Name Your Darlings (Then Murder)

a_game_of_thronesEarlier this week George RR Martin and Robin Hobb appeared in a UK event hosted by HarperVoyager UK (via tor.com). Some excerpts and highlights are available online, below the cut is one video excerpt in which an audience member asks Martin to discuss his approach to naming characters and he elaborates.

In it he mentions that random name generators were something that he thought were going to be useful, but turned out to be less than stellar. This is unfortunately true of the vast number of random name generators out there, but there are at least a couple that I tend to think actually deliver the goods.

The first is Chris Pound’s name generator page. It contains a whole swag of both real world and fantasy world name generation options and tends to do a pretty good job of spitting out at least some results that are elegant and usable. The page dates way back to at least 1999 when I first discovered it online and although it hasn’t been updated since 2003, it is still active and is still one of the best sources for random names online. It is also extremely difficult to find through search engines unless you already know it exists. A secret gem of the internet.

The second place you’d want to check out is behindthename.com. First off, behindthename.com is way more reliable than average for getting name definitions. Most baby name sites are next to useless in this regard, poorly researched and often just plain wrong. Behindthename.com has a name generator that allows you to pick from all sorts of real world possibilities plus some humorous options like ‘fairy’ or ‘hillbilly’ or ‘wrestler’, or in fact all three. I tried asking for a fairy-hillbilly-wrestler name and got:

  • Star Grip Cripple Force Patrick
  • Chuck Atomic Threat Scrivens
  • Silvertoes Power Master Montgomery

I like the last one best.

Meanwhile Chris Pound’s page has very in-geek jokey options for Vance-style Dying Earth spells, Cthululoid words and a standard fantasy name output reminiscent of Robert E. Howard (the last one is noted by Chris as being ‘a bit silly’). I’ll present some lists below and see if you can guess which list belongs to which source:

LIST ONE

  • tsatano
  • shoul
  • ghoulhuzha
  • azathag
  • gur
  • carcosugh
  • shasturugh
  • gnophke
  • ithshu
  • abhothdra
  • gnophke
  • nyogona
  • hydra
  • abhotl
  • ghamblstu
  • carlach
  • halth
  • yogguona
  • ataki
  • ghast
  • gura
  • nophkeh
  • ommogstu
  • halllos
  • azanigonac
  • yitholo
  • athugh
  • yig
  • y’goloi
  • ithiggai
  • carcosona
  • nothoulzha
  • halgha
  • azanigotep
  • zoth
  • shog
  • haloigo
  • yugolzha
  • m’el
  • xiclote
  • azazoth
  • ithbyaegha
  • shub
  • nothoth
  • zothouldra
  • nachano
  • ithotla
  • tsatant
  • shanzha
  • shanona
  • dagoth
  • yugotep
  • zhastur
  • azagnothot

LIST TWO

  • Mederi of the Western Country
  • Gilesindo of the Green Colony
  • Ivan the Wyrm
  • Ivan of Miliniska
  • Bork Oakmace
  • Karayan of the Six Shadows
  • Prasutagus Crocskinner
  • Deniska the Wise
  • Hibai the Water Sorceror
  • Fridgeir Diamondaxe
  • Onund Diamondmace
  • Cynric Trymmanson
  • Osric Sunring
  • Vandrad the Staff
  • Urritz of the Silver Heart
  • Vigfus Godssword
  • Azibar the Burning Wizard
  • Hedeon of Olonets
  • Erruki of the Dark Land
  • Olaf Arnorssen
  • Korian of the Nine Colors
  • Egil the Shark
  • Ingi Sigmundssen
  • Arnfinn the Wildcat
  • Aldhelm Hrypason
  • Olaf Moonstoke
  • Panther Rhegedson
  • Bjorn Diamondmace
  • Cerdic Macethrasher
  • Tosya the White
  • Havard the Goat
  • Charles Smoothflight
  • Thord Fishmaster
  • Borya of Kargopol
  • Isen Tinknife
  • Vassi of Andreev
  • Igon of the Radiant Hand
  • Sergei the Jaguar
  • Stefan Danyaov
  • Strang Elderhome
  • Pruet Cleverfingers
  • Gurutz of the Dark Spirit

LIST THREE

  • Elaral’s culinary travesty
  • Handonsil’s indiscriminate game
  • Fiam-Foa’s rough chivalry
  • Vilaragmu’s chatty buyer
  • The pattern of progressive lemma
  • Ksapourja’s commodious acolyte
  • Gordu’s dire antarctic
  • Disso’s rustic casualty
  • Xexar’s inconsequential amateur
  • The call of the slow recession
  • Shant’s sensible advocate
  • Lohoulchi’s persuasive intrusion
  • Aimbe’s stable nomenclature
  • Igorbanun’s salty herself
  • The agency of inattentive ambiguity
  • Artuntzai’s adrift hire
  • Gilba’s bookish hole
  • Noxambe’s reverent dolt
  • Eleoitz’s marginal mass
  • The charm of somber homogeneity
  • Oietzan’s aboveboard compound
  • Auxki’s polyglot compassion
  • Oidershal’s reactionary morphology
  • Zurteizue’s confluent umbrella
  • The spell of rank regulate
  • Wyxsc’s incredulous price
  • Lodounkon’s vernal balloon
  • Leher’s remedial cushion
  • Beroneth’s scenic exclusion
  • The pattern of extinct consent
  • Tandaragi’s still prestige
  • Aseben’s low demon
  • Ubeth’s salubrious bodyguard
  • Cugen’s girlish diorama
  • The spell of harmonious peacock
  • Droitzarr’s pure abeyance
  • Mantzi’s erect part
  • Petzenran’s quantitative demon
  • Rabal’s premonitory simplicity
  • The charm of lithe marvel
  • Ugumarthe’s rectilinear ambiguity
  • Sahol’s penitentiary prohibition
  • Scaudu’s chaste surprise
  • Ixaki’s hideous poultry
  • The agency of supernatant loss
  • Baushabil’s repulsive lawyer
  • Siliasnas’s starch lull
  • Andorodat’s corporeal suspicion

Really, it’s pretty straightforward to tell which is which if you know your Lovecraft from your Vance from your Howard.

I actually think that an old-fashioned tabletop roleplaying game in which whenever you cast a ‘wild’ spell you get a randomly rolled spell name from the Dying Earth list, and then as the player you have to improv describe what the spell actually does would be kind of fun.

GM: You cast… (rolls dice)… Ixaki’s hideous poultry

PLAYER: Um. I guess… well I summon a hideous chicken. Singing a hideous song. That, you know, er… eventually explodes.

 

About Christopher Johnstone

Christopher Johnstone lives in Melbourne
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