“Look here. You know there are a more than a few species out there whose names we can’t hope to pronounce, even if you only count the ones that use vocal language. Such as all the amorphoids, whose vocal organs are as arbitrary as the rest of them.”

“Like the myneni, whose whole surface can be one big tympanum.”

“Exactly. And you know how many of those species adopt use-names so they don’t have to put up with us mangling the real ones?”

“Just tell me what you’re trying to say.”

“I’m saying don’t even look like you might snicker when you meet Senior Chief Instructor Oobleck.”

– overheard after lights’-out, recruit dormitory, Fort Petrae

Trope-a-Day: Meaningful Name

Meaningful Name: What attributive names are supposed to be, both the self-chosen and the awarded, and what a lot of the subsidiary components of a full name are: persona, patronymic, matronymic, locative, generation, clade, mindstyle, associations, etc. (See also: Luke Nounverber, Names to Run Away From Really Fast (upcoming), Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom (also upcoming), Overly Long Name).  Also seen, at least part of the time, in the naming conventions for ships, habitats, cities…


Trope-a-Day: Third-Person Person

(Note: a planet of the day is still coming, albeit not technically today. Just been movieing.)

Third-Person Person: There are a number of languages and cultures in the Associated Worlds that do this.  One notable example is the use of first-third person in Eldraeic, because it lets you cite your attributive name of the moment (see Overly Long Name), and thus reify who you are (or rather, which aspect of yourself you are expressing) right now.

Trope-a-Day: Some Call Me Tim

Some Call Me Tim: They didn’t go to all the trouble of acquiring such an impressive collection of syllables (see: Overly Long Name) to have some git go and shorten them.  Use all of them.

Well, at least, use everything up to and including the attributive name if you aren’t just going to go for the extremely respectful address by name-and-honorific alone.  If you are privileged to use personal or attributive name alone, you’ll be told so.  (And, no, reciprocity cannot be taken as implied, nor can it be extrapolated human-style from relative status.)

But they’ll never tell you a deliberately shortened version of one of those without meaning something by it, and you may not make one up.

Trope-a-Day: Overly-Long Name

Overly-Long Name: Played quite straight among the eldrae, and other people prone to use relevant bits of the same name-format. Fortunately, most of it is optional – of course, that’s optional at the discretion of the name-bearer, so those wishing to use the diplomatic stalling gambit of demanding to be known by all 580 syllables of their name and storming insulted out of the negotiations at the first mispronunciation still have that open.

To cite a relatively mild example:

Miran Esitariel Prime Cyprium-ith-Avalae isil-Claves Linlethar ion-Atiran iel-Calandra mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir

That’s a mere nine components, of which technically only the second, fourth, and sixth are absolutely compulsory, but this nine-component version works nicely on letters and such. The components are:

  • miran: That’s a status indicator, which takes the place of our “Mr.”, etc. Miran means “citizen-shareholder”… well, okay, it means “ordered one”, but that means “citizen-shareholder”; you can also use leran, which, if expanded, would mean “understander of civilities”, and can be glossed “decent chap”, or darav, which simply means “sophont” and implies nothing.  Really hard, sometimes.
  • Esitariel: Personal name. Do not feel free to shorten it. Nicknames work differently here, and that’s an insult that will hurt you.
  • Prime: Persona identifier. This one means that you’re talking to the primary version of a multiply instantiated person, not one of their forks (usually identified by ordinals, and if necessary sub-ordinals and sub-sub-ordinals). More complicated toposophies have their own entire systems that can be used in this place. (Note: Terrans and other primitives that don’t even have backup copies get to insert “Singular” here.)
  • Cyprium-ith-Avalae: Family name – specifically, for eldrae, House-ith-Lineage name. Comes in a few variants – for people who’ve been formally disinherited, for one, or the form for young children (i.e. Cathál i-sered-Ríëlle), which means “of the blood of the House, but not Accepted of the House”.
  • isil-Claves: Spouse’s House-and-Lineage name (and here’s another variant; she gets to abbreviate it in this form because she’s a Claves-ith-Claves), which is reciprocal; they include each others’. If you happen to be married to more than one person, yes, you get to include all of them here. (If this gets too unwieldy, you may include the name of your coadunation marital instead; essentially a company name.)
  • Linlethar: an attributive name (which does the job of formalized nickname, wish-name, title-name, court-name, office-name, child-name, friend-name, pen-name, art-name, field-name, lover’s-name, generalized epithet, and any one of a dozen other things – and who you are right now is indicated by which one you choose to use, by the protocols of valessef). They can also get quite long and flowery. And, depending upon the circumstances, you may include only the most relevant one, all the relevant ones, or simply all of them, of which you may have many, if not lots.
  • ion-Atiran, iel-Calandra: Patronymic and matronymic (“fathered by Atiran, mothered by Calandra”, or if you prefer, “out of Calandra by Atiran”). Traditionally, people preferentially cite the one of their same-sex parent, because equally traditionally they inherited their House and lineage from their opposite-sex parent, but since there’s no guarantee that you’ll have one parent of each sex, or two parents for that matter, it’s not a hard and fast rule; just cite whatever is most useful for identification. And, of course, anyone can cite both if they feel like it. They’re also recursive, so if you want to go back up your lineage to the nth generation, you can do that; just be aware that exponential growth grows exponentially, m’kay?
  • mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir: Loconymic. Identifies the location that you’re associated with – estate, home town, etc. Not necessarily origin – there’s another particle for that, if you want to specify it separately, but this should not be assumed to be the case. It used to be just mis- and a location, but in these days of extensive multiplanetary polities…

And there are lots more optional components. Origin, as mentioned. Species and clade, for the body you’re currently walking around in, which is handy on invitations and RSVPs so people know what environment to expect/you’ll need. Mindstyle (similar to persona, but defines the whole person, not just this instance; usually used together with the persona identifier for those more complex toposophies). Era of personality formation (generation, essentially, and quite handy given how long people can live for). And associations – oh, yes, you can include as lengthy a list of associations as you want: philosophies, branches, corporations, academies, etc., etc.

And we haven’t even started on titles, qualifications, and awards yet…

How much of it you drag out on any particular occasion depends upon relevancy (most importantly), the formality of the occasion (if it’s your debut at the Court of Courts, be prepared to have every last syllable recited, for example), how much of a hurry you’re in, and just how much you want to be able to browbeat your hapless audience with how awesome you are and, for that matter, the terrifying prospect of having to repeat it correctly.

(Also, business cards have hypertext.)

Trope-a-Day: Numbered Homeworld

Numbered Homeworld: Averted.  As we mentioned way back in Naming Your Colony World, inhabited systems generally do get named objects, if only because they’re easier to remember.  Even uncontacted alien homeworlds get names, often a pronounceable transliteration of whatever the local name is, out of some respect for local sensibilities… and ease of memory/reference.

(Yes, this implies that Vonis Prime isn’t really called Vonis Prime…)

Trope-a-Day: Generican Empire

Generican Empire: Well, the thing to remember here is that the Empire of the Star was named long before it ever got into space (and has many stars, besides).  It’s actually named after a philosophical symbol rather than anything physical.  (In fairness and trope-compliance, they could have called it the Eldraeic Imperium, or some such, except (a) back on their own world at the beginning they didn’t feel like offering up such a blatant statement of world-conquering intent, and (b) once they got out among the stars, they didn’t want to sound like a bunch of race/species-obsessed jerks.)

By the time it acquired the alternate soubriquet of the Eldraeic Transcend, evidently people figured they’d already established their credentials on the polyspecificity front.

(The third alternate name, the “Bright Empire”, is actually a given-in-scorn-adopted-in-pride name originating with a news editor’s slip of the tongue and an unfortunate phrasing in an interstellar explorer’s autobiography; as such, in the Imperial mouth, it can make you sound isolationist, hegemonic, or even belletrist, and in the outworlders’, either distinctly pro-Imperial or distinctly sarcastic, and should thus be used with caution.)

Anyway, back on topic: most star nations hang some sort of non-generican name on themselves.  The ones which don’t are often considered suspicious, maybe even likely to be rogue – sort of the way that, on Earth, any country calling itself a Democratic People’s Republic is definitely some sort of creepy-ass dictatorship.

Averted somewhat by the “Associated Worlds”, which isn’t all that creepy – it’s just that a name that Generican is all that the various people included under that moniker could agree on.  They are all worlds (well, mostly, but the drifts that disagreed didn’t push that point too hard) and they are loosely associated, at least galactographically.  Everything else may vary.

Trope-a-Day: Deadly Decadent Court

Deadly Decadent Court: Half true.  The Court of Courts and its lesser cousins certainly qualify as decadent, inasmuch as (a) those actually involved in the business of government at that level are very generously remunerated in order to (i) remove some of the incentive problems, and (ii) keep up the sort of appearances that make them look like the sort of people you ought to follow, and (b) the Privy Council and other courtiers, even many if by no means all of the entrenotres, tend to be drawn from the Names, Numbers, and Novas, which is to say, the core lineages, plutocrats, and innovative geniuses.  Which is further to say, the most outrageously wealthy segment of an already outrageously wealthy society – and one which never evolved most of our quaint hedonism-is-bad memes.

Not very deadly, though.  That went out when the runér replaced the korásan, whose costly political intriguing and tendency to consider sabotaging and assassinating each other in the course of zero- or negative-sum games thoroughly discredited this sort of thing, so while ambition continues and The Game has been reinvented, most of the competition these days revolves around outdoing each other at deeds which, if not always useful, are at the least not harmful, and flaunting the size of one’s (artistic/scientific/commercial/other) clientele.


Seeing as that last fic was the first time recently I’ve used the extended eldraeic name-format – or at least its most common version, since various cultures do it differently in some places and times, but this is the one that doubles as the modern International Standard – let’s talk about names and their parts a little:

Elyse Adae-ith-Atridae isil-Cyprium-ith-Avalae Erinlochos, ion-Tiryn, iel-Airin, mis-Eliéra-en-Palar


Personal name/forename.  Works just like ours.  It’s often followed by a persona-identifier, which describes who you are relative to the entire identity described by the name, but at the time and place of “Slowly Awakening“, there’s only one of Elyse, and bothering to identify herself as “Elyse Prime” when there aren’t any parallel forks (“Elyse Secundus”, “Elyse Tertius”, etc.) or partial forks or other more complex multiplex identities in play would be less than pointful.


Family-of-descent name.  The format in question is House-ith-Lineage, where lineage is a subset of a House.  (If you think of them as septs of a clan, that’s not too far off.)  It can also be collapsed when they happen to be the same (the founding line of most of the Houses bears the same lineage name as the House name), in which case you can shorten, say, “Claves-ith-Claves” to just “Claves”, but in this case, being of the Atridae lineage of House Adae, Elyse needs to use the full format.


Family-of-marriage name, i.e., the House and lineage name of one’s spouse’s family.  Same format, with an isil- prefix in front of it.  This arrangement is fully reciprocal in all cases, so, for example, her wife’s name is therefore “Calcíë Cyprium-ith-Avalae isil-Adae-ith-Atridae”.  (Those in marriages of other topologies than dyads would include all of their spice’s House-and-lineage names here – yes, this can get quite long.  There is also an alternate format for those special lengthy cases in which you give your marriage a name, in much the same way as other corporate entities have their own names.)


Attributive name.  Covers the whole territory of formalized nicknames, titles, office-names, pen-names, and dozens of other things; most people have more than a few of them.  Most importantly, which one you choose to use is important because it tells people which of the people you are you are being right now, which is something that Imperial etiquette requires you to manage to a nicety.  You are supposed to keep the proper set of Chinese walls in your head and indicators in your speech such that on a family-owned tramp trader, for example, the same two people will always know whether they are having a conversation as captain-and-mate, or husband-and-wife, or business-partner-and-business-partner, etc., etc., and act accordingly.

Which they find much superior to accepting the confusion, fuzzy boundaries and fraternization regulations that we use to patch over the same set of issues.


Patronymic and matronymic.  (You can use full names, but you aren’t obliged to and usually don’t need to.)  Reasonably glosses as “fathered by Tiryn, mothered by Airin”, or “out of Airin by Tiryn”, depending on your personal taste.  An optional component if further identification is necessary than the rest of your name provides; customarily, women cite matronymics and men, patronymics – because that works best for identity-narrowing given that the custom is also that daughters are counted in their father’s House and lineage and sons in their mother’s – but either has the option of citing both, which is what Elyse does here.


Loconymic.  Where you’re from – it’s actually where you consider yourself from, which is not necessarily where you live or where you were born or where you grew up (although it can be any of these; Elyse uses the last of those, although they live on Galíné, which is an outer-system gas giant moon in the same system).  In the original, ancient system, it would just have been mis-Location, but in these days in which the Empire sprawls over multiple worlds, it’s become mis-Planet-en-Location, just to make it easier for people to keep track.

There are, of course, plenty more optional components, but let’s worry about those when they come up, shall we?