m. c. de marco: The Accidental Conlanger

Connavar of the Rigante: Derivative Naming Languages

The Rigante series by the late David Gemmell is a modern-day pulp adventure in a close analogue of Europe in Classical Roman times. Orson Scott Card praises the series highly, and I agree, though I found the one Rigante novel I’ve actually read in a pile someone threw out and it took me a couple of years to get around to reading it. But here we will consider only the names.

The Rigante are a pseudo-Celtic tribe under pressure from an advancing pseudo-Roman empire. Rigante characters often have pseudo-Celtic names such as Connavar, Fiallach, and Braefar. Some of the names are very close to real Celtic names, such as Ruathain for Ruadhain, Bendegit Bran for Bran the Blessed, Seidh for Sidhe, and the spirit known as Morrigu, a known variant spelling of the Celtic goddess Morrigan. Sometimes the derivation is pure theft: Govannan is a Rigante human named after a Celtic god, and Codgen (in Cogden field) is also a real place name.

Characters from Stone (Rome) can have Roman names such as Appius, or pseudo-Roman ones like Barus and Nalademus, but they often lack any discernible pattern (Voltan, Jasaray, Banouin). This may be meant to reflect the cosmopolitan nature of Stone, or may simply be accidental.

Another naming pattern in the Rigante series involves English nouns used as names: Bane for the Rigante, and Rage from Stone, both major characters of the second book, not to mention Stone itself. These noun-names provide an interesting contrast with the invented or derivative names of most other characters.

The noble pseudo-Celts fighting the decadent pseudo-Romans is a common theme, and so these particular derivations are also common. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a derivative naming language based on a real language, and a constructed naming language influenced by a real language, our next topic. A rough rule of thumb is that derivative names accidentally or intentionally coincide with names in the original language more frequently than names from constructed languages do. Constructed names, on the other hand, show more patterns (Thengel, Theoden, Theodred, Theodwyn, Eowyn, Eomer) than randomly derived pseudo-names.

October 9, 2008