1. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Naming a kingdom

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Shandeh, Aug 18, 2015.

    I hate naming places. I hate it with a deep, abiding passion.

    I'm playing with one of my semi-established medieval(ish) fantasy worlds, and this kingdom does have a name, but it's one I've come to dislike, so it needs a new name.

    So, I have this kingdom which is made up of five Duchies and spans around the same amount of land as Scotland. Originally I named it Aelfen, but that name no longer feels right, so here we are.

    The Duchies are Sears, Tarrant, Ebonloch, Skaal, and Holmeswood. Holmeswood is where the King and his Court reside. Each Duchy used to be a small monarchy, and a few generations ago, Holmeswood conquered the other four, so the kingdom is quite young still. The royal families of each are now the Dukes and Duchesses of them, and have not lost a lot of autonomy. It's rare that the King (or Queen, but in this story the monarch is male) makes a Kingdom-wide law, and each Duchy is in charge of enforcing law itself, though the King has final say as to whether a person is executed for his crimes. The Duchies can block a person from the throne if they reach a unanimous agreement that that person is unsuitable to be monarch. There's a complicated political system I can't be bothered typing out right now but that's the gist of it all.

    I don't want you guys to name my kingdom for me. I'm extraordinarily fussy with names and if it's not perfect it just isn't going to fly. What I'm after is your favourite methods of naming a place! How do you guys do it?
     
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  2. Elena Schmetterling
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    Elena Schmetterling Member

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    I get a list of words which describe the place and translate them into a bunch of different languages to see which sound the nicest. Greek works quite well.
     
  3. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I often turn to japanese dictionaries. This might sound funny, but it's a very melodic language (and the distribution of vowels and consonants in a word is about even!). Then I change a few syllables of the words I've chosen. Like giving it a Latin suffix. I should mention that I do that for stories NOT set in a world resembling our own. Otherwise it would seem quite, um, strange to have Japanese-Latin sounding cities and places...
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2015
  4. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I wander around 20,000 Names and find meanings/words I like, then change up some letters or endings to make them my own. It has names from all kinds of eras from all kinds of cultures. It's quite wonderful.
     
  5. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Thanks guys :)

    I think I'll look through the site Lyrical suggested. I need English-feeling place names, I think, because there's Holmeswood, and in Sears there's a city called Searsford (which is VERY English). Holmeswood is the home of the King, so it would feel most natural (to me at least) for the kingdom's name to keep a similar feel. Ebonloch feels Scottish, Tarrant could be English, Sears could also be English. Skaal feels Scandinavian so might end up being revised because it doesn't fit with the rest of the Duchy names - and is also "borrowed" from a game I play.

    Do you think it would be worth studying a map of England and putting together place names based off actual English places?
     
  6. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Why not? If it feels right to you. I bet you can even find old maps in Middle English or Old English online. Then modernise the spelling, and you have your place names as well.
     
  7. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Perhaps something Irish-sounding in place of Skaal?

    And yes, I think that would be a good idea too. As long as you mash them up a bit so that it's clear that you're in a fantasy world and not in medieval England. I very much appreciate that you're trying to keep it consistent.
     
  8. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    I think I might do that, then :)

    All my place names are, to my knowledge, not actually real places. I like the thought of an Irish-feeling Duchy in place of Skaal - might play with some translating of words into Irish for that - and for the name of the kingdom I'll base it off English places but not actually use a real one. Weymouth is an English place, and the Isle of Wight is an English place. If I merged them, I'd get Weywight, or Wightmouth. I really like Wightmouth as a city name, so will probably work that in somewhere. I have some thinking to do.
     
  9. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I look at real world place names and try to look for common beginnings and ends, trying parts of words together until I find something that looks easy to pronounce and unique.
     
  10. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    I think that's what's going to end up happening, ToeKnee :)

    The more I think on it the more Irish 'Tarrant' feels. Perhaps I could look into Welsh places to replace Skaal with, instead? I'll have to do that after I sleep, though - I've spent the past eighteen hours or so mulling this problem over in my mind and it's now nearly 6am so I think it's time to get some rest. Maybe I'll wake with a solution.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Coming to this quite late...I'm seeing

    Sears = American (Sears & Roebuck)
    Tarrant = Southern English (The River Tarrant is a 12 km long tributary of the River Stour in Dorset)
    Ebonloch = Scottish, as you say, with the _loch suffix. Although I did find out that there's a Kanrethad Ebonlocke in some game...
    Skaal = Scandinavian, as you say.(Norges Skaal (Norway’s Toast),...written... as a drinking song for the Norwegian literary society in Copenhagen)
    Holmeswood = Northern English (Holmeswood is a small agricultural village in West Lancashire)

    So, you've got quite a mix of locations...

    Welsh is great for naming places...you can usually translate it back, e.g., Pen/tre/foelas = Head/Town/Bare

    You could try translating it from there into, say Danish (nøgne ledes forlig), and then transliterate it a little = Nonefurling.
     
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  12. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Place names within Sears are very English (the capital of the Duchy is Searsford) but I could change it. I'm definitely wanting to stick with a British-y feel so Skaal is going, Sears is likely to be fiddled with. Place names are not vital to the story and can be changed. Tarrant, Ebonloch and Holmeswood are staying because they're British.

    This is an excerpt (from the very beginning of the tale) which I hope explains why I feel British place names would best suit the setting:

    Though the days grew long and the rest of the Duchy of Sears felt the heat of summer, the capital remained frozen. Corpses swinging from the Searsford gallows failed to decay in the chill wind, preserved by the ice which had formed upon their pallid skin.

    Were I a betting man, I would have laid coin on the conclusion that the city had been cursed. Perhaps it was superstitious of me, but my years on the battlefield had taught me that cautiousness was never imprudent.

    A murmur ran through the army at my back, reminding me of my duty as their leader. One particularly brave individual took it upon himself to speak out of turn, though I could not fault him for it.

    “General Hale, sir! What are our orders?” he shouted, and the rest of the army fell silent to hear them.

    There was once a time I would have answered immediately, with the reckless certainty of youth and inexperience. Years had passed since then, all of them away from Searsford, and most of them spent on the battlefield. Thus, I allowed silence to stretch almost two minutes before at last answering, “We have a duty to the people of Searsford. Let us take the corpses on the gallows as a warning and proceed. If death awaits, we shall greet it with honor.”
    The POV character is a very well educated man as befitting his status (his full title is Lord-General Monty Hale of the Sears Army - were he not a military man, he would still be part of the nobility, as Lord Hale), and he thinks and speaks very formally, in a very English manner. Though this setting is entirely fantastical and has no basis in real life places or events, I feel like British place names would feel most natural, with consideration for who this man is.
     
  13. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    I don't know... Names just come to me, they pop in my mind, and I almost never change them afterwards.
     
  14. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    You're lucky! I always agonise over names. It takes me forever to name a character, in most cases, and place names will be revised more times than I have hairs on my head - and there are a lot of those.

    I'm considering replacing "Searsford" with "Wightmouth" and renaming "Sears" to "Wight" accordingly. I think the change would fit the setting better.

    I'll fiddle with Welsh and Irish place names and see what I can come up with for Skaal's replacement, and more research on English place names will bring me the perfect name for the kingdom. I hope.
     
  15. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is in Wales. Some shorter examples may be better though.
     
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  16. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    The locals abbreviate it to Llanfair, which, to be fair (lol, see what I did there?), is an excellent place name. The rest is proving handy as well. Skaal's replacement will be Wyrmrich (from wyrn and rych, explained in the story's lore to have been named for its abundance of dragons in the old times), whose capital is Llanwyn. So that's one less name I have to come up with. That makes me rather happy.
     
  17. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Scandinavian names are fine for UK...The Holm of Holmeswood is Scandinavian, meaning Island (e.g. Flat Holm, in the Bristol Channel), _sey is another Scandinavian suffix also meaning Island (with their seafaring traditions, they probably have as many names for islands as the Inuit do for snow!) (e.g., Bardsey Island off North Wales), Jorvik has been transliterated into English as York...

    Typically English, showing the Roman influence, are names such as Manchester, Towcester, Uttoxeter, where the final two syllables are from the Latin castra = military camp. Names such as Newbury, Wednesbury come from an Old English word, meaning "castle", "stronghold" or "fort", an early form of modern English borough.
     
  18. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    The name is actually Llanfairpwllgwyngyll...the rest was an Englishman's joke, which the Ordnance Survey ignores when they put it on maps. The Llanfair means Mary's Church.

    Llanwyn = The church of Gwyn?
     
  19. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Well that names one of the gods for me, which makes my life that little bit easier. Skaal felt very out of place when compared to the other place names, which is why I changed it.

    Now I'm just having trouble figuring out a name for The Capital City (where the King lives, in Holmeswood) and for the kingdom itself.
     
  20. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Aelfen is, indeed, an atrocious name for a kingdom.
    Tarrant is, by contrast, an excellent one.

    I just throw around a sick amount of syllables in my mind until at one point it just clicks and I have a cool name.
    That is to say, you have to throw in a lot of names till it clicks. And though the task is tedious, it's worth investing time.
     
  21. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    "Aelfen" happened when I needed a name in a hurry (and any would do) which explains its atrocity; it was the first thing that popped into my head. I rarely name anything by the first thing that pops into my head because it's almost invariably terrible.

    My main character named himself and refuses to accept any argument on the matter, and his name is decent so it's not like I'm going to argue terribly hard. I'm a bit fidgety about the King's name but he shuts down any attempt to rename him too. Characters are usually easy enough, even if I hate their names, because they refuse to allow me to change them. Places are hard.

    I feel like bashing my head against my keyboard.
     
  22. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    @Shandeh

    "My main character named himself and refuses to accept any argument on the matter, and his name is decent so it's not like I'm going to argue terribly hard. I'm a bit fidgety about the King's name but he shuts down any attempt to rename him too. Characters are usually easy enough, even if I hate their names, because they refuse to allow me to change them. Places are hard."

    This is pretty damn cool.
    Places are pain in the ass, I'm with you on that one, though I'm sure there are common characteristics for names of places, say, specific suffixes etc. The name for a kingdom could end in -ion(-eon). The name of a place could end in -an/en/oron/on etc.
    Another way is to take existing term, say a name from Silmarillion and remake it a bit.
     
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  23. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    It's pretty damn annoying if you ask me! The King's name is Brennen (which is German for "burning") and as much as I like it, there's also a lot of reasons I don't. It drives me insane that he won't even let me look for a name that fits better. The (current) POV character is Lord-General Monty Hale. I like his name well enough and he refuses to let me change it.

    Some people can force name changes on their characters but I can't. If I force things they don't want they stop giving me anything to work with and then I can't write.

    Places are horrible and I wish I'd chosen to write in a setting which allows me to just use real ones because that would be SO much easier! But Hale won't let me. Ugh.
     
  24. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Well, if you remove the one "n", the name won't look as German as it does now.
     
  25. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    @ToeKneeBlack

    "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"

    I mean what the f***.
     
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