PDA

View Full Version : Trouble with names - Would love a hand.



lokiie1984
10-22-2012, 06:22 PM
So for the last twenty years or so my girl friend has been developing this world in her head. She uses it as a form of meditation almost to help her sleep at night. The best way to explain it i think is that she goes and plays DnD in her mind every night. So after her always talking about it i finally decided it was time to try and write some of it down in book form. Which has been pretty fun except that i am absolutely terrible with names, and sadly so is she, not a single place in this vast world of hers has a name.

Now the main place that I'm having trouble with is the human capital city of her world. She refuses to let me name it something where its two words put together, as those kind of sound more like a town or small hamlet not something a very very old and large city would be named. So any help would be appreciated and to help you guys out I'm going to give you a small history and culture lesson on the city itself.

The city is really old, originally starting out as a simple fishing village on the coast that slowly grew to become what it is during the books time period. At the time of the book its ruled by a tyrant king, who has locked the northern half down tight, no one in or out. The southern side is where his nobility live, having more freedoms then the north. The south is also where he keeps his "gift homes" for his guards that he takes a liking to.

The place is also known for gladiator games, where the poor can openly compete for more food. The king generally feels that this is a kindness offered to his people once a year.

That's more or less the gist of the place, personally i have no idea where to even begin to give it a name. The story i plan to do will really only mention the city in the beginning but the way i planned to write it i think i do need at least some kind of name, other wise i would just skip it. Plus i do plan to have a map made up of the area and i would like to have the name on there too.

Anyway thanks for any help that's offered.

jtougas
10-22-2012, 07:40 PM
Names are always tough. It would be easy to give it a sensible name such as "Fishbay" or "Seasedge" but I don't think that's what your looking for. I am also not very creative with names and in my kingdom of Shendenflar campaign setting most things are named for what they are or what they do or where they are. (IE Riverhewn my capital city that was named for the fact that over the millennia two rivers carved out the island that it sits on) Fantasy names run the gamut between functional and accurate to almost unpronounceable. (such as any Elvish city) The bottom line is a name is not just a name, it is a history and a backstory and a future potentenial. You might try just writing down a bunch of names that describe the area for what it is or does or was or might be. Then write down a bunch of "fantasy" sounding names (things with apostrophe's in odd places are a good place to start) Ancient languages are another good resource to tap for interesting sounding names. I am not a fan of "random name" generators for something as well defined as a large capital city but there are some very good ones out there and they may provide a spark of inspiration. The name will become history and perhaps even legend someday so it's worth a little work to come up with something you like. Take your time and look at the names you've written down. I'd be willing to bet that one of them will keep clamoring for your attention. I wish you good luck :)

lokiie1984
10-23-2012, 03:57 AM
I agree, names suck. Alot of times i end up spending more time trying to figure out a good name for a character or place then i do writing the chapter its involved with. For characters alot of times i can just pull a name off my head by tossing letters together until something sounds decent. But when it comes to cities or places it just never works. We did however decide on one for the city for now, we went with Dunroch, i cant remember why but i figure it works for now if nothing else. I cant at least progress the story and think about other details.

Like trying to describe (without going too far) how an object is altering a kids brain turning him into more of a sociopath, its alot harder then i thought it would be lol

Anyway thanks for the info, it is appreciated.

waldronate
10-23-2012, 10:37 PM
Call it "New York" or "Los Angeles" or "San Francisco" or "Mi Ami" or "Port Land" or "Charles Town". That way it's two words that aren't put together at all. One classic technique is to do the rudiments of conlang activity and define words for a few basic colors and things and titles; combining these gives good place names that are unfamiliar. For example, naming a place "The Watch Tower" and then defining the words "Watch" and "Tower" as "Minas" and "Tirith" gives a place name with a straightforward translation. Similarly, "The Blue Mountains" could be translated as "Ered Luin". Straighforward stuff and it lets you pull place names right off a map or even use really dull names like "Rocky Mountains", "Smoky Mountains", and "Snowy Sawtoothed Mountains" (that last one is a rough translation of "Sierra Nevada").

There are any number of word generators out there on the Internet. Generate a few dozen words, associate them with English cognates and start generating noun-adjective, adjective-noun, adjective-verb (and others) pairs to get good place names.

Good starting points:
Colors (red, blue, green, white, black, silver, gold)
Sizes (big, small, giant, tiny)
Geography (hill, mountains, cliff, coast, valley, canyon, river lake, ocean).
Weather (sunny, rainy, snowy)
People Places (hamlet, village, town, city, tower, fort)
Activities (farm, guard, watch, mine, swim, fall)
Age (new, old, ancient)
and so on.

Keeping a table of several different language sets as above for different previous cultures can give a good feel to a world because areas will be roughly consistent and you can layer elements over time as the cultures change (if you're into that much detail).

lokiie1984
10-23-2012, 11:47 PM
Call it "New York" or "Los Angeles" or "San Francisco" or "Mi Ami" or "Port Land" or "Charles Town". That way it's two words that aren't put together at all. One classic technique is to do the rudiments of conlang activity and define words for a few basic colors and things and titles; combining these gives good place names that are unfamiliar. For example, naming a place "The Watch Tower" and then defining the words "Watch" and "Tower" as "Minas" and "Tirith" gives a place name with a straightforward translation. Similarly, "The Blue Mountains" could be translated as "Ered Luin". Straighforward stuff and it lets you pull place names right off a map or even use really dull names like "Rocky Mountains", "Smoky Mountains", and "Snowy Sawtoothed Mountains" (that last one is a rough translation of "Sierra Nevada").

There are any number of word generators out there on the Internet. Generate a few dozen words, associate them with English cognates and start generating noun-adjective, adjective-noun, adjective-verb (and others) pairs to get good place names.

Good starting points:
Colors (red, blue, green, white, black, silver, gold)
Sizes (big, small, giant, tiny)
Geography (hill, mountains, cliff, coast, valley, canyon, river lake, ocean).
Weather (sunny, rainy, snowy)
People Places (hamlet, village, town, city, tower, fort)
Activities (farm, guard, watch, mine, swim, fall)
Age (new, old, ancient)
and so on.

Keeping a table of several different language sets as above for different previous cultures can give a good feel to a world because areas will be roughly consistent and you can layer elements over time as the cultures change (if you're into that much detail).

Thats a really handy idea, i will keep that in mind. I think the Dunroch we came up with has something long those lines, i cant recall if it was old english or something else but i remember her saying something about hill rock. In alot of games that i play online i use a similar setup, taking words that describe the class and then popping it into a language translator until i find something i like the sound of. Not sure why it never really occurred to me to do that for the city name too.

I still have at least two more cities to name (a semi tourist spot built into a desert canyon and then a tiny farming community) So i think i will definitely make use of your idea.

waldronate
10-24-2012, 01:56 AM
I still have at least two more cities to name (a semi tourist spot built into a desert canyon and then a tiny farming community) So i think i will definitely make use of your idea.

Foreign Traveler Valley and Good Small Farmers? So Tourivale (tourist vale) and Bontipeyizan (translate.google.com claims this as a literal translation of "good small farmer" from english into haitian creole with spaces removed). I forgot to mention the googly translator - it has lots of fun results ("dry land farmers" in english is shown as "kuival maal põllumajandustootjate" in Estonian - perhaps too long for a tiny village name).

Lukc
10-28-2012, 05:54 AM
Foreign Traveler Valley and Good Small Farmers? So Tourivale (tourist vale) and Bontipeyizan (translate.google.com claims this as a literal translation of "good small farmer" from english into haitian creole with spaces removed). I forgot to mention the googly translator - it has lots of fun results ("dry land farmers" in english is shown as "kuival maal põllumajandustootjate" in Estonian - perhaps too long for a tiny village name).

Actually, a simple trick is to take your translation, change the orthography (the way sounds are spelled) and mush it around a bit, so that it's shorter & faster to pronounce, and voila ... a colloquial name that developed from an older, more formal name.

E.g. "Great Tree Hill" --google translate into Welsh--> "mawr coeden bryn" (no idea how to pronounce that, but let's pretend ...) --I fiddle a bit and--> Mor Coodryn or Coedenry Maur or Mawer Coebryn or even Marcobreen.

E.g. 2 "fat cake wood" --to Danish--> "fedt kage træ" --fiddle--> Fedka Trae or Fettage Tre or Trefedage or Feid Kagatra

Jhormogan
02-17-2013, 11:58 PM
My friends are astounded by how many names I've made up to be scattered across my maps. But nonetheless, my names are inspired by things around me. For awhile I used to go to a nearby park after school and find road signs and mash words together. It was interesting due to the fact that the west side of the city had a French background whereas the east side had hints of Polish in it. Also this was during my time taking Latin. I suppose with all the available resources I could change to not making names up in my head, but if you are still capable of doing so it's something to be proud of because I certainly am!

Something I usually fall to for a region of similar cultures are names with similar sounds in them, say Ayntvayle (Ant-vale). Next city for me would be Aynaetell (Anay-tell). Similar prefixes or suffixes usually work for like regions or entire states/countries!

AH_Rebel
02-18-2013, 01:58 AM
I've found that when I can't figure out a good name if I instead just take the words that describe that area and either misspell them or (as posted above) see what they sound like in other Germanic languages then it helps a lot.

For instance, Koldara or Flaymwyne instead of Caldera or Flamewind... or Undinos (Undines are other names for Dryads, or water nymphs). Other names could be found from reading books with good names (Tolkien) or historic books. (Outremer is one of my favorite names for an area...)

Mostly, names should be able to aptly describe the area, or (in the case of multi-lingual books) sound cool in the local tongue.

su_liam
02-18-2013, 03:39 PM
Yeah google translate is your friend.
I created a whole cluster of names just by translating "wet water" into multiple languages(uji i lagesht, ur hezea, basang tubig, etc.).
Here's a little cluster I translated into Gujarati and then played with:

white mountains -> Saphēda pahāḍō -> Sappeta Paharo
misty mountains -> Jhākaḷavāḷuṁ parvatō -> Jhakavala
blue mountains -> Vādaḷī parvatō -> Vadalia
ever flowing -> Atyāra vahētī -> Achara Vahesh
wet river -> Bhīnuṁ nadī -> Bhinumadi
storm water -> Varasātī pāṇī -> Varasan
blasted heath -> Kharābā śāpita -> Kharaba Shapita
cursed vale -> Śāpita khīṇa -> Khinasha Piro
dead marshes -> Mr̥ta bhējavāḷī jamīna -> Murto Beyaval

Usually a good way at least to set the gray cells in motion.

Tomalak
03-14-2013, 03:34 AM
donjon; RPG Tools (http://donjon.bin.sh) Mithril & Mages (http://www.mithrilandmages.com/)
The most important advice is that it's okay to use real words. The above links are some very good random generators, but don't get stuck on the specific results - a bridge name may be better as a road name, and you can generate a person's name to name a school or airport after (or castle, forest, etc.)