When Anneliese and I first named Wren and Kelta, we hadn’t done any worldbuilding or established any rules for the languages of the Shallic Sea. This means that the main characters’ names were the first examples we had of words from their languages. Ellondese and Taxian were born from those words: “Wren Elspur” and “Kelta.”

an old drawing of geraldine and gavin wearing very very british clothing

From the beginning, Ellond was a pretty blatant ripoff of Napoleonic-era England, so it was easy enough to develop naming conventions for Ellondese characters: if it sounded British, it would probably work. However, I didn’t want to use too many real-world names, so I was careful, especially with surnames, to pick constructed or uncommon options. We ended up with a few real last names, like Strathmore and Whitney, but most of the names were English-style constructions, such as Elspur, Wellerdon, Lawbright, and Cavender. Those family names could exist in English, but I’ve never encountered them.

When it came to first names, Wren set an obvious precendent for bird names, giving rise to characters such as Nightingale and Starling. Later, we determined that this is a recent naming trend: the crown prince of Ellond, age 25 at the time of the first book, bears the grand and magnificent name Canary. As soon as his name was announced, other nobles in the court began naming their children after birds as well, and within a couple years, the fashion spread throughout the nation. Canary was rarely used as a first name, to avoid imitating the prince too closely, but a large number of boys, including Wren’s elder brother, were saddled with the middle name Canary. However, by the time of Jubilant’s events, this naming trend has mostly passed, and it’s rare to find anyone younger than ten or twelve with a bird name.

During the writing process, we also thought it would be funny to stick Wren with the name Gentle, and this in turn set the precendent for virtue names. This gave us characters such as Gallant, Justice, and Considerate. As we filled in more first names, we continued the practice of using a few real English (and French) names along with potentially-English-sounding names. Thus we ended up with Gavin, Geraldine, and Clarabelle on the one hand; and Devald, Treman, and Pallin on the other hand. Hopefully the end result is a set of names that sounds familiar and comfortable to English speakers but doesn’t quite line up with real-world naming conventions.

greek alphabet

Taxian names actually developed more simply: although Taxia was never an analogue to a real-world nation like Ellond was, their language is heavily inspired by an existing language, namely Greek. Kelta’s name and the name of the country, Taxia, both hinted at a Greek sound, so we took that hint and ran with it. Some of the Taxian words that appear in Jubilant are literally just Greek with a few letters changed: for example, “dikaiat” (justice) comes directly from the Greek “dikaiosune” (justice). We’ve also used some preexisting Greek names, such as Kastor and Kalon. However, for the most part, especially when naming characters, we’ve created words from scratch using the established sounds. Names like Ganat, Keltorax, and Ragam use letters and common letter combinations from Greek, but don’t follow any of the actual Greek rules for names. Most notably, Greek names almost exclusively end in A, E, OS, or ON; we’ve expanded to end names with a variety of other letters, which hopefully gives Taxian names a unique sound despite the fact that we’ve lifted the phonemes straight from Greek.

kelta's family pattern, an elaborate design of embroidered celtic knots and colored beads

We also decided early on that the Taxians don’t have surnames, instead identifying themselves by their clans and their relationship to notable teachers or leaders. This opened the door for a whole new naming convention, where Taxian “surnames” are essentially complex ideograms with no verbal component. They use these family patterns in place of traditional last names, wearing them prominently on their clothing and jewelry. Thus, the image to the left is essentially Kelta’s “last name,” though put into words, it would be more like a resume: member of Darias Clan, related to Haias Ganat, a warrior by trade, trained in the Snake School, taught by Grand Haias Kastor, owner of a drachon trophy. The Taxians don’t exactly think of family patterns as names, but they consider their patterns a core part of their identities and use them for identification in much the same way that we use surnames.

As for the other nations of the Shallic Sea, they have their own naming conventions as well, but we’ll save those for another time.

One thought on “Names in the Shallic Sea

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