names-FAQ - 5/8/96
Choosing and registering names in the SCA.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: mittle at panix.com (Arval d'Espas Nord)
Subject: Name Documentation FAQ
Date: 22 Apr 1996 11:17:41 -0400
Organization: PANIX Public Access Internet and Unix, NYC
[This posting is the first part of an FAQ being compiled by the Academy of
Saint Gabriel. The Academy is a group of Society heralds who have decided
to work together to help Societyfolk to find, use, and (if they wish)
register historically accurate names and armory. More information can be
found at our website, http://www.us.itd.umich.edu/~ximenez/st.gabriel/.]
* Exactly what does one need to document a persona name?
The basic requirement is evidence that each part of the name was used in
the same way in period names, and that the name as a whole fits some
pattern of naming in period.
** Documentation Means Documents
Members of the College of Arms have access to lots of reference books, but
they don't have everything. If you submit your name, you should provide
clear references to your sources of evidence. Ideally, for each piece of
evidence you cite, you should provide a photocopy of the title page and the
page, plus a full bibliographic reference for the book.
You don't need to go overboard. If you cite Richard I of England as
evidence of the use of "Richard" in 12th century England, you don't need to
support that with photocopies and page references. If you document your
names from a commonly-used book, like "The Oxford Dictionary of English
Christian Names", then you don't need to photocopy it. But if you find
your evidence in a recently-published history of the Illyrian wine trade,
then it would be best to provide a full paper-trail.
** Documenting the Parts of Your Name
The College of Arms will accept a single, dated example of the use of a
name element (a given name, a surname, a place name) as sufficient evidence
for registration. For example, if you find the name "Thorvaldr Thordarson"
in an Icelandic Saga, then you have enough evidence to convince the College
that "Thorvaldr" is a 11th century Icelandic given name.
You don't necessarily have to document each name element this precisely.
It is best to do so: The best way to be sure that your name is a good
re-creation is to use names that you _know_ were used. Anything else is
speculation. But the College of Arms does accept speculative documentation
in some limited cases. The general rule is that if you can document a
pattern of name-construction in a particular culture, you can construct a
new name to fit that pattern.
For example: In 12th and 13th century France, we find that children were
common given the names of major characters in romances and chansons de
geste: Roland, Olivier, Lancelot, etc. Given this pattern, we can justify
using the name "Erec", the main character in one of the Arthurian romances
of Chretien de Troyes, even if we are unable to find an instance of "Erec"
in use in that period.
Another example: Old Norse culture constructed given names from a stock of
first elements (called "prothemes") and a stock of second elements (called
"deuterothemes"). Names were formed by combining a protheme and a
deuterotheme, according to some very simple rules. Names are formed in
this manner in many European cultures; it is called "dithematic naming".
So, if you found "Thorvaldr Thordarson", as above, and you also had
evidence of other names using the element "Thor-" and names using the
element "-mundr", then you could reasonably construct "Thormundr" even if
you couldn't find exact evidence that "Thormundr" was used in period.
(In fact, "Thormundr" _is_ a documentable name.)
Note that in both these cases, we have constructed or invented a name that
we have not documented. This is not the best possible re-creation; but it
is reasonable speculative re-creation. The College of Arms will register
names based on this sort of documentation.
** Documenting the Construction of Your Name
Choosing period elements is important, but if you combine them incorrectly,
then you will still not have a period name. "Domhnall" and "Ian" are good,
period Scottish given names and "mac Cuilain" is a period patronymic
byname; but "Domhnall Ian mac Cuilain" is _not_ a period Scottish name.
The Scottish didn't use middle names in our period.
"Giovanni" is a period name, too; but "Giovanni mac Cuilan" is wrong
because Italian given names didn't get combined with Scottish surnames.
Some languages were combined in period naming: Icelandic and Irish in the
10th century or English and French in the 13th century, for example; but
mixed-languages names were not commonplace, and you should not combine
languages in your name unless you have evidence that those languages were
combined in the same way.
In order to be correct, a name must be constructed according to a pattern
of period naming. The elements that you combine should be taken from the
same period culture. The combination should follow a pattern that was used
in that culture. And the grammar should match the grammar of naming in
For many cultures, meeting these criteria is simple and documenting that
you've done so is even easier. Indeed, for the cultures most important to
the Society, you probably don't need to provide any documentation. You
don't need to convince the College that "Walter fitz Henry of Waltham" is a
correctly-formed 13th century English name or that "Vittorio Alberti" is
grammatically correct for 15th century Florence. But if you want a
13th century Estonian name, then you should include enough examples of
names from your period to convince the College that your name is properly
constructed. If you're not sure, check with a senior herald in your
kingdom or ask the Academy of S. Gabriel.
** Your name is medieval re-creation
Think of your name as a piece of re-creation, just like your tunics and
calligraphy and poetry. When you start to make any of those other things,
you do some research, assemble some documentation, and then start building.
A name is exactly the same. And just as with those other crafts, you
should be proud of the re-creation embodied in the name you build and use.