Worldbuilding Wednesday 11/23/22: Names of Ancient Egypt

The civilization of Ancient Egypt has enthralled the Western world ever since Napoleon’s forays down the Nile brought it to the attention of European scholars. Part of that was the indecipherable hieroglyphics that covered its temples, tombs, and monuments. Not until the 1850s were these translated into English, using cross-translations from the Rosetta Stone. In this way, much of the modern world’s knowledge of ancient Egypt came to light.

When speaking of the language, it exists in two forms: the written and the spoken. The written language did not use vowels, so what the actual spoken language sounded like was up for grabs. Experts think it was similar in sound to Amharic or the Egyptian Coptic language, but no one knows for sure.

Egyptian proper names, like Hebrew, meant something. Tutankhamun, for example, meant  “the living image of Amun,” Amun being the Egyptian creator god. The language likely drifted over the centuries while names remained in archaic forms, so it likely wasn’t as clunky as one might think. After all, the language existed for over 4,000 years. Context, too, was everything. In modern times, a child named Grace or Max isn’t usually mistake for the normal usage of the word. The names were also shortened to nicknames, such as Tiy. They are cool enough by themselves so I decided to present a selection here instead of a randomgen, which really wasn’t needed.

These names are picked from a variety of periods, so probably should not be jumbled together if what you’re writing is meant to be a historically accurate depiction of ancient Egypt. More research would be called for to see what name were in use at what time. For a fantasy or gaming use, though, they’re fine.

 

Ancient Egyptian Names

Female

Aat

Ahmoset

Amenia

Artakama

Behenu

Bintanath

Hetepheres

Khensa

Kiya

Menwi

Meritamun

Merti

Nebetia

Nebetta

Nofret

Pyhia

Satiah

Seshmetka

Tasherit

Tetisheri

Tiaa

Tyti

Male

Ahedjib

Djedi

Harkhuf

Intef

Isesu

Kawab

Khui

Maathor

Minkhaf

Minnefer

Muthis

Neferku

Perneb

Psatik

Rahotep

Raneb

Seneh

Sihathor

Snaaib

Userkaf

Wahtya

Wetka

Dragon Waffle


I present to you… a waffle shaped like a Chinese dragon! AI art at its greatest.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 11/16/22: Let’s Talk About -ling

Isla Crown, Lightlark, YA novel

Poor Isla Crown who must eat human hearts to survive!
Well, not really. (Art generated by AI)

A few months ago, back in August 2022, the ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) of a YA fantasy novel, Lightlark, were released to selected readers and reviewers to generate some buzz. The author, Alex Aster, had generated plenty already. Already active on BookTok — the TikTok community centered around reading and authors — she’d been talking about her new novel for months, promising selective tropes, steamy love interests, Hunger-Games style action, and royal court intrigue.

Unfortunately, most of the buzz generated from people who actually read the book was negative. I’ll let this detailed thread in Reddit explain why, and this review explains the book’s many flaws.

One complaint of critics was that the fantasy naming system was laughably unoriginal. The protagonist’s name is Isla Crown, and — surprise! — she lives on an island, and is a princess and thus wears a crown. The other kingdoms in the book are named in a  similar Captain Obvious way. For example, there’s an island of sky-oriented flying people who dress in blue,  ruled by one Azul, which is Spanish for blue, and the name of these people are… Skylings! Get it?

In addition to the Skylings of Sky Isle, there are:

  • Sunlings of Sun Isle, ruled by Oro,  which is Spanish for gold. Gold as the sun.
  • Starlings of Star Isle, ruled by Celestia. Not the birds of the same name obviously. Again the ruler’s name relates to the stars or heavens.
  • Moonlings of Moon Isle, ruled by Cleo. Break in naming continuity.
  • Wildlings (try to say that fast) of Wild Isle, ruled by our heroine, Isla Crown. Another break in naming continuity.
  • Nightshades of Dark Isle, ruled by Grimshaw. A third break in continuity, but this time there’s a reason: Darklings would sound too much like the hero of another YA fantasy series.

As a writer myself, all I’ll say is, perhaps more imagination was called for. The author does not seem to have read much adult and classic fantasy. If she really was enamored of the names, however, she should have gone all-in on it. Cleo should be Luna! Isla Crown should be Salvaje, Gaia, or Amazonia! Nightshades should  just be called Darklings, or even better, Nightlings or Shadelings. It’s like the author grew ashamed of her own naming system halfway through the writing but didn’t have the cojones to make it consistent and really OWN it.

But all that got me thinking: just what does the suffix -ling mean, anyway?

There are are actually two meanings. The first, as used by Lightlark’s author, means “of”  “connected with”  or “belonging to.” Thus, Sunlings belong to the sun, or Sun Isle. In modern English, comparative terms are Earthling (popularized by Marvin the Martian), hireling, and underling. This usage came out of 14th century Old English, adapted from the same term in proto-Germanic.

The second usage, which is likely more familiar to readers of fantasy, is as a diminutive, which was introduced by Old Norse (which also came out of proto-Germanic) for the young of certain animals. For example, gosling for the young of a goose. But as it transferred to Old English — likely by Norse invaders — it began to take on the insulting tone of being young, small, weak, or inferior. Thus, stripling and princeling, which will be familiar to anyone who reads Legolas-centric Lord of the Rings fanfic where he’s captured, enslaved, or otherwise talked down to and abused.

For me, Sunling and the other -lings sound more like happy little elves than human characters. I wouldn’t have named them that way.

But, if you are writing fantasy and want to throw in some different races or species, how about these?

 

Some -lings that sound cool

Speedling

Dustling

Stormling

Lavaling

Saltling

Doomling

Waferling

Questling

Stoneling

Arseling

Spyling

Fieldling

Twickling

Breathling

Charmling

Quickling

Liegeling

Broodling

Summerling

Impling

Witchling

Fluxling

Femling

Pleasureling

Gnomeling

Warling

Mistling

Snipling

Dragon Empress, Empress Dragon

At the top, Dragon Empress; at the bottom, Empress Dragon. Both AI variations on the same source art, with differing word order.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/26/22: Hogwarts Houses

Now that Halloween is coming around, let’s talk about a perennial costume: Harry Potter. Either Harry himself, in a black robe (a polyester one used for graduations is available at most thrift stores), scarf, round eyeglasses, and eye-penciled scarf, or one of the other characters such as Snape, Hermione, or a Death Eater. All have the same advantage of the cheap graduation robe as the basic set piece. And of course, Harry Potter characters cropping up again brings all sorts of hoopla about teaching kids Satanism and whatnot.

Hogwart’s Sorting Hat separated the kids into four different Houses, but I’ve often thought there was room for more. Here’s some, randomgenned, that might have been.

 

Hogwarts Houses no one talks about

Draffinwaft: This house has a curious bent. Foolhardy and easily irritated, they cannot be trusted with important matters of research, governance, or defense. Yet they also evince great amounts of empathy. The few that take on the mantle of Draffinwaft serve as counselors, floor monitors, and teachers of non-essential classes like acting and arts and crafts. Their symbol is a satyr.

Keshrak: Wisdom is the asset of this house. Keshraks can always be trusted to make the right decision, no matter what. They serve on the ruling board as judges, mediators, and diplomats. On the downside, they are completely unsentimental and humorless, which can make others uncomfortable. Their symbol is a lamprey.

Griscloud: This house has the basilisk as its symbol, and legend says all who are chosen for it have the power to turn others to stone with a direct glare. But rather, their stony silence and deadpan gaze cause such discomfiture in others no one dares cross them, or well, even interact with them. Those in the Griscloud House do best working alone, traditionally fulfilling the roles of night watchmen, watch repairers, and night auditors.

Imilscraw: Those of this House are known as the Executioners, because they do the unpleasant tasks that no one else at Hogwarts will do. Their symbol is the cockatrice. Because they perform a vital service the school would be lost without, members tend to be haughty and self-assured.

Lytharpy: Lytharpys are taught to be magical mercenaries, hiring themselves out to the highest bidder. In this way they bring much-needed income to the school. This is the only House where the students don’t socialize with all the others. Those chosen often have a cruel or passionate nature. Its symbol is a hawk.

Schaffindor: Those of this House specialize in divination, choosing a method such as cards, tea leaves, astrology, crystal gazing, pyromancy, or runestones. That is all they do. The four main Houses always consult them before making important decisions. Schaffindors are supposed to serve impartially, but as they rose out of a branch of the Slytherin, they tend to advocate for their ancestral House. Their symbol is a parrot. In manner they are diplomatic, cautious, and extremely intelligent. Some say they don’t need divination at all, they manipulate others through the sheer force of their intellects.

Zythless: Those of this House take care of the school’s horses. They are trustworthy and proud, but desperate to be accepted as equals by the others. Their symbol is a bat because bats are encouraged to live in the stables where they eat the noxious insects that bother the horses.

 

She Came from Planet Five

She came from Planet Five
I knew it all the time
She wore a metal miniskirt
As she stood knee-deep in dirt

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/12/21: Those Damned Ds

The letter D is dandy, dignified, dauntless, darling. Though it looks pregnant, I’d say its gender is masculine.  It has a Medieval vibe; J. R. R. Tolkien was fond of using it in the dh combination, meant to be pronounced as a hard th as is found in the word clothing. Dragon starts with D, as does dwarf. Germanic languages made heavy use of it: Sturm und Drang, Dusseldorf, Deutschland.

If you’re writing fantasy, here are dome D names for a character or two.

 

Character names beginning with D

Male

Dandelf

Dangalph

Dass Bala

Delian

Delvain

Dracnor

Dranfar

Draut

Drozan

Duchard

Female

Dalina

Dalra

Daphiriel

Darlapra

Darvashia

Demisa

Desi

Dezra

Dhirani

Dulurusha

Surnames

Damberlyres

De Faun

Delgagari

Dipcruller

Distharp

Dockbloom

Domlauden

Dragonheath

Dryglaive

Dustliege

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/5/22: Haircuts (Silly)

Korean Boy haircut (this was generated in AI from the description below)

An AI can generate recipes, stories, Halloween costumes… but how about haircuts?

A silly list for you to laugh at, though some of these may be plausible in some future setting.

 

Haircuts that don’t, and shouldn’t, exist

Aseptic: The haircut is done by cutting short, curly ends of the hair. When the hair is cut back toward the natural middle line, it is cut out. The shorter ends are shaved.

Aunt Marie: A haircut that shows off the shaved head. It comes as a surprising reminder of the fact that baldness can often cause health problems.

L. Short (B.L.) hair: A stylized form of hair loss based on its shape and texture. Also known as short-stiff hair or curly hair.

Barbarian: A style of hair that gets longer after getting chopped off.

Bluebeard: A haircut that does little more than take off your shirt or pants.

Boatboy: A modern-style cut involves a cut-over head.

Bubblehair: A hairstyle that makes it look bigger on the head, with a black back.

Curdling-frost cut: A haircut that’s a natural, not-so-distant leap from the manly look or the womanly look of someone that’s grown up and has tried to conform to some of the traditional ways and needs.

Fashionista: Women’s hair with a heavy side that has an elastic back.

Korean Boy cut: A cut with a short hair that is much smaller than a straight man’s that seems to stretch into a big, round head, usually between the three to four inches. In an interview with Playboy, Mr. Joon-ho, the cut’s creator, admitted his real-life relationship with his haircut. “There’s a reason I cut my hair once in a while. I was afraid that it would sound like a joke,” he said. (I went to Japan and saw a few “boy cut”-types over there — they weren’t hard to come by, at least at a decent price)

Mohai: This is a very popular cut to give a “flip” appearance to hair in your style. It can be very hard to match a girl’s hair style and to work in their hair rather than the side of their head.

Odesza Black: A hairstyle that gets shorter because a haircut makes you look bigger.

Poodle Pot: A man that has a bald face after wearing a full beard every day for 10 months.

Poppins: As the name suggests, this cut is an American icon of the 20th century, part of the United States Army, and part of a group called the New Americans of North Dakota.

Primavera: Also known as short steeples or wort short.

Puma cut: Women’s hair with a short side that has a thin end.

Red line cut: The style originally known as a straight-line or halyard.

Ripped cut: This cut consists of a short, pointed cut and a rounded cut, usually with two lines.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/28/22: Nautical Slang

Let’s sail away

The world of boating has its own set of slang: starboard, port, bow, stern, limey, crow’s nest. But there’s always room for more. In some other world, it might be these terms.

 

Newfangled Nautical Slang

Ammunition-in: It’s time for a drink because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Allee: A nearby room or place where one can change from dry clothes to wet

Bread and Beer: Life expectancy after a two-day ship’s tour

Buddy: A signalman

Bugler: An operator on the bridge of a ship, who blows the order “Watch the water!”

Buggerhead: The head of the bridge

Bollard: Someone taking his turn standing on a conveyor belt to watch the ship’s ballast tanks

Brawling: Greasing an enemy’s hatch to try to prevent its locking

Bouffanting: When a young man reaches manhood and goes into the navy

Boos: The genteel way of swearing or shouting, as opposed to any of the more vulgar uses of profanity

Bulldoggin’: Gossiping, passing notes, cussin’ and hustlin’

Cookies: A simple solution to maritime traffic problems by encouraging caution and keeping the customer informed about frequent changes of equipment settings

Crabbin’: Bulldoggin’ (see above)

Dumb, Dummie: Cussing

Emory: To hump in a bunk

Emergency-A: To carry out a direct order

Cretian of Citesquis-Martín: A fictional sailor who appeared frequently in popular magazines or plays in the late 1800s, such as “Telling the Story of Duma.” To be called a Cretian is to be a real seaman.

Crew Perfume: To open the hatch more than five times in a row

Diamantal: An ocean wind.

Ding: The surface of an ocean

Fairweathers: The bridge-keepers, sailors or officers aboard whose careers were spent at sea and who would talk to the natives

Fairweather lamps: The green lancing lights at the mastheads of some ships, which were used to help find the fairweathers who were missing

Falling off a pier: The equivalent of “breaking the water” or “kicking the bucket” for the ship

Fall ’em all: Retreat; abandon ship

Foggia Lamanta: The waters from a great bay that bears the ship

Heatshock: Rapid descent of the ship’s bow below the water line, due to a collision or collision with another ship

Kittynapping: To crawl out from under a plexiglass box on deck

Large Dish: A brass or copper bottomed bronze glass plate, on which a portrait or figure of the Captain is painted

Lurge: Fuel from a ship’s engines

Lurgey: A sailor who is in jail

Lionette: A dog treasured by the crew as a mascot. The most famous example is probably La Stella from Dutch Ampirico, a well-liked bull terrier that was attacked as it crossed the river from a neighboring city.

Moisture: A puddle that is a mess caused by weathering or getting into trouble in a sailing ship’s cargo hold.

Orange: Archaic Canadian term for sinusoidal wave, like when the ship moves across the water with the sea going out and coming in

Pusher: Crewman who pulls on ropes to maintain the speed of a vessel

Punty: The water closet or (sometimes called only “the pen”)

Punty-boat: A narrow-beamed wooden boat or rowboat used to convey a body, as well as the land crew, from shore to the mortuary

Punto (seaman): One-half of a seaman

Reading Room: Officers’ cabins located just below the bridge, above the ordinary seaman’s

Rocking Horse: When a ship is rolling so the edge of the main (top) mast touches the water

Round-Heeled Ship: A type of ship that was built with two decks, each approximately three times as high as the original two decks. These were largely a curiosity and did not last in large numbers.

Roundback: A ship that is side-on to the wind or a beam to which the ship is steered

Rugby ball: Archaic term used by Royal Canadian Navy sailors for the seamen’s mess

Shot from close quarters: To mark the beginning of each ship’s training phase by leaving all of its components out in the open.

Smooth sailing boat: A large boat with two legs, a vessel capable of steering or even stopping, for which, therefore, it needs legs

Wreck Barrier: A system of floating obstructions that lines the entrance to the construction or maintenance area and prevents waste from being thrown into the water

Whisper: The noise of a submarine breathing underwater

Wigwag (also Wiggie): Fitted with one or more telescopic poles to serve as navigation aids

Working the Clock:
To watch for ships during a sea watch

Worlds Apart: When the lead ship of a line or division is in close proximity to a second ship, so that the end of the second ship is the forward end of the lead ship’s bow

Winkle: The most difficult navigational hazard to avoid

Ponygirl Accident

Trouble at the track. Can they ever be extricated?