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Naming conventions for orphans (and others)

Discussion in 'World Building' started by summondice, Oct 21, 2018.

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  1. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    As the title suggests, I'm curious how scribes here go about giving names to characters in their books, from a world-building perspective.

    Specifically, my book features 6 women who grew up together as orphans, and I'm mulling over what to do about second names for them.

    Names are important for me - they're usually symbolic and allude to other things or people (even if it's only for my own amusement. Because I'm a dork like that :) ), so this is an aspect of world-building that I take more seriously than is probably necessary.

    How do you all handle second (or first) names of the otherwise nameless? Do you do anything anything unusual or stick with typical conventions?
     
  2. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    "Names" as a group..?

    "Orphans" tends to mean no surviving parents. In broader stance, no surviving relatives or named guardians... but from a legal or societal standpoint, "authorities" know the lineage and names of the dead parents, and can help a child discern their past if so inclined. Usually there's a social contract in place that defenseless children have some expectation of relief or protection from some sort of agency.

    "Foundlings" suggests annonymity. Total annonymity. Nobody knows the lineage of the child or has any ability to contact relatives. This implies that the child is discovered before they can effectively communicate such important information to concerned adults. So, infancy comes to mind as well as young toddlers.

    Another distinction could be "ward", or "wardling". A child abandoned deliberately to agency or authority by parents or guardians.

    Perhaps, depending on the level of social involvement, there can be another name for children that have been consfiscated or removed from their parents. That name is a bit more tricky for me to think of at the moment.

    But, a typical 'orphanage' usually divides children by age groups and gender. It would seem natural that the "foundlings" would bond together in different ways than "normal" orphans or "wardlings". And, children usually identify with the physical address, the name, or other agency description. (i.e. .P.S.119, NYC, NY.)

    So, the girls would have their individual names, and be calling themselves "the orphans/ foundlings/ wards of St. So & So's Orphanage."

    I hope I answered the question I think you were asking. If you were asking about surnames for foundlings, etc I rather like the cultural nomenclature of Game of Thrones. All bastards in the North, take the surname "Snow". You can pick a surname/ maiden name that would work for your group of women.
     
  3. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Night Gardener :)

    I am more curious about the latter definition, but what you've written has given me a couple few groups that hadn't sprung to mind before and that will need to be taken into account.

    It is Martin's approach that got me thinking about the topic at all, and I may take the same or a similar approach - it's elegant in its simplicity and usefulness - but I wanted to see if I could get the brain juices flowing and come up with something else to compare that system to bring committing :)
     
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  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    FWIW, last names are not universal. It was not at all unusual to be called Susan with no last name. If another peasant named his daughter Susan, then one becomes Susan the Red, or Susan John's daughter, or Lame Susan. If she moves to another village she might be Susan of Brill. Last names become more regularized once governments start having tax collection records. Susan Weaver. Susan Fuller. Susan Dyer. Susan Blackmoor. Or, in many places in Scandinavia, Susan Jansdotter. Naming conventions have their own history.

    Anyway, you can get away with no last name or by using nicknames or descriptors as a sort of last name.
     
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  5. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    True... Maybe I'll work with that for the time being for these particular characters, until it becomes more relevant because I do find the "how and why" of things to be important. And part of the reason I'm using orphans is to allow them to carve their own "name" in the world, though they'll each discover their past along the way. So giving them "last names" that are simply functional in nature would take sense both in the world and symbolically.

    Still curious how others handle names in their work, though :)
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    For an orphan, I could see a last name reflecting the name of their orphanage, "Susan Brightcaster" of Brightcaster Orphanage, for example.
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >Still curious how others handle names in their work, though
    Since you asked....

    The book I published this year, A Child of Great Promise, has a sort-of orphan as the MC (circumstances are unimportant for this thread). Her name is Talysse. Her friend and companion calls her Lyssie, but she has no other name. She's the only Talysse around, so it's clear not only to the characters but also to the reader.

    Further into the book, though, she meets other people, some of whom are a bit more formal in their interpersonal relations, and they refer to her as Talysse of Saldemer (the name of her home). She's never Talysse Saldemer, though.

    In a different direction, I have a novelette called Mad House that has an ogre and a sprite as the main characters. The ogre's name is Giangaleazzo, a perfectly ordinary Italian name. But his English comrades could never pronounce it so he becomes John Golly. Never just John. The sprite's name technically is Quinn, but ogre's are a bit obsessive about full names, so John Golly calls him Quinn-the-Sprite throughout the story.

    On the third hand, in my WIP, the names are pretty straightforward. Gabrielle Lauten. Henrik Queller. Niklot Thesiger. There's some obscure wordplay in there, but it's mainly for my own amusement. In general, I do try to make names do at least a little bit of story work while never making them too obvious.
     
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  8. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    I thought about taking this approach, but decided against it when I thought about how an orphanage might not want someone out there making a newm of their name. I may yet use it as a kind of honor that the orphanage gives to certain orphans as they enter the world, or those who enter their employ.

    -------
    skip.knox - similarish question: What name are you most peopl of coming up with?
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >What name are you most peopl of coming up with?
    Because mine is alternate history, I stick pretty close to historical names. So, English names in England, Italian in Italy and so on. There are two main modifications I have to make. One is Christian names. Since I keep Christianity as an obscure Middle Eastern sect that never made it out of Palestine, I have to throw out a great many names like Paul or Aaron.

    The other is that I still have to name my elves, dwarves, etc. I employ a couple of dodges. For one, I import names. So, for example, The ogre in my WIP is named Cosmas, which comes from the Black Sea area. For another, I'll go to outdated names and either use them directly or will shift letters around a bit. I still try to keep a certain cultural unity, but I aim for lesser known groups such as Swabian or Frisian or Galician. It's a constant challenge, but I have quite a large library of names pulled from indices of history books.
     
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  10. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    I am immensely impressed that you did anything at all with that question from me! Ha!

    "peopl" was supposed to be "proud" and I could have sworn that it was before I hit post...But I've noticed that trying to type from my phone on this forum is...weird. I don't know why, either. SWYPE doesn't register the way it does everywhere else, nor does the "replace" function of the keyboard. It's rather frustrating - especially when paired with a 1 hour window to edit posts and a life that doesn't often allow me to be here more than a handful of minutes at a time a few minutes a day. Ah well :)

    My own fantastical world is in infancy right now and I know that even as I name the main characters I'm laying the groundwork for certain aspects of cultures and places, and it's a little intimidating. And something I'm trying not to perseverate overly much. :)
     
  11. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    While doing research into naming conventions for my WIP I discovered an unusual naming convention from Bali I adapted for my story. Basically they name all first born, second born and third born one of a handful of names. When they get to child number four they go back to the first born names. To distinguish them from others they'll have a second name to distinguish them from all the others who have that name. That second name could be as simple as a number or a personality description.

    Fijian Indian names cause all sorts of problems here in New Zealand because our computers require first name and surname but they often have no surname. To get around this they would use their name as both name and surname.

    If all else fails just call a person a number. I had a female Samoan friend called Fulu Her full name in Samoan simply means 20!

    And one piece of advice: Be careful about the order of names. In most of Asia the surname comes first then the given name.
     
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  12. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    There are Latin cultures that also have interesting name order and section methods, as I'm sure you're aware, given the amount of research you've done on the topic :)

    Maybe I'll take a page from Bali myself - the orphanage selects last names based on some aspect of their arrival from a handful of possibilities, assuming the child doesn't have a known last name. Year, probably. Other kids that arrive that year without a surname then also have another random aspect added to their name. The practical purpose would simply be to clarify that two kids are not related.

    Maybe. I'm not entirely sold on it yet, but it's an idea.
     
  13. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Since you mention the Frisians, is there any chance of any Limburgish names in your world? I'd love to see a Sjeng, Sjra or Twen in fantasy.

    Sorry for the quick hijack, but I had to do it. I've never thought of naming conventions for orphans in my world, but now that you brought it up, I will have to think about it. Thanks for giving me another worldbuilding diversion ;)
     
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Nothing so far, but I don't have a story set in that part of the world. Maybe in The Falconer, since I'll be spending a fair amount of time with Otto of Brunswick, and Fritz will get as far as Koeln, so I could bring a Sjeng up from Maastricht or some such. Thanks for the reminder that the whole Duchy of Burgundy is a wonderland of mini-cultures.
     
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  15. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Happy to remind you of our weird burgundian existence, and good old Mestreech would be a nice setting I'd imagine, though a lot of its main features only came about after the mining industry kicked off, so I might be imagining it as more than it likely was at the time. I'll have to keep an eye on "the Falconer".
     
  16. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Small nitpick here, but those are Jewish/Hebrew names, not Christian. While yes, Judaism was the precursor to Christianity, they became far more distinct over time.
     
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Wouldn't the Jewish name be Saul? And the Greek version be Paul?

    I love a well-picked nit. :LOL:
     
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I wouldn't have assumed the orphanage had a say in the matter.

    ~~~

    The sprites in my setting (who are the main characters) had to choose their names after their homeland fell and they needed to assimilate into society. The MC chose the name Vengekeeper because that was kind of a frustrating time in her life, and she's stuck with it now that life has settled down for her. I'm hoping to try and use it as a worldbuilding talking point. ("Is your name really Vengekeeper? That doesn't seem anything like you.")
     
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  19. summondice

    summondice Scribe

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    I don't think I'll ever mind a good hijacking that keeps a conversation going - one never knows where inspiration is going to come from!

    "I wouldn't have assumed the orphanage had a say in the matter"
    (Sorry - I don't yet know all of the formatting abilities of this site and am writing off my phone... Makes me nervous to experiment :s)
    Until I know exactly what roles, and to what extent, the government will play in my world, I'm keeping control pretty local. In the case of naming orphans, I figure it's the orphanage that initially has all the power anyway - they can tell the government whatever they want to and, generally speaking, higher ups aren't going to know the difference even if regulations are supposed to be followed X way.

    It's something to consider, though. Hmmmmmm....
     
  20. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    Many Chinese in the West have an official name (their Chinese name) and one that is Anglicized which they choose usually when they are young. So there are precedents for this. Think about why and how the requirement to choose a name is imposed as it can reveal much about the society the story is set in.
     
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