By Skill and Valour: What’s in a Name?

Originally I had planned to follow up the last LARP post with a tutorial on how I make chemises, but the lighting in here has been so bad during the last few days that I’ll have to postpone that a bit further until I can finally take decent photos again.

Instead, let’s have another theory post.

Today I’ll explore naming with you. I know a lot of people who find naming the worst part of creating a character. And after I saw how much that already is I’ll delay the family to another post.

Noio’s full name is Noionella Belenoleth Vindest de Hague-Magvalie. This is how it’s pieced together:

  • Noionella: From the Horasian Empire. Noiona is the patron saint of the insane, and her mother nearly went insane during the birth of Noio and her twin brother during a stormy night when the river had left its bed, flooding the land around the manor. Noio, being the second, was blessed with the name of the saint her mother cried out for during the birthing process, while her brother was named after a saint of Efferd – god of weather, storms and the sea. The -ella suffix is a diminutive of Italian descent, fitting because the names in the Horasian Empire are often similar to those from Italy or, more rare, France.
  • Belenoleth: The second name is a female variant of Belen, the name of one of the early Horasian emperors.
  • Vindest: A common surname in the empire. A friend of mine had a character by the surname of Vindest when I started plaing TDE over a decade ago, and I kind of took the name for Noio as a reminder of this time. It was not exactly necessary so I decided for this to be the maiden name of Noio’s mother.
  • de: A nobiliary particle indicating that her father is a cavalliere.
  • Hague-Magvalie: Hague means, well, hauge – something hedge-enclosed, and Magvalie is a pseudo-francophone bastardisation of მაყვალი/maqvali, Georgian for blackberry. There are probably a lot of brambles around their estate. Basically, and yes, it was a bit on purpose, she is Noio of Brambly Hedge.

From the name Hague-Magvalie it was not too hard to find a basic coat of arms for the family: Sable, three roses argent (or carnation/rose) two over one.

Hauge-Magvalie Crest

I chose a black background because of the dark hair the whole family has and because, well, it’s blackberry. Blackberries are part of the Rosaceae family, so roses it was – retconned as blackberry blossoms. The colour white was chosen because in most European heraldic traditions there is nothing like pale pink – but the French tradition helped me out with carnation. The Aventurian heraldry is a different one to Europe, though, and nitpickers would probably nitpick about carnation not being a decent tincture, so I keep white as a second option.
For the crest above I used the free version of Inkwell Ideas’ Coat of Arms software. It’s a great tool and would I have to make crests more often I’d consider their pro version (which also has supporters, different shields and the like to make even better crests). And yes, I managed to misspell the name. Alas.

So how do I choose names?

  • Most of the time I already have a concept of the character – her traits, her looks (well, in case of LARP she looks mostly like me) and a cultural background.
  • Speaking of cultural background: One of my favourite tool is behindthename.com, especially their name themes tool. If I find nothing there I can also use the search to find words that fit the character in the name descriptions.
  • The other tool I use frequently is Wikipedia. I simply search for something that I think would fit the character – a certain stone, a feeling, a plant, something like that – and then go and look for the same thing in other languages (hovering the cursor over the language links is enough when you look at the URL preview at the bottom of your screen. Just saying.). This is how I found Esmalt (enamel in Catalan) for a character connected to the industry. Or how I came up with a name for Scoundrel’s travelling monk Cluddwain (from Welsh “cludiant”, traffic, combined with Owain). In most cases just be sensible and don’t take things that are sacred. Alter it a little bit if you like to, like I did with Noio’s last name.
  • In case of Noio I mainly used the names list at the back of the core rule book for The Dark Eye. This is especially helpful when the setting is an already established one: most of the times there are lists.
  • Or search for lists of dead kings and queens, or make use of the year pages of Wikipedia, they usually list important birthdays and deaths, maybe you’ll find a name there.
  • Last but not least try to google the name you came up with to avoid unpleasant surprises. For example “Nojo”, as I wanted to shorten Noionella at first (it’s homophone to Noio in German) is Portuguese for “disgust”. Not something I want to name my character.

By the way, Noio’s “real world name” I intend on using should I ever play her on a Steampunk con – the concept is adaptable enough – would be Noëlle Willemijn van Bromhag (I’m keeping the pattern: Noëlle because she was probably born on Christmas day and because it is rather close to Noionella, Willemijn after all the Dutch kings named Willem because she’d probably be of Flemish or Dutch ancestry, and van Bromhag for Brambly Hedge).

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