those books right after the Very Important Sixth Grade Seminar on Drinking and Drugs, and choked on the same thing.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:39 PM:

My wife just completed a fantasy novel set in Africa around the time of Alexander the Great. She had a real problem with coming up with names because there's nothing written down about that part of the world that's older than the early Christian Era. She didn't want to make up silly names a la Burroughs so she wound up using the Yoruba as a model, although they came after Alex the Pretty Good.

#54 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Meilssa Mead: My first novel has characters named after towns in New York's Southern Tier.

Exit 58 of the NYS Thruway is helpfully signed for the towns of "IRVING GOWANDA" , which I've always thought would make a wonderful character name. He practically writes himself.

#55 ::: Darice ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:53 PM:

I saw a book a few years ago titled The Bone Orchard. Being an Elvis Costello fan, I was intrigued (the title is a line from a Costello song), I thumbed through it... only to find that the author had named his hard-boiled protagonist Declan MacManus (which is Costello's real name).

The disconnect was too great for me to actually read the book.

#56 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:07 PM:

Steve E: In my book-in-work for Tor, there's a character named Midden. However, it's explained to a surprised observer that it's a family name, he comes from a long line of midden-keepers, and that it happens to be an important job (even more so in the book's world, for reasons I won't go into).

Context is your friend. Be good to your context, it may save your backstory some day.

#57 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:11 PM:

Georges Simenon used a vast collection of phone books -

I've heard the laundry detergent story as European market: modelled after Tide, short snappy no unfortunate meanings clears trademark = DRAB so I suspect it's just another old urban legend along the lines of no va.

#58 ::: Rich Magahiz ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:12 PM:

Do you think it's too late to tell George Lucas that the name General Grievous is perhaps infelicitous?

#59 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:22 PM:

I was reading a book last week where the characters had names that sounded too much like man-made materials. They weren't as bad as Nylon and Polymer, but they came close enough to make me giggle at the wrong spots.

When I go hunting for names, I use this site or I go surfing through baby name sites. (To keep things consistent, I first pick the language base(s) for the various countries.)

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:26 PM:

I always imagined Leonia Teaneck as a pillar of the local Junior League.

DB: Sanibel? Sale bin? S. Blaine, in Basel?

JVP, the minute I saw Eva Acitu I'd have stopped to spell her name backward. Not everyone' wired to spot backward English, but if you are, it's very distracting.

#61 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Bob Oldendorf: Exit 58 of the NYS Thruway is helpfully signed for the towns of "IRVING GOWANDA"

While it's not quite suitable for a person, I've always enjoyed the sign on the Pulaski Skyway promising "Kearney So Kearney".

#62 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:32 PM:

Irving Gowanda-you're right! Makes me think of the Shenendehowa middle school, though. (Gowana)

I ended up using Ilion, Olean, Avoca and
Sav(r)ona.

Oh, and on the same trip, for the same book, I used the laziest character naming method ever. I looked to where my little sister was sitting and said "Hey, what's a nice made-up boy's name?"

"Uh, Juliar."

And that was that. The funny thing is that when people read about this character, who's a choirboy, they ask if he was named after Juilliard. I wish I'd been that clever. ;)

#63 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:37 PM:

Hey, even IKEA makes mistakes and they're the masters of Scandinavian-sounding nonce words. A few years ago, they named a children's bed frame "Gutvik". When it hit the market, heads exploded all over Germany.

Er, hmmm? Sorry, I am confused. IKEA does not generally use nonsense words to name their product lines. They're actual words, usually either place names or gerunds or adjectives that somehow bear on the nature or use of the product. Gutvik appears to be a place in Norway. But what's really not working for me is that "vik" is not any word I know in German, so I can't quite sort out why the concept of a good one would make a German speaker's head explode. Is it supposed to be slang?

#64 ::: Rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:39 PM:

Any thoughts on when the habit of using title+initials for character names, or initials plus a "blank" disappeared?

I'm thinking of Poe, (and Dumas?) as examples here, to wit:
"our old acquaintance, Monsieur G -- -- , the Prefect of the Parisian police."
( The Puloined Letter)

Exactly the kind of thing that drove me up the wall as a 13 year old. I'm not sure if it was the age, or the sudden jump from pronounceable syllables to emptiness that got me. I recall reading other stories that had entire characters never referred to except by their initials, which at first seemed kind of snarky, but eventually got to be grating.

R.

#65 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:41 PM:

A former employer had a facility near the home of the University of Oregon. After flying in one day, I noted all the business names that somehow incorporated "Eugene Springfield" and actually wondered who he was.

At least until I looked at a map.

#66 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:47 PM:

There was a BBC TV play a few years back about a convention of fans of a 1980s SF TV series (clearly modelled after Blakes 7) -- in one memorable scene one of the fans is giving a lecture on the mythological significances of the names of the characters... and the drunk writer in the back of the room procedes to point out that they're actually all anagrams of types of Indian food.

One of the early Man from UNCLE novels had a villain named Tixe Ylno, quite consciously.

A writer on another board admitted to naming an overweight character "Lor-etseloc" (or something similar, I can't find the reference now). I think that book has been published, and reasonably well received.

#67 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:56 PM:

Ulrika - the thing a German would hear is the stem of ficken - a bad word indeed.

#68 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:25 PM:

Anne MacCaffrey lifted the names in The Crystal Singer off maps of Ireland, her adopted home, which made it hard to read without brain-strain for Irish people. Towns, lakes, whatever, she stuck them with complete abandon onto planets, moons and characters alike.

As for Lucas, I'm glad he stopped naming Darths by chopping the leading "in" off adjectives before we met Darth Sane, Darth Competent and Darth Dividualistic.

"Prepare to fire! No, not you, Darth Flammable!"

#69 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:41 PM:

The Ikea story reminds me of the Chevy Nova. It sold horribly in Latin America, since no va, in Spanish literally means "It doesn't go."

#70 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:42 PM:

I was hoping that Lucas would persist until we got Darths Kwell, Teralia, and Diragandhi.

Meanwhile, this morning's newspaper had a large ad for some sort of all-natural male enhancement product called Procylon. I note in passing that the flensed remnants of the Pure Food and Drug Act no longer seem to require the makers of "nutritional supplements" to mention that their claimed effects have not been reviewed/approved by the FDA. (Also spotted today in the Asian megamart: a snack-pak of roasted Chinese apricot pits.)

#71 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:52 PM:

> A notion that's not really reassuring
> to a passenger of the Millenium Falcon.

I don't think there is much of anything
reassuring about the Millenium Falcon
if you're a passenger. The hyperdrive is
always breaking down, most of the
maintenence is done by a big monkey,
from the sound it makes when the hyperdrive
goes bad, one could guess that the things
been running without oil for a few parsecs,
and there's probably a silhouette pattern
of it on every Emperial Destroyer with
the note: pummel on sight.

#72 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:52 PM:

what's that red light?

#73 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:54 PM:

I was Procylon as a teenager, I wanted to see them blast that annoying kid and his badly-done robotic doglike thing.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:02 PM:

Good point, Greg, about the Millenium Falcon. I never thought about it, probably because it reminds me of my first car, a Dodge Omni.

Back to how drugs are named, I am reminded of Dilbert's clueless boss trying to name one of their crappy products by picking one name from astronomy and the other name from physics. The best he could come up with was Uranus/Hertz.

#75 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:13 PM:

I had a 1976, three-quarter ton, chevy, 4x4, pickup that had a flatbed made out of 6x6's, and a grill made out of quarter-inch angle iron. (Don't ask me, it came that way.)

You could pop the hood, climb into the engine compartment (when the engine was cold) and close the hood behind you.

I was always futzing with the carbeurator to get it to idle right. new floats, new jets, new distributer.

That truck always made me think it was the terrestrial equivalent of the millenium falcon.

And other drivers often deferred the right of way to me. No wookie to tear someone's arms out of their sockets, but that grille was just plain menacing.

#76 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:16 PM:

> I was Procylon as a teenager,

Then there was that episode where one of the humans got shot down and crash landed on a planet and wound up with a cylon robot with him. Somehow they became friends, figured out world peace, and then by the end of the episode, the robot protected the humans from his mean cylon buddies.

A real tear-jerker that one was...

they redid that with the Borg in StarTrek once.
I wonder what the first version of that story was...

#77 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:42 PM:

My favorite Southern Tier road sign/potential Epic Fantasy Map Element is on Route 81, headed south, just over the border into Pennsylvania: "Endless Mountains, Next 6 Exits." Presumably they are endless on the east-west axis.

Having said that, I will likely use Cadosia (Rt. 17 exit 87A) as a place name in a future work. Never been there, but passed the exit many, many times.

On backwards-reading: yeah, I read most unusual looking words backwards. I can't really shop at Nordstrom's for the distraction of it. Mortsdron? What's that? (Actually, that's a good fantasy villain name. Maybe he lives in Cadosia.)

#78 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:49 PM:

LMAO. some of the names I've used in stories include good Irish names/words (Kayli for one). I also have Very Small Mac program, Imaginame, that came out in 1995, the writer calls it 'his first C project for the Mac." I've come up with a couple of names from that that work, but you have to run it a couple dozen times (it outputs 4 at a time), and you get lots o'stuff that just don't make sense. I do run names online now just to see if it's used, before I get too far in.

#79 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 08:51 PM:

I've mentioned before on this blog my favorite roadsign from Washington State:

HALFWAY TO PARADISE

#80 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:07 PM:

Alex: There are Endless Mountains, really? I put that name in my novel-in-progress, and I wasn't knowingly naming them after anything.

#81 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:08 PM:

And, of course, the incredibly capable EU of Star Wars explained away that "parsecs" bit, if a little handwavy--the Kessel Run goes through an area that's rather black-hole heavy, so the Falcon literally shortened the distance it traveled.

Actually, a fanfic-writing project I'm in made a running joke about deriving names by just turning other words around. One cowriter named a butler Noitisopxe, then put him in a scene to exposit some.

#82 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:09 PM:

(Query: Is it a sign of Mary-Sueism if you use your character's name to play World of Warcraft? Too much self-identity?)

Piscusfiche: Only if it's Mary-Sueish to also use your character's name for your cat.

What? Their personalities are eerily similar, and they're equally likely to make me flee the computer room (where the kittens live) when being contrary.

*readies fork, in preparation for dead and dying Gulab Jamun mercenaries*

#83 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:58 PM:

Alex: There are Endless Mountains, really? I put that name in my novel-in-progress, and I wasn't knowingly naming them after anything.

The mountains in question are the Poconos, and the sign is for the "Endless Mountains Region," (or some such) which is a construct of the PA tourism department. They don't quite have the chutzpah of their brethren in New Jersey, who at one point dubbed the Elizabeth/ Newark area the "Gateway Region," one of the "Seven Tourism Areas of New Jersey." That creates a lovely image of people from pristine Western states trekking in to look at oil refineries and urban blight...

My favorite road sign is the exit off I-95 in northern Maryland labeled:

NORTH EAST
RISING SUN

It always looked like it ought to be the beginning of some sort of secret coded message.

#84 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:07 PM:

There are Endless Mountains, really?

Really.

I put that name in my novel-in-progress

Does your NIP (uhh, hmm, so that's why they generally call 'em WIPs) have hot air balloons? 'Cause that would be cool.

#85 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:10 PM:

On the drug name topic, it still blows my mind that there is actually a drug now named Soma, and it's a muscle relaxant. That just kills me.

#86 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Rich Magahiz wrote:

> Do you think it's too late to tell George Lucas that the name General Grievous is perhaps infelicitous?

Oh, I think it's far far too late to tell George Lucas anything about names - he's been blessed with the most astonishing tin ear.

Most annoying for me are the would-be-clever echoes of normal words - 'Grievous' doesn't even bother to hide anything, but 'Darth Vader' gives of whiffs of 'dark/dastardly invader'.

'Calamari' I can just about handle as a joke except that a) I don't think joke species names help anything in this context and b) he's a lobster dammit, not a squid.

#87 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Oh wow, thanks, Alex!

Nope, no balloons in the WIP (up to this point, anyway) but I did get a smile out of reading the website. I made a playlist to go with the writing, and the song for the part where the hero reaches the Endless Mountains (as he calls them) is "It's Possible." (from Seussical)

#88 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:38 PM:

I've been known to play "That's a good fantasy name!" as a road-trip game, but hopefully that hasn't impressed too many small town names on my subconscious.

There's a small town not that far from where I live named Efland, which always makes me do a double-take; I can't give up the notion that I should be able to take an exit to Elfland.

#89 ::: Brian M. Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:54 PM:

Ulrika wrote:

> But what's really not working for me is that
> "vik" is not any word I know in German, so I can't
> quite sort out why the concept of a good one would
> make a German speaker's head explode. Is it
> supposed to be slang?

German ficken 'to fuck'.

#90 ::: Leah Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 11:12 PM:

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Imzadi by Peter David (one of the Trek novelizations). I was really excited to read the backstory of Will Riker and Deanna Troi...and then I saw the names of the aliens.

I laughed and I had to put the book down.

The aliens were named: Maror (he was the leader), Beitzah, Zroah, Karpas, etc.

Not Indian food, but items on the Passover seder plate.

I was laughing because it was really ridiculous and because there were probably people out there who had no idea where the names came from, possibly including the editors. :)

Peter David is a funny guy.

Also, just as another thing. Soma did not originate in Brave New World if that is what was being implied above. It's actually in the Vedas. But there it's a hallucinogen, not a sleep aid. ;)

#91 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 11:37 PM:

General Motors didn't learn much from the Nova fiasco. The Buick LaCrosse is sold in Canada as the Buick Allure. Why? Because LaCrosse is Quebec slang for masturbation.

#92 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 11:41 PM:

Because LaCrosse is Quebec slang for masturbation.

That explains all those snickers when I told people I was captain of my high school's lacrosse team.

#93 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 11:44 PM:

> but 'Darth Vader' gives of
> whiffs of 'dark/dastardly invader'.

I think all the Darth lords used names that
were words missing a "in" prefix.

Darth (in)Vader
Darth (in)Sidious
Darth (in)Maul

oh, well, never mind....

#94 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:03 AM:

And then there's Orlon of Osnome (E.E. Smith, Skylark Three, 1930). Synthetic fabrics weren't commercially available then (if at all), but since Smith was a chemist, I'll always wonder if he read that in a journal.

#95 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:07 AM:

General Motors didn't learn much from the Nova fiasco.

Probably because it's an urban legend.

IIRC, there's a Colonel Shitov in War And Peace.

#96 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:09 AM:

I confess that I am somewhat amused at a card called a "Cressida."

Not, I would think, a good name for a nice, reliable automobile . . .

#97 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:46 AM:

Lisa Spangenberg:

Will future versions of word processors correct "Troilus and Cressida" to "Toyotas and Cressida?"

#98 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:56 AM:

Tim, I got snopesed! Thanks for setting me straight. As for Soma, even if it didn't come from Huxley, the idea that is was used for a hallucinogen, then by Huxley, and then by a pharmaceutical company doesn't lessen the impact on me. If anything, that's even more bizarre.

#99 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:03 AM:

Soma
SoMa
Soma

I always assumed that it was a back-formation from "somatic."

#100 ::: Jack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:13 AM:

Oh, I think it's far far too late to tell George Lucas anything about names

You certainly can't say he went downhill - he started right off the bat with "Princess Leia Organa."

I seem to remember hearing that "darth vader" is pretty close to "dark father" in Dutch. Let's see... the online dictionary confirms "vader" = "father", but "dark" is "donkel". It's "dunkel" in German... something else in Danish... nope, no "darths".

#101 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:15 AM:

"As for Lucas, I'm glad he stopped naming Darths by chopping the leading "in" off adjectives before we met Darth Sane, Darth Competent and Darth Dividualistic."

Interestingly, there is a town in Washington named Vader. I have no idea about the chronology, but one can only assume it came first.

Alfred Bester used British phonebooks (he was vacationing there at the time) to name characters in The Stars My Destination. I rather like the pseudo-Victorian sound of it, but residents of Stratham, Sheffield, etc. might disagree.

#102 ::: Jack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:37 AM:

I actually liked Lucas' cheesy naming schemes. They added to the cheerful, pulp-y feel of the original movies.

(The intentional pulp also makes him somewhat impervious to Teresa's original complaint.)

I find I feel the same way about the "parsecs" comment: the blatant error added to the kitsch. The field of black holes is actually a very neat, very self-consistent explanation. Too neat, too self-consistent. Too bad.

#103 ::: Mintichen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:15 AM:

Steve Taylor wrote:

"'Darth Vader' gives of whiffs of 'dark/dastardly invader'"

I always thought he was named "Vader" because it means "father" in old English, in which case it would have been a clever bit of foreshadowing.

#104 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:21 AM:

Exit 58 of the NYS Thruway is helpfully signed for the towns of "IRVING GOWANDA" , which I've always thought would make a wonderful character name.

I feel the same way about "Annville Cleona" on route 81 in Pennsylvania, which is also a high school. "Cleona Annville" might be more appropriate, actually.

There are Endless Mountains, really? I put that name in my novel-in-progress, and I wasn't knowingly naming them after anything.

There isn't an actual mountain range called that; I live in that area, and it sort of vaguely refers to Bradford, Susquehanna, Sullivan and Wyoming counties, all of which are basically covered with forests and state game lands and aren't really very mountainous. I don't think it draws any tourists, it's just the name of the reason, like any other vaguely defined region ("Wyoming Valley", "Delaware Valley", "Mahoning Valley", "Inland Empire").

#105 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:34 AM:

While it's not quite suitable for a person, I've always enjoyed the sign on the Pulaski Skyway promising "Kearney So Kearney".

There's another sign on Rt. 81, in the Endless Mountains region, that says "Lenox Lenoxville Scott" (if I remember correctly). Doesn't that sound like the perfect fop?

But my favorite exit sign is the little example of dada on 279, just north of Pittsburgh:

Cranberry
Mars

#106 ::: Brian M. Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:42 AM:

Mintichen wrote:

> I always thought he was named "Vader" because it
> means "father" in old English,

Not quite: the Old English is 'fæder'. The Middle Dutch cognate is 'vader', though.

#107 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:51 AM:

Then there's the Army base in southern WA which I always call the Aristotelian exit:

Fort Lewis
No Fort Lewis

#108 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:07 AM:

'Darth Vader' gives off whiffs of 'dark/dastardly invader'.

"Is that me? Fie and double fie. Muttley! Where did you put my clean filters?"

#109 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:22 AM:

You need to be careful not to name your fictional characters after real geographic places. Like, say, Christina Lake.

#110 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:11 AM:

One place to get names current in the later 1800's/early 1900s would be from the casts and crews of old, old movies in IMDB.

#111 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:21 AM:

On backwards-reading: yeah, I read most unusual looking words backwards. I can't really shop at Nordstrom's for the distraction of it. Mortsdron? What's that? (Actually, that's a good fantasy villain name. Maybe he lives in Cadosia.)

It's a perfectly common last name, formed according to the Swedish practise of taking two words relating to nature and putting them together. (The result is often nonsensical.) The words in question here is "nord" (north) and "ström" (stream). My maiden name was Wikström, where "vik" means bay or gulf.

When we're talking about car names and other languages, Honda made a huge mistakes a few years ago when they named a model Fitta. It was quickly renamed to Jazz in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

#112 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:11 AM:

One place to get names current in the later 1800's/early 1900s would be from the casts and crews of old, old movies in IMDB.

Well . . . sort of. Moving pictures go back to 1894, narrative film to 1903, and even for those few that survive (90% of all silents are lost), not much cast, and less crew, data exist from the dawn years More to the point, it's simply not that long ago in terms of social patterns; Western surnames had already lost almost all their connection to professions (you might still find Cartwrights who made wagons, but not many Fletchers were still in the arrow business). And it's an era of printing: we have to guess at how Willum Shayk Speare spelt hys name, but we have census records for the Victorians and after.

Using imdb isn't a -bad- idea, it's just not likely to be as productive as other avenues.

#113 ::: Irina ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:13 AM:

The worst one I've seen was in an obscure Star Trek novel: Ambassador Edentata from the planet Tandenborstel. Edentata is Latin for "toothless" and Tandenborstel is Dutch for "toothbrush".

#114 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:20 AM:

Interesting that you mention this suffix thing....

I have a primary character in my current novel in progress, AIREALM, whose name is Tion which is short for Fluctuation. His sister's name is Bili which is short for Stability. However, both names are sort of crucial to the plot and I can't (nor do I want to) change them.

If this novel ever gets submitted to Tor, I hope you won't mind. :-)

#115 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:28 AM:

The winners in the 'foreign oops' award were Commodore Computers.
They had consecutive product lines called PET (which is 'fart' in French) and VIC (see IKEA passim).

#116 ::: euan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 06:10 AM:

No matter what name you choose it's likely to have some recognition somewhere. Joan Vinge named one (minor) character "Coonabarabran" in one of her Snow Queen books - but that's the town nearest Australia's main optical astronomy observatory, Siding Spring Mountain.
Stood out like dog's balls.

#117 ::: Janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 07:16 AM:

I named a character in my middle grade novel THE WILD HUNT "Gerund" because he was a running, leaping, tumbling kind of kid. I bet at least one teacher got it.

About forty years ago, we found a delicious lemonady pop drink in France which they subsequently tried to bring into the US and failed. It had an onomatopoeic name for the opening of the bottle. Psssssssht. Never worked here. Hmmmm. I wonder why?

Jane

#118 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 07:18 AM:

On my way to work I used to pass a couple of road signs that I always thought would make good names for fantasy characters: the villanous Ffordd Ddeuol och Blaen [1] and the heroic Arwyddion rhan Amser [2]. I suppose they might be a tad distracting for anyone who actually speaks Welsh.

[1] "Dual carriageway ahead"
[2] "Part-time traffic lights", if I recall correctly.

#119 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 07:36 AM:

IKEA product name explanations can be found here.

Janeyolen: I am still mourning Orelia's name change to Orangina. I must learn to get over stuff like that.

#120 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 08:07 AM:

This whole thread is reminding me of one I started up on rec.arts.sf.written a while back called "Unfortunate names in SF and Fantasy". I'll mention the ones I started off with there:

Being Tolkien doesn't entirely protect you from unfortunate naming. He sited his First Age city of Gondolin upon a hill named Túna. Also, in at least one early draft Frodo Baggins was to be named Bingo.

Orson Scott Card in his novel A Planet Called Treason named the planet's capital city Humping. I'd love to know what the heck he was thinking. (He may have fixed this in the revised version, Treason; I wouldn't know.)

#121 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 08:13 AM:

I've been known to play "That's a good fantasy name!" as a road-trip game, but hopefully that hasn't impressed too many small town names on my subconscious.

We play that as "Dragaeran animal or Country-Western singer"? Valdosta, for example, is clearly a distant relative of the vallista and thus a Brustian critter; Wiota and Exira, on the other hand, would feel comfortable in the extended Judd family.

My least favorite reclaimed verb was when a wizard was -- apparently with an authorial straight face -- "going off for a wizz." Didn't need to know that, thanks.

The problem with using Finnish character names is that tyypoes staart to look quiite normaal. (Unfortunately, there's not much choice when the book is set in Finland.)

#122 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 08:36 AM:

Also, in at least one early draft Frodo Baggins was to be named Bingo.

Must... resist... Wodehouse... pastiche...

Chad: I also love NORTH EAST/RISING SUN, although it's been a while since I drove past it. Emily: Yes, yes, on Efland. I always wondered if there was a King of Efland.

It strikes me that "noted in passing" is an increasingly apt title for this thread.

#123 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 08:53 AM:

So Tion would make you stumble?

Also I have a fondness for certain rarely used words as names, for example Megrim and Morganatic would be names I would pick in a fantasy context.

#124 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Jonathan: If you go a little further north than Washington State, you can be on the road to Hell's Gate. (It's just beyond Hope.)

WRT the "Endless Mountains", there's an "Executive Committee Range" in the Antarctic (in Marie Byrd Land, wherever that is). There's something wonderfully... modern about that.

#125 ::: Gareth Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:06 AM:

Paul Clarke: not to forget the over-affectionate female character Mynediad Am Ddim*

*Free Entry

#126 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:07 AM:

I called a town "Wheatstone Bridge" after a circuit I studied in school physics. I changed it after my sister read it and laughed, and I realised that she, and numerous other potential readers, had followed the same physics syllabus as me.

I get the rest of my place names, including the new name for that town, from thorough abbreviations/acronyms/pronunciation-munging of existing words and phrases, adding likely-sounding place-name suffixes (-ton, -bury, etc.) where necessary. My places are meant to be in England, so I have to be quite careful to make them sound realistic without duplicating names that already exist.

I'm also having to avoid mentioning one of my major characters' first name and surname together, since someone with a very similar name married a celebrity recently. Maybe nobody else would make the connection, but I would.

#127 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:13 AM:

Jane Yolen: I think it's spelled Pschitt. They were still selling it over there as of about five years ago.

On the other hand, they had to rename the Toyota MR2 for the French market, because it would have been pronounced very close to "merdeux", meaning "shitty".

#128 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:32 AM:

Melissa - those of us from Elmira are going to have an awful time with your novel. But then again, how many of us are likely to be from Elmira?

Niall - Darth Sane, Darth Competent and Darth Dividualistic.

"Prepare to fire! No, not you, Darth Flammable!"

You are bad, bad, wicked, and evil. Thank you.

#129 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 10:08 AM:

Hmmm... working on a kids story with the wicked Princess Alexia (since she's so wicked, there just aren't any words to describe her).

If I ever become a professional actor, I'd like to use Braxton Hicks, as my trade name.

The winner in trad ename medicines has to be Vagisil. Why they never used the tag line "When your vag is ill, use...", I guess I'll never know. Hmmm... name of the proud interceptor in my new space opera?

#130 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 10:32 AM:

In Iain M. Banks's novel Against a Dark Background there's a minor character called Elson Roa. The name came from a broken sign for the street where Iain lived: Nelson Road. A broken sign for Colham Green gave me a name that I used years later for one of my characters, Clovis Colha Gree.

In M. John Harrison's The Pastel City the place-names in a far-future fantasy realm come from real places in the Highlands. They work remarkably well, though for years I thought Viriconium might be Inverness.

#131 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Ken, broken signs as names have been an honoured tradition ever since Piglet's grandfather Trespassers William.

#132 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:33 AM:

The original title of my novel was that of its setting, Xalycis. Could be another of those sex drugs, I suppose. And the character with the sorta Anglo Saxon monicker Leodvin actually got his name from a compression of Leonardo da Vinci.

Other random comments: I'm always a bit nonplussed with folding my husband's Fruit of the Loom undies because of their abbreviated brand name, FTL. (No, I'm not going to joke on that one!) I don't tend to go by my married name, for then I'd have to spell *both* words when identifying myself, but he tells me that Hanscom originally meant "witches' hollow" -- pretty cool, if true. (Haggens Coomb, something like that?)

The original "you have to be old enough to get it" character names were in the James Bond books. As a grade school/junior high kid, I didn't have a clue.

Finally, a distinctive local business name that's been changed now, alas: the Bruce Weary Pain Clinic.

#133 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Thanks for the pointer to the IKEA product naming. I recognized the use of people-names. As an owner of Billy-the-Bookcase, Niklas-the-Wall-Unit and a former owner of Bjorn-the-Dresser, this was pretty obvious. But names like Malm are less obvious so I always assumed that there were nonce-words in the mix.

The Gutvik story, however, is no urban legend. I just didn't know it was a town in Norway. I can see piles of German tourists spasming with laughter on the outskirts of town by the "Welcome to Gutvik" sign.

#134 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:36 PM:
I recognized the use of people-names. As an owner of Billy-the-Bookcase, Niklas-the-Wall-Unit and a former owner of Bjorn-the-Dresser, this was pretty obvious.

Fond memories of a college friend who named her chair Chesterfield, her sofa Davenport, her footstool Otto, and her carpet Waldo. She always had to footnote the carpet's location (sebz gur jnyy gb gur qbbe).

#135 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:39 PM:

After seeing his origin story in Episode III, I figure a better Sith name for Anakin Skywalker would be Darth Crispin.

#136 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 12:42 PM:

Since we're sharing name generators.

Darth Vader was actually translated "Dark Vador" in french. Always wondered why. But then, seeing how some of the quirky conventions of french movie translators dangerously border on incompetence (though, to be honest, it seems to go the same pretty much everywhere), it may be better not to ask too many questions.
There might be answers.

#137 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Bryan: Tion would be most likely to make me stumble if it were used as a common noun rather than a name: tion, tions, tioner. (I find myself assuming that no one who tions or is a tioner can be female.)

I'm bothered as it is by characters whose names have inappropriate etymology, but I know that's a quirk of mine, so I strive to ignore it. Calling characters Megrim or Morganatic would drive me bugf*ck. "Morganatic" would be especially bad -- it's the wrong part of speech.

#138 ::: Jean Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:19 PM:

Eleanor - not quite. MR2 is closer to "emmerdeur" - a bore.

I heard a similar story about Rolls Royce having to rename a car they'd planned to call the "Silver Mist" because it doesn't play well in Germany. Don't know if it's true.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Is the Ninja motorcycle still around? I think I first read about it in a column by the late Herb Caen, who then pointed out that 'Ninja' means 'Silent Death'. Yet another case of someone using something because it sounded cool without knowing what it means came up in Caen's columns: there was this San Francisco hotel's flyer that bragged how its customers would find themselves enjoying the Big Sleep.

As for MR2, yes, 'emmerdeur' does mean that someone is a bore, a very annoying person, but it definitely has 'sh*t' in its etymology.

#140 ::: Deborah Green ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:37 PM:

adamsj wrote:

I hate to tell you this, Deborah, but it's been done.

Obviously, I didn't Google that one. *blush* I figured that would be too generic to keep! Back to WWD, I guess...

When I worked in the garment industry, I always got pulled into the meetings for naming garments. Inevitably the legal department would reject half the names and we would have to start again.

#141 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:55 PM:

MR2 is homophone of the apostrophic "Hey, merdeux !", not "emmerdeur", actually. Still keeping the ethymology, that's what matters.

As for ninja, the ethymology is 忍者
忍 nin = endure, hide something or oneself
者 sha (contracted ja)= person

Nothing to do with silent killing.

#142 ::: Deborah Green ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Sean Bosker wrote:

The Ikea story reminds me of the Chevy Nova. It sold horribly in Latin America, since no va, in Spanish literally means "It doesn't go."

Years ago Chemical Bank had a similar experience when it put branches in Chinatown. The translated name had associations with things that didn't work well. That may explain why it changed names in the subsequent mergers (eventually to Chase).


#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:01 PM:

So, 'Ninja' doesn't mean 'Silent Death'? I was misinformed. Apologies about that. Still, do you really a vehicle named after an assassin?

Another weird bit of unfortunate naming, for those who remember Gerry Anderson's "Thunderbirds"... A few of the episodes featured a nuclear-powered passenger plane that had a tendency towards being sabotaged when it didn't crash, or stay airborne too long, at which point its engines would overload. The plane's name? The Fire Flash.

#144 ::: Synedrian ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:09 PM:

"Morganatic" would be especially bad -- it's the wrong part of speech.

I wonder, does "Theodoric" bother you?

I also always feel that "Emily" is a closet adverb.

#145 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Serge: So, 'Ninja' doesn't mean 'Silent Death'? I was misinformed. Apologies about that. Still, do you really a vehicle named after an assassin?

Yes, you very well might. Consider the vehicle - it was in the vanguard of street-legal superbikes. Most of its target market had probably seen Shogun, and face it, the stereotype of the Ninja assasin is pretty cool. So, the coolness rubs off on the rider, plus if you knew how to ride the thing properly, you could "kill" most of the other bikes on the road. Not that I'm condoning competitive riding on the street or anything.

Now it's an established brand with lots of brand equity. The market has a certain expectation of a bike with the Ninja label. It's also spawned name-imitators like Suzuki's Katana, also a fine bike from a similar mold.

Me, I like sport-touring or standard bikes and my long-time ride bears only letters and numbers, K75, in the classic BMW Motorrad naming style: lead letter indicates motor design, numbers indicate displacement, trailing letters indicate body/trim style.

#146 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:18 PM:

There's an essay on world-building by Lin Carter where he talks about naming a magician Herpes Zoster. I always wondered just _what_ he was thinking.

#147 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Meanwhile, has anybody already mentionned Mister Spock as an example of oops-naming? Star Trek's producers didn't know about Doctor Spock at the time. I still like how Theodore Sturgeon dealt with that in the episode "The Other Side of Paradise", by having Spock tell his girlfriend that 'Spock' is not his real name but a simplification of something much too hard for humans to pronounce correctly.

#148 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:01 PM:

Emily: When we were buying our house in NC, I saw Efland as a list of the RDU suburbs, and wanted to move there immediately. (I finally saw it and decided whoever put it on the list of suburbs must have more driving patience than I, since it was way out in zee boonies. Well, compared to where we ended up settling.)

That also reminds me: whenever my boyfriend and I go to his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, we drive past this intersection of roads...if you turn one direction you end up on Kings Cross and if you turn the other way, you end up on Fury's Ferry. Everytime we drive through it, I always want to write them into a fantasy novel, since they sound just like they fell out of some big brick of a book.

I picked up Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card the other day for a re-read, and remembered suddenly that the man really had some weird naming things in that book, particularly when it comes to the name of the hero, Orem. See, for most people outside of Utah, Orem doesn't mean a thing. But OSC knows better, since he grew up in Orem. And as I did too, I REALLY couldn't get over reading the word Orem as the first name for a person. Normally, when I recognise a source, I feel all warm and fuzzy as if I'm in on some inside joke. But this one time, it REALLY irritated me.

#149 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:15 PM:

Oh, that Orem thing leads to all sorts of potential ickiness! Given OSC's weird ideas I'm wondering what sorts of allegories we could find.

#150 ::: Luke McGuff ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:17 PM:

While you’re at it, run your new words through Google. It’s surprising how many of them turn out to be the names of drugs, Indian side dishes, or obscure islands.

I know that I should read all the previous comments, and that in doing so I'd see at least two or three dozen that remarked on this snippet, but I must say that's very funny.

Run your new words through Google. Hah!

#151 ::: twohorses ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:18 PM:

The King of Efland? Well that would be Howard Stern.

On Thunderbirds: I liked how all the sons were named after Mercury-era astronauts.

#152 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Re: Ninja, I'd rather ride in a vehicle named "hiding person" OR "silent death" than " giant exploding ball of gas."

One car that always gets me is the Toyota Tacoma. Have you been to Tacoma? Let's just say that there aren't many opportunties for off-roading around there.

#153 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:43 PM:

On the amusing exit names side, Lawrence Livermore labs has two roads that go all the way around the lab, the Outer Loop and the Inner Loop. There is an intersection, therefore, where you have a choice of turning on to the WINNER LOOP or the SINNER LOOP, according to the street sign.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:07 PM:

About the Thunderbirds being named after the original Mercury astronauts, I notice that there was no son named Wally. Or maybe that is Brain's real name and he is Jeff Tracy's unrecognized son, thus Brain always refering to him as Mister Tracy. It all makes sense.

#155 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:12 PM:

You know, while I agree with a basic google check, and of course if I was writing quasi-Celtic, I'd try not to name my heroine "Napkin" in Welsh (especially if that does have the connotation "Sanitary"...), but must I worry if her name means "idiot" in Northern Tutchone? There are so many languages out there, it seems like there are bound to be clashes.

#156 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:16 PM:

Piscus, your Zyastra is pretty close to Zyprexa. Is your protagonist mentally ill?

#157 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:39 PM:

Therese Norén writes:

When we're talking about car names and other languages, Honda made a huge mistakes a few years ago when they named a model Fitta. It was quickly renamed to Jazz in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Oh, dear. And that doesn't require any faffing about pretending the word is spelled other than as it is.

I am reminded of a story Art Widner tells about some yokels admiring his Volvo, though they had never heard of a "Volva" before. I suggested a possible retort: "If you'd ever been in one, you'd remember."

#158 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:40 PM:

Thought I'd add a link to the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau and a picture.

While it's the opposite corner of Pennsylvania from me, and the one part of the state I've never actually been to, I can hazard a guess about the origins of the name. The Appalachians curve through Pa., from the northeast to the southwest. The flat parts of the state are in the northwest, near Erie, and the southeast, near Philadelphia. Everything else tends to be hilly, if not actually mountainous. And the hills and mountains were originally covered with trees and bushes, such as the mountain laurel that's now the state flower.

So I suspect the early explorers and pioneers, who were on foot or horseback, found the trip through that area slow going and began to despair of ever seeing flat land again.

#159 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:44 PM:

Lisa -- worse than just giving his poor schmuck of a wizard that name, Carter feels compelled to explain it, by claiming references to Hermes Trismegistus and Zoroaster. Imaginary Worlds is for almost its whole length a demonstration of Uncertain on Language as a Concept that was scarcely equaled until Dungeons & Dragons cast its own stygian radiance across the field's squamous rugosity.

Serge -- Well, there wasn't a Donald Tracy, either. (Let's not even go into the possibilities of "Gus," or "Deke," or even "Gordo.") And Brains's first name is given once as Hiram -- or maybe that's just another secret identity. They certainly are awfully secret at I.R. (one can only imagine how many times the Camera Detector would go off per mission these days, but then, the future is almost always a disappointment).

#160 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:45 PM:

Freeway exit sign in Riverside:

UC
Downtown

And here in the Northwest, they apparently fix roads with their blue pencils, as one often sees signs indicating:

Traffic Revision Ahead

#161 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:05 PM:

There's a roadsign coming into a traffic circle somewhere in NJ that reads
SIGNAL
METERS
TRAFFIC

I can't help but read it as an imperative, and I try to figure out how to signal "meters traffic." I don't know, maybe I read too many O'Brian books. ("Mr. Pullings, signal meters traffic.")

#162 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:36 PM:

"If I ever become a professional actor, I'd like to use Braxton Hicks, as my trade name."

Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next book DO have a character named Braxton Hicks in them. It's quite deliberate, and Braxton's isn't the only name like that.

"Melissa - those of us from Elmira are going to have an awful time with your novel. But then again, how many of us are likely to be from Elmira?"

Probably not many, but I have so many cousins out there I wouldn't be surprised if we were related. I figure I'm giving half my family a good laugh. Are you from Elmira?

#163 ::: Jerry Kindall ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:37 PM:

Still, do you really a vehicle named after an assassin?

How'd you like to be caught in a Crossfire? Actually, a naming firm argues that consumers just don't think that way. Probably the same factor applies in the case of the Ninja. The attributes the consumer brings to it are not "assassin" and "dangerous" but "dark" and "cool."

I have generated a number of interesting non-words by making left-hand off-by-one errors on a Dvorak keyboard. Since the vowels are all on the home row, this tends to produce "words" with vewuls n oll thu rght ylecus (sorry, I mean "vowels in all the right places") that are somehow odd and alien...

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Hiram Brain? When was that revealed?

#165 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:57 PM:

Deborah Green: Years ago Chemical Bank had a similar experience when it put branches in Chinatown. The translated name had associations with things that didn't work well. That may explain why it changed names in the subsequent mergers (eventually to Chase).

Actually, Chemical didn't change it's name until it merged with Chase - and the management remained mostly Chemical. This transaction removed one of the wierder bank names from the financial landscape. Then again, Chemical itself swallowed up Manufacturer's Hanover, and in the past had been such things as the Corn Exchange Bank Trust Company and The Chemical Corn Exchange Bank, which I think would be pretty neat to see imprinted on my checks. Alas.

#166 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Heresiarch:

The city, Tacoma, is named for the mountain Tacoma or Tahoma (think of the H as being like that in "l'chaim!") -- which is also known as Mt. Rainier. Rainier's height is 14,410 feet above sea level -- which is where Tacoma is, only 44 miles away -- or 4393 meters. The distance from downtown Tacoma to the edge of development is about 23 miles.

In other words, Mt. Tacoma is plenty wild, and Tacoma the city ain't that far from said wilderness.

(Not that I would ever buy an SUV, as I'm both secure in my sexuality and in my driving ability. But hey.)

#167 ::: Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 08:53 PM:

I read Tom de Haven's _Chronicles of the King's Tramp_ in college, and handed them round to my friends as well . . . some of whom were from Richmond (Virginia). Between giggles they explained to me that the character of Ukrops, a Guardsman was named after a local chain of grocery stores.

#168 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Piscus, your Zyastra is pretty close to Zyprexa. Is your protagonist mentally ill?

Marilee: Not unless you count a case of postpartum. I don't think Zyprexa's close enough for me to worry about though, but thanks for the heads up. :)

#169 ::: Jerol J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 09:53 PM:

I am reminded of a story Art Widner tells about some yokels admiring his Volvo, though they had never heard of a "Volva" before. I suggested a possible retort: "If you'd ever been in one, you'd remember."

My brother owned a Volvo and my dad never failed to mispronounce it in the most horrible way. And he had no idea what he was doing either. Half the time we'd have to stumble into another room to break out in laughter.

#170 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 10:38 PM:

Serge, Brains uses the name "Hiram K. Hackenbacker" in a late episode, called, appropriately enough, "Alias Mr. Hackenbacker." (It's the thirtieth or fortieth time that villains use the Special VIP Bomb Installation Escalator and Bar-Lounge to put a bomb aboard one of those hypersonic airliners -- for plot reasons, not the nuclear Fireflash this time.)

Anyway, according to the Carlton TV website (thunderbirdsonline.com), H.K.H. is merely a cover name, and "his real name is unknown." I would think a person of such intelligence could come up with a more euphonious alias (say, "Dr. Octyl S. Suffoccinate"* or maybe "Bond . . . Hydrogen Bond") but I guess we're already having that discussion.

*Not the Spider-Man villain.

#171 ::: Ana ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 10:42 PM:

Finally a thread to which I can contribute.

I suppose the Darth names can be explained by George's tin ear, but what is it with the inappropriate Portuguese names? Amidala means tonsil, Panaka is a fancy misspelling of idiot, Count Dooku sounds like Count of Asshole and Sifo-Dyas reads like f*cked (these last two were renamed in Brazil). Now that I think of it, the trend actually started with Boba "Silly Girl" Fett.

Star Wars: Teaching kids to swear in Portuguese since 1980.

#172 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:11 PM:

I'd always thought "Dooku" was a toddler's (no particular toddler in mind, though it would have to be one with script approval) pronunciation of "Dracula," and when Christopher Lee saw his script, he smiled, reminded himself that he was a professional, and wished to heck that Burt Lancaster was still around to offer him "Return of the Crimson Pirate."

Just as, while fiercely fierce battle, choreographed as if by Fosse or Nijinsky,* swirled all around her, Natalie Portman no doubt thought, Léon would kick all you guys' backsides into low orbit, and look cool doing it.

*Remembering that both those guys are dead.

#173 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:28 PM:

Lucas has said that "Jar-Jar Binks" was in fact named by his son. (He hasn't admitted that the script was also written by him, but I have my suspicions.)

And Senator Lott Dodd? Give me a break.

#174 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:49 PM:

Alex Cohen:
SIGNAL
METERS
TRAFFIC

I can't help but read it as an imperative

and

Larry Brennen:
Chemical didn't change it's name until it merged with Chase.... This transaction removed one of the wierder bank names from the financial landscape.

Combing these two comments reminds me that one of Chase's incarnations was as "Chase Lincoln First", which was not only weird, but which I was never able to read as anything BUT an imperative.

#175 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 01:13 AM:

Bob O: I think Chase Lincoln First was only an Upstate/Rochester thing. Certainly, folks around ROC tended to call the Chase tower the Lincoln First tower. Upstate still has Manufacturer's and Trader's (a.k.a. M&T) Bank, but it's not nearly as odd as any bank involving corn. Ohio's Fifth Third Bank is probably the most oddly-named surviving financial institution.

BTW, to those of us from downstate, calling anything in ROC a tower is amusing. (But don't think that I have anything but fond feelings for Rochester - it's a really nice small city with far more resources than most cities of its size, and I wouldn't mind having one of those nifty victorians on Park Ave.)

#176 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 01:34 AM:

Mike Carey's infernal duchy of Gly in Lucifer always takes me a moment to process. In word-balloon caps, it looks like it's missing a beginning.

On real-world placenames: I live in Edgewood, south of Riverside. It distresses me that there are so few people who know how cool that is.

On other skiffy resonances: My college town had an Eat 'n' Park, a diner chain whose mascot character was a smiley-face cookie. Unfortunately, I'd read the Sandman story "The Golden Boy" only a short time before they put up a big banner advertising SMILEY WATCHES.

Still, the cake-taker of names that passed before too few eyes is, for good or ill, outside of fiction entirely; nothing beats the double-take of having an invoice cross your desk from these guys.

#177 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 01:42 AM:

I was always fascinated, as a child peering across the East River at Wall Street, and as a paperboy hawking New York Timeses at Court Street and Livingstone Street and other nexi of suits, by the vegetable association of what became "Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Bean" plus "Chemical Corn Bank." It was a corporate succotash.

#178 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 01:46 AM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy:

Those guys, of course, read their science fiction in the magazine with the appropriate first 4 letters, and which name is the reversal of Superboy cheering "Go, Lana!"

#179 ::: vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 04:37 AM:

Lisa Spangenberg wrote:

I confess that I am somewhat amused at a card called a "Cressida."

Not, I would think, a good name for a nice, reliable automobile.

I'm puzzled about that every time I see one. My favourite road-trip game is trying to invent car names that the companies *wouldn't* use. It can be surprisingly challenging. Hyundai Baka. Volkswagen Roach. Ford Emu. Mitzubishi Boils. Toyota Attempt.

#180 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 05:20 AM:

John M. Ford writes: "Well . . . sort of. Moving pictures go back to 1894, narrative film to 1903, and even for those few that survive (90% of all silents are lost), not much cast, and less crew, data exist from the dawn years."

True, but 60 year old actors in the 1930s would have been born in the 1870s, so would have names popular at the time.

"More to the point, it's simply not that long ago in terms of social patterns; Western surnames had already lost almost all their connection to professions (you might still find Cartwrights who made wagons, but not many Fletchers were still in the arrow business)."

I guess I was thinking more of given names, which tend to reflect their time.

Just a thought. It's a potential tool. Could also be useful as a quick way to get some names from a certain nationality, by searching for foreign films from there.

#181 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 06:00 AM:

Thanks, John, about why Brain's first name might be Hiram. I should have remembered that bit from watching the episode on my DVD collection. But I still think that Brain is Jeff Tracy's unrecognized love child Wallie. Probably was conceived in the wood shed too.

#182 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 06:08 AM:

I'm puzzled about that every time I see one. My favourite road-trip game is trying to invent car names that the companies *wouldn't* use. It can be surprisingly challenging. Hyundai Baka. Volkswagen Roach. Ford Emu. Mitzubishi Boils. Toyota Attempt.

One Christmas in Yosemite, the rental car counter clerk handed us the keys to a Suzuki "Esteem." A more underpowered vehicle less suited to driving in the mountains would be difficult to imagine. I wondered aloud why this tin bucket was called an "Esteem," and John replied, "Because it may suck, but it still feels really good about itself."

#183 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 09:16 AM:

My most recently published story ("Beks and the Monkey" in REQUIEM FOR THE RADIOACTIVE MONKEYS, and by the way all the typos in that story were not in the manuscript I submitted), features a private detective character with the unlikely name of Bok Beks.

There's actually a reason he was named after Hannes Bok, but that'll come out in future stories, if and when I write them.

#184 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Alison Scott :
You need to be careful not to name your fictional characters after real geographic places. Like, say, Christina Lake.

I saw a cel from, IIRC, Warner Bros, an aerial view of landscape with locations labelled: Turhan Bay and Veronica Lake. I was nearly lying on the floor laughing in the main library.

David Goldfarb :
Being Tolkien doesn't entirely protect you from unfortunate naming. He sited his First Age city of Gondolin upon a hill named Túna.

I was at a Mytho-meeting where a casserole was bought that was mostly tuna, with a topping of chopped parsley. It was agreed that that called for a hefty punfine.

#185 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Dan, they sure didn't consult any branding experts, did they? They sound like the should be the parent company of this product.

(Don't click that link if your boss is looking over your shoulder. No dirty pictures, but you might get a question or two.)

#186 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Strange Names. Those of you in cities rather larger and more densely populated than Sydney may very well find this amusing. - Sybepa: our own Manhattan? Or you might like to contribute your own suggestion for a name instead of Sybepa, as they invite you to do. (Yes, it was a real estate person who semi-stole that one).

#187 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 03:23 PM:

Jill - The naming team for the Suzuki Esteem probably shared some members with the one that came up with the Ford Aspire, which hopes to be a larger, safer, more reliable car when it grows up.

#188 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 03:28 PM:

Epacris - SyBePa should probably be written with interstitial capitals, if it should be written at all. (KPMG doing naming. Feh!)

The article you linked presents its own, euphonic answer. Just say no to SyBePa and say hello to West Woolloomooloo.

#189 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 03:31 PM:

Dan L-K, I know someone who *works* for those guys. He's a fan.

#190 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Larry: I'd be....reluctant, to say the least, to let KPMG near anything I wanted named. Of course, I'm a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to naming things, but if I were the sort of person to name through committee, KPMG would not be high on my list. Did you ever hear their corportate anthem? Here's a link to the lyrics, and another link to a full page of corporate anthems. It's the most god-awful trite pap ever.

#191 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Piscusfiche: Did you ever hear their corportate anthem?

Oh, yes. When it hit the web, I used it to torture school friends who were working there. Kool-Aid, anyone?

#192 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 04:27 PM:

I can't type today apparently. That's corporate, not corportate. Meh.

#193 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 12:46 AM:

After not writing* the novel whose characters were all eggplant dishes (fair Aubergine, jolly Baba Ganoush, the evil Brindjal Smoor, the savvy and lusty wench Melanzane Ripieni, the wise Imam Bayildi...) We've settled for naming our three imaginary children**: our dear Aubergine, her brother Vector, and little Vinda Lou.

*You're welcome.

**The ones we use to get a day off. They have so many indoor Moopsball games, school plays, and phrenologists' appointments...!

#194 ::: Kurt Busiek ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 01:30 AM:

>>I'm surprised no one has mentioned Imzadi by Peter David (one of the Trek novelizations). I was really excited to read the backstory of Will Riker and Deanna Troi...and then I saw the names of the aliens. I laughed and I had to put the book down. The aliens were named: Maror (he was the leader), Beitzah, Zroah, Karpas, etc. Not Indian food, but items on the Passover seder plate.>>

Peter may have been working in the grand tradition of Stan Lee, who named a couple of aliens in an early "Iron Man" story Edam and Gouda.

Decades later, they were revealed to be representatives of the Fromaji race...

kdb

#195 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 04:29 AM:

'Calling characters Megrim or Morganatic would drive me bugf*ck. "Morganatic" would be especially bad -- it's the wrong part of speech.'

I could see how Morganatic would be bothersome, also since it is such a cool word you would be shutting yourself out of using properly by using as a name. Then again:
"Nail Funguson: How did you get such a name then?
Morganatic Distal: My mother named me for the thing which bound her, but this talk is bothersome - let us drink in silence.
"

Later on this becomes a major point of contention when Lord Wobegoncraft author of "The art and craft of spanking high born ladies" allows Morganatic to precede him in entering a brothel, thinking by the hero's depraved countenance that he was possessed of some rank.

After the vengeful Wobegoncraft has Morganatic set up for stealing tarts, which is a bedangling offence in Bunburyland, Megrim Phastling, the last scholar of phantastical engineering in the whole nation, must come to the aid of the young fool.
He does this even though it takes him from his studies for that most inconvenient reason, being that his ward and niece, the lovely Virginia Dentata has fallen in love with Morganatic.

Will Morganatic consent to marry someone beneath him on the social scale, the daughter of an Academician?!? Will phantastical engineering regain its lost standing as the crowning intellectual achievement of mankind and dragons?
Will Nail Fungusson marry Jenny the big-bosomed barmaid and settle to a life of drunken bliss? Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in "The vows of Morganatic"

#196 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 04:32 AM:

Will Virginia Dentata grow some teeth in her and refuse to put up with Morganatic's philandering any longer?

#197 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 04:46 AM:

My cat is actually really names Zyprexa, because I was taking the stuff at the time I got her from the shelter. So when people wonder what I was I smoking, well, I wasn't smoking it, it was a sublingual preparation. She does seem well suited to Zip, anyway.

On names that are probably intentionally rude, there is an Italian restaurant in the Village named Figa (C*nt). I walked up on down in front of it for a long while, totally fascinated. I so wanted to go inside and ask them for a card, or some matches. I was also tempted to ask them if they knew what it meant in Italian, but I figured they couldn't possibly not know.

Just as with the reastaurant in Aukland, NZ, named Pompino (blowjob), it is remotely possible that the owners asked some bona fide passing Italians to name something really popular among Italians without actually then checking on a dictionary... but despite this being a vastly more entertaining possibility, I don't think it's all that probable.

#198 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 05:00 AM:

I think the names with * in them would be suited to a fantasy set in a quasi oriental continuum.

Thus:

Night. The Palace of C*nnil*ngus, dread emperor of half the world, viceroy of the moon, potentate of the islands of Lnagerh*ns, and offence to the gods of his forefathers. The sin of the emperor hangs heavy on his servants, the guards in the corridors mask dread and sickness upon their faces,
the great chef in the emperor's kitchen, the maniacal Bugf*ck An*l, cries over the delicate partridge and tion mouse to think of the doom of the gods, and in her vast bed the wife of the emperor is sick with child.

#199 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 05:03 AM:

I think Figa C*nt will be chief of the emperor's guards, an inscrutable tattoed assassin who came from the northern islands and eats only dead toucan stuffed with almonds so as to maintain the suppleness of his muscles.

#200 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 05:16 AM:

'. I walked up on down in front of it for a long while, totally fascinated. I so wanted to go inside and ask them for a card, or some matches'
you never did though?
:(

#201 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 05:33 AM:

Well, there was "J. P. Morganana," but that was Henry Miller, host of Er, Well, Something Beginning with S Along with Henry.

And obviously Lord Wobegoncraft is the master of Wobegoncraftcroft, perched high enough above the Lake of which so many tales are told, so high in truth that the shadowed Falls of the Frostbite are visible from its topmost window -- the only window that ever shows a light.

But why have the crofters of Roy ceased to sail across the lake in wooden pierogies, trailing their walleyed pikes, and building great anomic piles of slush? Why is load after load of frozen chicken parts delivered to the house's secret . . . well, it was supposed to be secret until Chapter 12 . . . lab and oratory, on nights when great bolts of electricity tear across they sky, lightening the darkening? Have his mad plans to combine the Armstrong and Colpitts oscillator circuits succeeded? Or do they feel *boom* so good, do they feel *ba-boom* so good, do they feel so good that they'll reanimate some hearts tonight? *baboom*boom*beeeeeeep

#202 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 06:09 AM:

"Excuse me, what did you say?"
"I said: do you feel boom so good Lord Wobegoncraft"
"Thank you, for your information it is pronounced Lord WoBEHgoncraft, BEH, like the second letter of the Hebrew AlphaBEHT, BEH, Lord WoBEHgoncraft! NEXT QUESTION PLEASE!"

----

The gloomy lab of Wobegoncraftcroft where Lord Wobegoncraft works to right the horrors wrought by his father, the wrathful sire of Wobegoncraft. Icthor, Lord Wobegoncraft's shifty malformed servant shuffles in.
"Icthor, where hast thou been?" Lord Wobegoncraft always used the nondemotic when he had drunk deep of absinth and was engaged in necrotic experimentation.
"Ringing bells, master, it doth sooth my distempered brow."
"Never mind that now, it seems success is at hand"
"Shall you finally succeed in reanimating the lovely Miss Dentata, master?"
"Well, in sooth was she never that animate to speak of, but, yes, I trust I can warm her."

#203 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 06:22 AM:

Will the heroic Morganatic Distal still love the reanimated Virginia Dentata when he finds out she is now chicken-hearted?

Will Lord Wobegoncraft change the pronounciation of his name at a penultimate moment?

Will Lord Wobegoncraft lose his ghoulish figure now that he is overeating poultry again?

Will Morganatic learn that not only the heart but other vital parts of the young Ms. Dentata have been replaced?

Will Morganatic make a particularly uncouth comment about something tasting just like something else, and refer to barbecue sauce, getting him slapped out so viciously that he falls backwards through a stained glass bedroom window onto some upthrust pikes of an especially wall-eyed aspect?

Is there something fishy in the state of Bunburyland?

And whatever happened to kindly old professor Phastling who we last saw bustling off for tea with the Dragon Mictatorial.


#204 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 06:33 AM:

By god, will Wobegoncraftcroft and the surrounding lands fall, thousands of years later, to the same fatal sin that destroyed the ancient of Empire ruled by the mad and nasty emperor C*nnil*ngus?

#205 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 06:34 AM:

uhm, that should be most ancient of Empires above

#206 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 06:40 AM:

hmm damn also dropped an s from mousse earlier.

#207 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 07:42 AM:

I thought it was pronounced "Wencraft"

Ah, yes, I recall young Wobegoncraft. His mother was a strong woman, and his father uncommonly good-looking, but alas, he himself was merely average, or perhaps a trifle above.

#208 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Some nice names in this quotation from Professor Arnold J. Toynbee, which manages to slam Science Fiction and the Historical Novel simultaneously:

"This alloy of Archaism in Futurism partly accounts for the failures of Aristonicus in a Roman Asia and of his contemporaries the insurgent Syrian slave-kings Eunus, Cleon, and Athenio in a Roman Sicily..."
[Walter Kauffman, "Toynbee: The Historian as False Prophet" Commentary, Vol. 23 • April 1957 • No. 4.]

I Googled this because it was paraphrased recently in a syndicated column:

Calmly Contemplating the Abyss
By Timothy Garton Ash, Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at St. Antony's College in Oxford, England.
The European Crisis may be the beginning of the end for civilization on the continent -- or not.
"Toynbee's answers to why civilizations decline and fall have been largely discounted by professional historians, but the question remains a good one. As with all terribles simplificateurs, some of his ideas are, at least, suggestive. For example, among the characteristic features of disintegrating civilizations he finds the Siamese twins of archaism and futurism. Some people wallow in the memory of a golden age that never was, while others glorify an imagined future."

This seems to be a paraphrase ("conjoined" = "siamese twins") of:

"Toynbee was led to ask why civilisations decline and fall through his experience of what has been called the European civil war from 1914 to 1945. His own grand, schematic answers have been largely discounted by professional historians, but the question remains a good one. As with all terribles simplificateurs, some of his ideas are, at least, suggestive. For example, among the characteristic features of disintegrating civilisations he finds the conjoined twins of archaism and futurism. Some people wallow in the memory of a golden age that never was while others glorify an imagined future."
Contemplating the European Crisis

I also find:

"He [Toynbee] argues that as civilizations decay, they form an 'Internal Proletariat' and an 'External Proletariat.' The Internal protelariat is held in subjugation by the dominant minority inside the civilization, and grows bitter; the external protelariat exists outside the civilization in poverty and chaos, and grows envious. He argues that as civilizations decay, there is a 'schism in the body social,' whereby abandon and self-control replace creativity, and truancy and martyrdom replace discipleship by the creative minority. He argues that in this environment, people resort to archaism (idealization of the past), futurism (idealization of the future), detachment (removal of oneself from the realities of a decaying world), and transcendence (meeting the challenges of the decaying civilization with new insight, as a Prophet). He argues that those who Transcend during a period of social decay give birth to a new Church with new and stronger spiritual insights, around which a subsequent civilization may begin to form after the old has died."
A Study of History

See also:
"Futurism and Archaism in Toynbee and Hardy" contained in Still Rebels, Still Yankees, by Donald Davidson.

#209 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 10:21 PM:

Heck, Deborah, if Kirby and Ditko can lift it, there is absolutely no reason in the world you can't do the same.

This week's For Better or Worse strips feature a take-off of the Cressida--the Crevasse. No cracks about the name, okay?

#210 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 01:51 AM:

Bryan:

Step away from the caffiene. Just put it on the floor, step back, and nobody gets hurt. There's a good boy.

MKK

#211 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 04:38 PM:

Mary Kay, I am deeply offended that you would assume I did any drug so wimpy as caffeine.

What have I done to make you despise me so?


#212 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 04:54 PM:

actually reading it over I think John Ford really threw me off track with the night of the reanimated chicken heart, those posts need to be trashed, they besmirched the otherwise whimsical charm of the Bunburyland stories.

I do like Megrim Phastling having tea with the Dragon of course, because as we will remember Megrim was the last scholar of phantastical engineering in Bunburyland.

The Dragon is dear old nearsighted Mictatorial the Dragon who is now grown so wizened in his antiquity that he can fit in small house and has thus moved from his draughty cavern into town. Mictatorial is a well known collector of tea, perhaps because he only has enough fire left to set a kettle, perhaps because he is a comfy old drake. His days are spent debating if there can ever be a proof of the four-color theory of Will o' the Wisps with Professor Phastling, and maintaining a long-running competition with a similarly town-bound unicorn for the local virgins, of which there are so very few since a true hero has arrived, meaning Morganatic, with the hero's usual appetite for despoilation.

y'all try and do that on coffee.


#213 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 07:16 PM:

A few years ago, they named a children's bed frame "Gutvik". When it hit the market, heads exploded all over Germany. I'll refrain from translating the pronounced version, but you can try it yourself, remembering that German "V" = English "F" and it does mean what it sounds like.

I'll bite. I just did a bunch of google and dictionary searches and all I found is that Gutvik is a place in Norway. Nothing in German, not even when I change the spelling to more likely German things.

#214 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 07:33 PM:

The Ikea story reminds me of the Chevy Nova. It sold horribly in Latin America, since no va, in Spanish literally means "It doesn't go.

That's a silly story. no va does in fact mean "it doesn't go," but nova means, oddly enough, "nova." So that name is not the reason.

#215 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 07:48 PM:

I'm bothered as it is by characters whose names have inappropriate etymology, but I know that's a quirk of mine, so I strive to ignore it. Calling characters Megrim or Morganatic would drive me bugf*ck. "Morganatic" would be especially bad -- it's the wrong part of speech.

I don't get this. Morganatic doesn't strike me as a felicitous name, either, but the reason doesn't make sense to me. We call people Red and Tiny and Happy, and those are also edjectives, and while you might or might not like them as names, the precedent is there to make a noun of an adjective.

Are there characters named Megrim and Morganatic?

#216 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 07:57 PM:

Lucy - The key is is to say the name aloud, remembering that gut=good and that Germans pronounce "v" the way English speakers do "f". Now play around with the vowel. I put the infinitive form of the verb in an earlier comment, and someone else translated it. My delicate fingers burn and my face blushes if I type such words.

Here's the googlecache of an item on Ananova. (The original seems to have expired.) And here's a translation of the verb courtesy of dict.leo.org.

BTW - if you take the German word for bird, der Vogel and make it into a verb, you get another colloquial word with the same meaning. I actually don't know too many German swear words. Really.

#217 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 08:40 PM:

I still think the loser of the Darth Naming Lottery has to be Darth Plagus.

#218 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 09:44 PM:

I'm waiting for some desperate author to start mining his or her inbox. I want to know what happens when Gritting P. Nutmeg meets Amanda Longoria. Will they or won't they? What will happen when Eugenia Sneed finds out? And most crucially: Will John Kerry get there in time?

#219 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 10:22 PM:

I can only note in passing my hope that the lack of an agent is not absolutely crippling and that editors will go on to the second part of Teresa's rule 1. My publisher is a respectable and professional press that pays royalties that I (mainly) live on, but I do not have and cannot get an agent despite 14 stand-alone pro books, 15 come September. Should I therefore give all titles and specify the publisher with each new pitch I send?

#220 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 03:55 AM:

Well one thing that I have always found enjoyable in Dickens is his use of names for people that mean what the people are, which really is the traditional source for surnames in most cultures. Of course the Dickensian naming goes from the traditional naming strategy of giving names by occupation to giving names by character flaw.
That said perhaps pakistan and india are a good source for descriptive names:
http://copia.ogbuji.net/blog/2005/06/13#Pakistani_ scroll down a bit..

#221 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 12:50 PM:

Dave Luckett: IANAE, but I've been told that editors decidedly want something more specific than "I have published several novels..." or even the slightly more savvy caveat "... to advance-paying publishers."

However, I've also been told that in the wake of multiple sales, they don't need to know every book title, just what's current (Including upcoming publications.) They want to know that your "several novels sold" are legitimate (Covered by giving a reputable publisher's name and a book title they can find online), and not trying to mask a stalled career (Ie, your latest book was published 2004-2005, not 1995). The first is a promise of publishable quality, the second a promise of saleability. It only takes one or two names to prove that, not all 15.

#222 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 03:32 PM:

The rule I've heard is "The three most recent/impressive sales."

Not listing a history in your cover letter isn't crippling. The work stands on its own.

#223 ::: William Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 10:44 PM:

Make the name sound like what it's to be used for.

I have a Hoon,Asah-dee’eph, an official in patents and copyrights. Look at the left-hand side of a keyboard. When one first learns to type, what can be more boring than to sit in class and repeatedly hear that learning tape drone out, ‘A S D F. A S D F.’ A perfect name for a dull bureaucratic Hoon.

#224 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 11:30 PM:

Florida Red or Moody Blue: Study Looks at Appeal of Off-beat Product Names
From Chubby Hubby ice cream to Trailer Park red nail polish, marketers using ambiguous or surprising descriptions for new flavors and colors are likely to win sales by making consumers go through the effort of understanding an off-beat name, according to recent Wharton research. In a paper titled, "Shades of Meaning: The Effect of Color and Flavor Names on Consumer Choice," Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn and Elizabeth G. Miller, a marketing professor at Boston College, found that consumers react positively to imaginative names even if they are not particularly descriptive. The research may have implications for Internet marketers whose customers cannot see a product first-hand and tend to rely more on written descriptions when making purchases.
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/1226.cfm

Rumor has it a place waits in the Klingon Diplomatic Corps for K'ohl Tar

#225 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 11:55 PM:

Thirty-five years ago, the Ford Maverick was released with a half-dozen "cute" color names, like "Original Cinnamon." (For anybody not around at the time, the Maverick was a basic-transportation car priced at $1995, and I suspect the company thought that they would sell bunches of them to Trendy Young People, or at least to the parents of TYPs.)

During the fanfare, it was recalled that a couple decades before, a shirt company had run a color-naming contest around the same idea. (Sorry, it's been a long time and I don't remember the name of the company -- I think it's out of business -- or the decade.)

But it's nice to know that there's an academic study now, because, as all Velveteen Undergrads discover, having a thesis makes you real. Now I'm looking forward to Microsoft's slogan, "Windows: Any color you want, as long as it's blue."

#226 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 07:45 AM:

Maybe this makes me a tool, but I tend to use the Writer's Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook a lot. It sections the names by ethnicity, so you can gather groups of names that sound good together. I also have a book that indexes all of Shakespeare's characters, so I sometimes swipe lesser-known names from that.

I don't object to made-up names, but I like characters to seem like actual people, and a name like, oh, ferinstance, "B.Z. Gundalinhu" can make an otherwise engrossing book very bumpy. I keep pausing in my reading to say "What was his mother *thinking*? Why hasn't he legally changed his name to something people can pronounce?" I admire writers like Gene Wolfe or Tolkein who have a gift for language and can invent beautiful, perfect-sounding names for their characters, but I find that they are few and far between.

#227 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2005, 08:46 PM:

Authorities in Maryland Pass the Buck.

This is from the Punjab, for heaven's sake.

#228 ::: Stefan Jones sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Referring to a stock broker.

#229 ::: Clifton notices comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2005, 09:19 PM:

They just don't give up, do they?

#231 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2005, 08:17 AM:

Only without the ability to shoot back.

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