Naming people in Ragaris

I apologise for the lack of a post last Friday – it was a busy weekend.

The party to celebrate “The Tenth Province of Jaryar” was a very happy occasion, for me anyway, and I took the opportunity to announce a competition, which you are all invited to enter. I am seeking a name for a character in “The Servant’s Voice.”

This character is a high-ranking person in the land of Ricossa. He is middle-aged, not particularly tall or significant-looking, dignified but not at all noble in character, and he has a speaking part and plays a crucial role.

But do not call him Charles or Gilbert – or Xeno’philosha. There are some rules for names on my invented continent.

Those of you who’ve read the books – how many have you worked out?

I’m a fan of (most of) the Appendices to “The Lord of the Rings”, and so here to help you is the Ragaris Appendix: Rules of Names.

(Remember, you don’t have to read what follows! You can just tune out, and come back next week…)

Rule 1: the actual name. a) All boy’s names end in c, d, e, f, g, j, n, o, r, s, ai, ch (pronounced as in “loch”) or th. All girl’s names end in a, b, i, l, m or t.

b) The sound “ss” in a name is always spelt “s”, never “c”. The sound “ck” is spelt “c” at the end only (as in Dorac). Anywhere else in a name of person or place it is “k” or “q”, as in Kai and City Qayn. [Author’s note: this was a late development. Kremdar spent a long time in the drafting as Cremdar. It has left an anomaly in the land of Ricossa, which was already on public maps before the change. I hypothesise that this name was originally an amalgam of two words in the Old Tongue, “rich” and “ossa”. I admit that my place-names, confusingly, are often indistinguishable from personal names.]

c) A surprisingly large number of names insert “r” after an opening consonant – as in Mritta, Brinnon, and (in “The Servant’s Voice”) Hridnaya.

Rule 2: the family background. Almost all names in all countries on Ragaris come in the form X son of Y [X’s father], or A daughter of B [A’s mother]. So in a different story one might have “Harry, son of James”, and “Ron, son of Arthur”, but “Ginny, daughter of Molly.”

Exception to Rule 2: the Ten Great Families in Ricossa have developed a clan system. The Ricossan envoy in “Tenth Province” is Lady Jeriet Ban Li b’Shen. She is a member of the b’Shen, her personal name is Jeriet, and her parents were called Banari and Listrin. (I suspect the “Lady” is a Haymonese courtesy, not used at home, although she does later become head of the Family, and thus Lady b’Shen.)

Lower classes in Ricossa follow Rule 2.

Variations to Rule 2: a) Lowly-born people in Jaryar are normally only referred to by one name, as Dorac finds out when he goes there incognito. He meets a woman called Melina, and only discovers that she is “Melina, daughter of Freldi”, weeks later, when introducing her formally in Marod. The full version would have been used in official situations, such as court appearances or weddings;

b) On the other hand, very high people, such as kings, are normally referred to as King Arrion, not “Arrion, son of Orthon.” As one might expect. This extends to lords and ladies (Lady Sada, Lord Gahran) and even to substantial landowners (Ramahdis of Dendarry, Talinti of Lithermayg), especially when they are away from home, where their landholdings would help people to place them more reliably than their parent’s name. In “Tenth Province”, Talinti is addressed both as “Talinti of Lithermayg” and (less formally) as “Talinti, daughter of Malda.”

c) Those born out of wedlock are “sons of Adam” or “daughters of Eve”, even when everyone knows the actual people involved. This rather harsh rule is mitigated if the parents later marry or if they arrange a formal adoption. In “The Servant’s Voice”, the bastard son of a member of the b’Shen Family is called Rorash Adam b’Shen.

Rule 3: changes to the name. Names do not change on marriage. However, if someone takes vows as a monk, nun or priest, they acquire a new name, using a Biblical character or a saint’s name, and some of these saints are Ragari. The original name again would be used on marriage or in very formal circumstances, as when Queen Nerranya names “Abbot Paul Tommid of Lintoll” to her delegation.

The other (legitimate) way to change your name (Marod only) is to be appointed to the Thirty. Dorac was born Dorac, son of Araf; he was appointed by Queen Darisha to the Thirty, and became Dorac Queensbrother; Darisha was succeeded by her son, so he became Dorac Kingsbrother.

Rule 4: Jaryari names. In addition to following the above rules,the Jaryari also have their own. All boys’ names in Jaryar have an S in the middle or at the end, following a vowel, and this vowel carries forward from father to son. Thus Hassdan, son of Yrass; and Errios, son of Broxos. Girls’ names follow a similar rule with the letter L. Thus Melina, daughter of Freldi.

So you will never find a Jaryari called Dorac, except in the unlikely event that some Dorac becomes a saint, and then someone else becomes a priest and chooses that name.

Development of Rule 4: You may object that the books have many examples of non-Jaryari characters whose names follow this rule, as with Meril, daughter of Nilena, and (again) Talinti, daughter of Malda. It seems to be the case that the Jaryari pattern is spreading over time up the western side of the continent. Lord Gahran (Marodi name) married Geril (Jaryari name) and they apparently followed the Jaryari pattern as best they could with their children Ilda, Gaskor and Filana.

This has no political connotations except in Haymon, where following the war of 601 it became highly unfashionable to use Jaryari names. Hence Talinti’s children are Araf, Mritta and Yerdin.

Finally, an odd point. My convoluted rules cover, I think, most aspects of naming except the actual meaning of the names. Almost all names in almost all cultures have originally had a meaning. But not – so far – on Ragaris.

Tolkien, I suspect, would be horrified.

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS Competition open till the end of June. Entries in Comments section below, or by email, or via Facebook.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    1st July 2018 at 1:13 am Reply

    Dear Penelope
    My suggestion is:

    Narod Far Lan N’Lan

    I have some thoughts on meaning, derivation and linkage.
    All the best

    • Penelope Wallace

      9th July 2018 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Can I have your thoughts on meaning etc? They sound interesting…

      • Stephen Sheridan

        10th July 2018 at 2:59 am Reply

        It mainly follows your Exception to Rule 2. N’Lan would be the clan title. The Lan in front of it is derived from his mother, whose first name was the same as the core name of the clan due to her parents trying to claim clan leadership. Far is short for Fars and was his father’s name. His father was a non-Ricossan (a small pun as he came from far away) and this put paid to this part of the family claiming clan leadership. So while the character is proud of his mother’s heritage, he is ashamed of that of his father, although his father was a successful merchant, a good employer and his mother found him enchanting which is why she married him, despite the family pressure against it. This means that while he has inherited wealth and an aristocratic background, he still feels like an outsider and feels cheated of the status he feels he deserves. This makes him scheming and manipulative in marked contrast to his parents. If you want to make him particularly villainous there may be rumours that his parents’ death at the hands of bandits, may not have been as straightforward as it appeared. The first name Narod was given to him by his father and is also non-Ricossian, so another reason for him to be annoyed as other nobles will often take a long time pronouncing each syllable just to emphasise his foreign and non-noble birth. Pronounced that way it sounds like “narrowed”, which exemplifies his view of the world.
        I hope that isn’t over the top, but it’s fun when you get into it!

        My own name has a story – my father was Polish, an air force navigator who came here in 1940 (only speaking a few words of English) and was lucky enough to be allowed to stay on in 1945. I am named Stephen after one of his brothers who was killed by the Germans. My father’s surname was Skubala (the “l” having a line through it which is polish for “w”), but when he married my Cornish mum in 1950 he was so sick of people not being able to pronounce it and didn’t want to identify as being foreign that he changed it to Sheridan. He told me it was after the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, but I later discovered after my dad passed away that the first time he probably saw the name was at Fort Leavenworth in the US, where he was on a staff training course in late 1945. I visited the site in the late Nineties and saw that there were 3 blocks each named after Civil War Generals: Lee, Grant and Sheridan. I reckon the name interested him, but he was embarrassed to say he had taken it from a military person and so preferred to have taken it from a cultural icon.
        I have followed a bit with my own daughter Sophia. My wife liked the name (she had dibs on boys names) and it serves 3 purposes – firstly in the hope that wisdom will be part of her personality, secondly to commemorate my father’s favourite cousin (she was one of many Polish girls sterilised by the SS at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and went on to become a classics academic after the war) and thirdly in memory of the Battalion Zoska (Zoska being one of the many Polish diminutive forms of Sophia – this one being the forceful form) which was a key Home Army unit in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 which liberated Jews from a small concentration camp within Warsaw, who then fought alongside them (even capturing a tank which they named after themselves) until finally crushed by the Germans.
        Sorry I have rattled on too long again, but I hope that is useful and interesting.

  • Penelope Wallace

    11th July 2018 at 12:13 pm Reply

    Thank you for this, and I am flattered that you have taken so much trouble over my little character comp. I am afraid you haven’t won, partly because the character you have convincingly created is not quite the man or the role that I need here. However, can I use elements of your name elsewhere in the book or country?

    Clan leadership tends to go by primogeniture, although of course strong personalities and talent also make their mark.

    I note from an earlier reply that you are a writer yourself? You mentioned the issue of writing strong female characters. What are you writing?
    Finally, I was wondering if you would mind/like/object to your comment above to be re-posted as a Guest Post on the blog one week? Since it is quite personal, you may not wish this. But I’m always on the lookout for a week off! Is there anything else you would like to write about?

    • Stephen Sheridan

      11th July 2018 at 6:20 pm Reply

      Dear Penelope
      Please feel free to re-use any elements I outlined.

      While I am writing, the only thing I have ever had published was a 1994 article in Ms London (which my then girlfriend, who is a writer and journalist, persuaded me to go for). I should be very happy for you to re-post my comment.

      On the writing front, I tried 15 years ago to write some intelligent science fiction like Ian M Banks or Dan Simmons, but it came across to me as too derivative and lacked soul. I then wrote a book 8 years ago which was based on a character in business who ends up in a Kafkqa-esque situation, but that came across too close to Martin Amis’ Money – I also suspended it because the business background would have to be re-written for Brexit, although it now looks like Brexit is interminable or in name only so it may merit another go. There were two key female characters in that, but as one transformed into a quasi-angelic influence and the other into a strong but colourless support for the male protagonist it needs a lot of work.

      Since then I have sought out and read good translations and read War and Peace, Anna Karenina and re-read my Jane Austen favourites as I realised that my female characters in my efforts were not strong or credible enough and I needed inspiration. What I am writing at the moment is an experiment to see if I can attempt it. I tried 20 pages and passed them through my wife and a gay female friend and got the thumbs up, so I have continued. It is set a few years in the future and unavoidably dystopian (background online conflict, hate-crime, distorted politics, AI, misuse of political power) but with some humour, much of it built on the interactions between men and women in the workplace. I’ll let you know how it progresses.

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