On the subject of making names

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Ahzoh
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On the subject of making names

Post by Ahzoh »

I'm wonder what I should do about names in my conlang...

It seems all given names originate from some combination of words, but are there names with no meaning?

I see many names and they are all mostly composed of mono or bisyllables connected together, like Christ-opher which have meanings like alexandra meaning protecter of man.

I'm not a fan of overlylong word, including names, but it's not like I have a lot of words like that...

Shlomo is an interesting one, it appears to have the same roots as shalom, I wouldn't be surprised if Beth came from bet, house.

I can't remember why I made this thread but, what are way I can make names? How do you make them in your conlang?

The only name I have made is Ashahijar which originally meant "Vessel of a/the God" with the roots being Ash "vessel" and Hij "god" but the endings have changed completely, so the name has no meaning except involving those two words somehow, changed enough to not even be diachronically connected in an ancestor language.

I also have an idea of names such as Ihozay and Ayyahra and Hravtam.
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eldin raigmore
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Re: On the subject of making names

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Ahzoh wrote:It seems all given names originate from some combination of words, but are there names with no meaning?
Modern USAmerican names, certainly.
Even a name as old as Marilyn was coined at the beginning of the 20th century out of "Mary" and "Lynn".
And "D'Shawn" or "ClaraD'Etta" are names essentially without meaning;
as near as I can tell so is "Dweezil".

BTW when you said "names" I thought you meant all proper nouns; in particulary I thought you meant toponymy (place names) as well as anthroponymy (personal names).

As far as toponymy goes, it has subbranches like oronymy (names of mountains) and hydronymy (names of streams and bodies of water), as well as names of other geographic or topographic features or regions, and names of cities and towns and villages and hamlets and so on, and names of forts and castles and buildings and streets and avenues and roads and highways and so on.

As far as anthroponymy goes, people not only have personal names, but also family names. And sometimes people have an "official" name, for instance the ones their elders gave them at birth, and also a cognomen or nickname or something that actually more people know them by and call them by.

Hypocoristic (? right term?) names are often "short" (or otherwise altered) forms of "official" personal names. They often diachronically lose their connection with the original "long" form, and become names in their own right.
For instance, Hannah, Anna, Anne, Ann, Nan, Nancy, are all versions of Hannah.
And Rick, Dick, Dickon, Hud, are all versions of Richard.

Sometimes a new family name comes from a personal name.
For instance, Dixon from Dick; Dickenson from Dickon; Hudson from Hud; Thompson from Tom (short for Thomas); and so on.

Nicknames that describe personal characteristics can become family names.
For instance, Caesar (curly) because the men in that family (within the Julian clan) tended to be bald.
Or Redd because they tend to be red-headed. Similarly with Black and Brown and even White, though probably not Green (although maybe so since 1948).

Choosing a name that means something is just one easy way to come up with names.

My first wife's maiden name was Ohsfeldt.

The family's founding ancestor was a railroad man named Gustav E. Andersen. He worked on a railroad five of whose employees were all named Gustav E. Andersen. Confusion led to a trainwreck. The company had the men draw lots; the winner got to keep both his name and his job, the other four had to choose either a new name or a new job. My ex-ancestor-in-law was not the winner, and he chose to keep his job but change his name to Ohsfeldt.

Some Scandinavian telephone company regularly includes the subscribers' occupations or professions in their directory entries, because too often that's necessary to tell whether one is looking up the right person. Eventually this wasn't good enough.* There were too many coincidences where people with exactly the same names also had exactly the same professions or occupations.
So, the phone company made lists of the most common first syllables of family names, and the most common last syllables of family names, and randomly created "names" by sticking a common first syllable together with a common last syllable; to make something that sure sounded like it could be a name but which no-one had ever been named before. Then they paid customers to choose a name from the made-up list.

You could make a million two-syllable names that way with 1000 first syllables and 1000 last syllables. Or, a million three-syllable names with 100 first syllables, 100 middle syllables, and 100 last syllables.

*(Hell, it doesn't have to be Scandinavia. Most people don't have any trouble telling me from the Tom's of Maine guy, nor the aviation insurance actuary; but when I was a contract programmer working for hospitals, there was another Tom Chappell also working as a contract programmer for (different) hospitals. Our professions didn't help tell us apart.)

In my planned conculture people have five names assigned to them at birth in a way not chosen by themselves nor their elders. (They may have other names as well, assigned at birth by the choice of their elders (boys' father's mother and girls' mother's father), and/or earned by their actions as they live, and/or chosen by themselves. Up to fifteen names total.)

These include three family names; a patrilineal name inherited from the father's patrilineal name (regardless of the child's sex), a matrilineal name inherited from the mother's matrilineal name (regardless of the child's sex), and a "rope"** name inherited from the "rope" name of the parent of the opposite sex from the child. A person's full official identifier would include his/her father's matriline name and his/her mother's patriline name and his/her same-sex parent's "rope" name, as well.

**(the Mundugumor rope)

A person would also have two other names chosen at birth, in such a way as to distinguish a man from his father, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and first-cousins, and a woman from her mother, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and first-cousins.

Concentrating on the sons for a moment, a couple's oldest son's "first name" would be that of his father's father's father's father; their second son's "first name" would be that of his mother's father's father's father; and so on through the fathers and brothers of each of the boys' great-grandparents, alternating between their father's side and their mother's side.

A couple's oldest son's "middle name" would be that of his mother's mother's father; their second son's "middle name" would be that of his father's mother's father; and so on through the fathers and brothers of each of the boys' grandparents, alternating between their mother's side and their father's side.

For the daughters something similar; the oldest daughter's first name would be that of her mother's mother's mother's mother and her middle name would be that of her father's father's mother; their second daughter's first name would be that of her father's mother's mother's mother and her middle name would be that of her mother' father's mother; and so on, the girls getting their first names from the mothers and sisters of their great-grandparents and their middle names from the mothers and sisters of their grandparents, alternating between their mother's side and their father's side.

Suppose there were 40 men's first names and 40 women's first names, 40 men's middle names and 40 women's middle names, 40 patriline names, 40 matriline names, and 40 "rope" names.
That would be only 280 simple names. For a syllable structure of CV(C) there could easily be 2000 syllables, so 280 of them could be names.
But there could be 40*40*40*40*40, or 40^5 = 102, 400,000 ( = 1.024 * 10^8), men's "full names"; and a similar number of women's "full names".
Including the father's matriline name, the mother's patriline name, and the same-sex-parent's "rope" name, there'd be 102,400,000 * 39*39*39 ,
or almost 102,400,000 * 64,000 = 6, 553,600, 000,000 ( = 6.5536 * 10^12) "full names" for each sex.
(That's more than the current population of the Earth by a factor of almost 1,000.)

Or, suppose there were 160 men's first names and 160 men's middle names (and similarly for the women) and 160 patriline names and 160 matriline names and 160 rope names.
Then there'd be only 1,120 simple names;
but there'd by 160^5 = 104,857, 600,000 "full names" for each sex.
(That's more than 10 times the current population of the globe.)
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Re: On the subject of making names

Post by Micamo »

So far as I can tell, there's no such thing as a "meaningless" name: There are only names with etymologies that are synchronically forgotten.
My pronouns are <xe> [ziː] / <xym> [zɪm] / <xys> [zɪz]

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Re: On the subject of making names

Post by eldin raigmore »

Micamo wrote:So far as I can tell, there's no such thing as a "meaningless" name: There are only names with etymologies that are synchronically forgotten.
"Idaho" was (at least possibly, IMO probably) an arbitrary coinage.

And I bet so was "Dweezil".
Wikipedia wrote:Dweezil's registered birth name was Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa. The hospital at which he was born refused to register him under the name Dweezil, so Frank listed the names of several musician friends. "Dweezil" was a nickname coined by Frank for an oddly-curled pinky-toe of Gail's. At five years old, Dweezil learned that his legal name was different, and he insisted on having his nickname become his legal name. Gail and Frank hired an attorney and soon the name Dweezil was official
There is no requirement under U.S. law that a name not be an arbitrary coinage.
In fact doesn't have to be pronounceable; and it can be a single letter.
Image is not pronounceable, is a single character, and is an arbitrary coinage.

In some other countries there are laws requiring a person to have more than one name (U.S. law requires a person to have at least one name, but not necessarily more).
But in some countries the law may allow a person to be nameless.
In some countries there are laws limiting the choice of names. Some of these still allow arbitrary coinage.
In China (mainland Red China, that is) there are administrative (rather than legislative) restrictions limiting names to something a bit less than 32,768 possibilities.

The name "Helmut" was not a German name until sometime after the early seventeenth century. It doesn't sound or look meaningless to me, but still it probably was a newly coined name.
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Re: On the subject of making names

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eldin raigmore wrote:
Micamo wrote:So far as I can tell, there's no such thing as a "meaningless" name: There are only names with etymologies that are synchronically forgotten.
"Idaho" was (at least possibly, IMO probably) an arbitrary coinage.

And I bet so was "Dweezil".
Wikipedia wrote:Dweezil's registered birth name was Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa. The hospital at which he was born refused to register him under the name Dweezil, so Frank listed the names of several musician friends. "Dweezil" was a nickname coined by Frank for an oddly-curled pinky-toe of Gail's. At five years old, Dweezil learned that his legal name was different, and he insisted on having his nickname become his legal name. Gail and Frank hired an attorney and soon the name Dweezil was official
There is no requirement under U.S. law that a name not be an arbitrary coinage.
In fact doesn't have to be pronounceable; and it can be a single letter.
Image is not pronounceable, is a single character, and is an arbitrary coinage.

In some other countries there are laws requiring a person to have more than one name (U.S. law requires a person to have at least one name, but not necessarily more).
But in some countries the law may allow a person to be nameless.
In some countries there are laws limiting the choice of names. Some of these still allow arbitrary coinage.
In China (mainland Red China, that is) there are administrative (rather than legislative) restrictions limiting names to something a bit less than 32,768 possibilities.

The name "Helmut" was not a German name until sometime after the early seventeenth century. It doesn't sound or look meaningless to me, but still it probably was a newly coined name.
Yes, well lets look at names for Ancient cultures...
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Re: On the subject of making names

Post by Xing »

One alternative could be something intermediate between 'meaningless' and 'meaningful' names. Names might be made up of two or more morphmemes, which individually have a straightforward meaning, but which are combined in a way that makes little or no sense.
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Re: On the subject of making names

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Ahzoh wrote:Yes, well lets look at names for Ancient cultures...
There's nothing inherent in the information that was given that couldn't be applied in one way or another to older cultures.

Linear thinking is the bane of creative solutions, after all. (At least it can be.)
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Re: On the subject of making names

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XXXVII wrote:
Ahzoh wrote:Yes, well lets look at names for Ancient cultures...
There's nothing inherent in the information that was given that couldn't be applied in one way or another to older cultures.

Linear thinking is the bane of creative solutions, after all. (At least it can be.)
Yes, well I want to be realistic and there are not a lot of people named Dweezle or an unpronounced name.
I think I will derive names from titles and warp them.

Zhiramhijir "star of the gods" -> Zhirhajar
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Re: On the subject of making names

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You can also have a name that grows into its own forest of names, often by being adopted in many languages and getting diminutive forms.

John, Jack, Jake, Shawn/Sean, Hank, Ian, Ivan, Jean, Jane, Joan, Joanne, Johanna, Janet, Janice, Jenny …

Elizabeth, Beth, Eliza, Isabelle, Isabella, Bella, Betty, Libby, Elsa, Lisa …
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Re: On the subject of making names

Post by eldin raigmore »

You just gotta have a name that means "Gift of God" or "Gift of (insert god's name here)" or something closely similar semantically; "Heaven's Gift" or "Gift from the gods" or something.
"The Non-Randomness of the Linguistic Example" discusses this phenomenon (among other phenomena).
It goes back as far as Panini, whose Sanskrit examples frequently had "Devadatta" as one of the interlocutors.
I haven't verified it but I bet Aristotle's examples sometimes included Dorothea or Theodore.

Names can undergo considerable diachronic alteration.
For instance "Snooks" might come from "Sevenoaks".

Liam, Illiam, Gilliam, William, Guilliam, are all equivalent.

Elizabeth, Libby, Betty, and Bess
All went hunting for a birds' nest.
Found one with five eggs in it:
Each took one, and left four in it.

Have you considered "The Smith Superset"?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(surname)#Other
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(sur ... _languages
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(sur ... _languages
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(sur ... _languages
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(sur ... _languages
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(sur ... variations

Look up "Gymnastics with Onomastics". Or just "onomastics".
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