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Old 11-24-2020, 03:45 PM   #1
doctorevilbrain
 
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Default How do you name planets?

The advice in Gurps Space 3rd edition is useless. I'm sure that's why it was taken out. Kudzu? Come on. I know there are online generators, but I am looking for advice. I read about how you name things, but I was hoping for more than foreign languages.
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Old 11-24-2020, 05:44 PM   #2
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

I rely heavily on mythological references like Summanus, Rostam, Harmonia, Morana and Guri. The more obscure the better. Wikipedia is a great superficial resource for obscure mythology, and you don't need more than a name.
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Old 11-24-2020, 08:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

When I was naming the 600-odd planets for my interstellar-SF setting, Flat Black I worked from table that listed each colony's star's right ascension, declination, distance from Sol, astronomical constellation, and spectral class, the planet's or moon's size, gravity, atmospheric pressure, ocean cover, average temperature, day length, habitability, and relative carrying capacity, and the colony's approximate date of of departure from Earth.

A few dozen colonies had names that are legacies from previous versions of the setting, so embedded in various materials and players' memories that I thought them worth keeping: the eight colonies on (formerly worlds in) Tau Ceti (Avalon, San Pietro, New Sunrise, Ys, Gogmagog, Hell, Zinfandel, Alcuin), the North American colony Mayflower, the South American (Mercosuran) colony Paraíso entre los Estrellas do Sur ("Paradise I"), the Chinese colony 新天地 (Xin Tian Di, "New Heavenly Land"), the Indian colony Navabharata ("New India"), a pointed reference to the destruction of Troy in an eccentric trillionaire's colony Aeneas.

For the rest, I bore in mind that
  • religious separatist and religious utopist movements will likely name their worlds for founders and reformers, after religious principles and ideals, or with allusions to pilgrimages, previous migrations, or pivotal scriptural events. That gave me, for instance, the name "Hegira" for a Sunni colony, "Emmaus" for a liberal Protestant one, "Pentecost" for a conservative Protestant one, "San Pietro" for a Catholic one.
  • secular utopist movements will likely name their colonies for the founders or inspiring thinkers of political and economic utopist movements (Bakunin, Locke, Smith's World, Pankhurst, Franklin, Thoreau) or for the central ideals of their scheme (Persatuan, Egalité, Liberty, Mutuality, Harmony, Novymir, Esperance, Goodhope, Pacisordine, Pancasila), not necessarily in English.
  • ethnic and subcultural separatist and revivalists will likely name their colonies with references to historical, legendary, and fictional inspirations, and possibly to leaders: Khemet, Afrika, Kongo, New Dahomey, Gondolin, Nouveau Midi, Gondhara, Ashok…
  • commercial promoters will give their colonies names as an exercise in branding, to attract the sort of migrants they want.
    • They will name their colonies for the homes of gods, the places of reward for the virtuous dead, and other paradises in various mythologies that are reasonably well-known but not current enough as religions to provoke a furious backlash.
    • They will assign names hinting at idyllic conditions (e.g. Broadmeadows, Fairvale, Beaumont, Sansoucci) or prosperity (Cockaigne, Eldorado, Bonanza)— not necessarily in English
    • Confronted with a challenge, they will apply spin, e.g. "Oasis" as the name of a world with lots of desert.
    • They will pick names that just sound distinctive and cool: Balena, Hermeline, Marmion, Artorius, Hylas, etc.)
  • People will name worlds after themselves, their friends, and personal or cultural heroes, so a scatter of personal names is in order
  • One of the most common toponyms is a "new home" in a local language (now perhaps archaic), so there will likely be lots of names like New Earth, Neuheim, Mundonova etc.
  • In places that have been explored and settled, there are lots of places names "New ~", where ~ is some place at home.
Planets near Earth were settled early, when there was a bit of competition for worlds and when religions and cultures produced only a few emigrants in proportion to their populations. So populous cultures and great world religions got to name the places in close, while with places further out smaller religions and cultures got a chance, and of course there was an allowance for new religions and utopist schemes among the further worlds, consisting of names such as "Stockhausen", "Landon", "Simanta", "Srikkanth", "Durack" who might be future reformers and social theorists, and "Consilience" such as might be a future social principle.

I worked down the list in the order in which the pioneers left Earth, keeping track of which religions and utopist schemes had worlds already to attract their supporters, and how things on Earth were changing according to the date. For each planet I considered its physical character — did it have so much desert that the name reflected its oases, or so much ocean that it had to be named for its islands? Was it so salubrious that it must be called "Paradise" or "Eden" in some form? So much like Earth in gross that it had to be "Terranova"? Then its star's proper name or even its catalogue number "Alhurr", "Arrakis", and "Zawijah" are too good for settlers not to use, and "Sigma Boötis" gave "Esbouvier". Sometimes a star's name in Chinese astronomy is a good place to start. And finally, the constellation that a star is in often gave me a place to start in choosing a name. The name of the constellation in some unfamiliar language might be good ("Grabstichel" in Caelum). So I have world orbiting stars in Draco that have names that have something to do with dragons (e.g. "Huang Long", "Tian Longshan"), worlds in Aquila that are named something to do with great birds of prey (e.g. "Garuda"), worlds in Hercules that are named after people and mythological figures renowned for great strength (e.g. "Bhima", "Sucellus"), worlds in Orion named after legendary hunters (e.g. "Bahram", "Nimrod", "Iram"), worlds in Eridanus with names suggested by a river (e.g. "Kemet", "Congo"), worlds in Auriga suggested by a charioteer ("Krishna"), worlds in Cepheus named for legendary kings (e.g. "Sikander"), worlds in Serpens named for mythical snakes ("Borlung"). "Philadelphia Nova" is in Delphinus, for a pun's sake. There are inspiring women in Andromeda (Hypatia, Margulis, Pankhurst…), goddesses and fruits in Virgo, artists in Pictor, sculptors in Sculptor, poets in Pegasus, jurists in Libra, astronomers in Telescopium, rescuers in Perseus, eromenoi in Aquarius, ships or the eponyms of ships in Carina and Puppis, a world called "Reynard" in Vulpecula, "Brolga" in Grus, New Rome and Gévaudan in Lupus etc. etc. etc. I put Caerleon (a possible site of the Round Table) in Mensa and the Sangreal in Crater. this is basically a way to start free associating and puddling around in Wikipedia and with Google Translate until you find something that sounds good and fitting.
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Old 11-24-2020, 11:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

I keep in mind that humans are really terrible at naming things. Like... REALLY terrible.

I live near such wonderful places as "Green Mountain" "Table Mesa" and "Buena Vista." There are tons of cities named Springfield. It's a spring in a field. Oooh. Every third valley was once "hidden valley" because you couldn't see it from the other side of the hill. Denver got its name because the founder wanted to curry favor with Mr. Denver, the governor of the territory. Think critically for a moment about the place names near you and I bet you'll come to a similar conclusion.

So, from there, I ask how much language drift has there been? If the language hasn't changed much, then leave the stupid name. The planet is Dantooine because some Star Wars nerd named it. Or it's New Earth-7 because they were all registered in order when news came back to Earth. I had a station called Torus station because it was shaped like a Torus.

If language drift has happened, consider what kind of drift. Was there an alien race before humans? Did different cultures conquer the area? What changes would that make?

Hello Future me did a great video on this. Honestly, I recommend his whole world-building series.

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Old 11-25-2020, 12:03 AM   #5
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
Think critically for a moment about the place names near you and I bet you'll come to a similar conclusion.
Well, there's Clybucca and Nambucca, Buckra Bendinni, Marlomerrican, Yarrahapinni, Banda-Banda, Collombatti, Goolawah, Killick, Tamban, Temagog, Toorooka, Boonanghi, Wittitrin, Moparrabah, Yarravel, Willawarin, Eungai, Ngambaa, Yessabah, Dondingalong, Kundabung, Barraganyatti, Cooperabung etc. But that is just moving the problem to another language. (Dhunghatti, in this case.)
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Old 11-25-2020, 06:55 AM   #6
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Well, there's Clybucca and Nambucca, Buckra Bendinni, Marlomerrican, Yarrahapinni, Banda-Banda, Collombatti, Goolawah, Killick, Tamban, Temagog, Toorooka, Boonanghi, Wittitrin, Moparrabah, Yarravel, Willawarin, Eungai, Ngambaa, Yessabah, Dondingalong, Kundabung, Barraganyatti, Cooperabung etc. But that is just moving the problem to another language. (Dhunghatti, in this case.)
That's a fair point. Sometimes, it's dumb things in other languages. Sometimes it's dumb interpretations of other languages. We have Tons of rivers named "river river" and deserts named "desert desert" and so on.

I googled a bit to see if I could get the meanings of those places quickly, but my google-fu is weak this morning. I did, however discover that you must also be fairly near the fantastically-named South West Rocks.
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Old 11-25-2020, 07:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
That's a fair point. Sometimes, it's dumb things in other languages. Sometimes it's dumb interpretations of other languages. We have Tons of rivers named "river river" and deserts named "desert desert" and so on.
I was sad to be told that there isn’t really a place called “Torpenhowe Hill”.

Quote:
I googled a bit to see if I could get the meanings of those places quickly, but my google-fu is weak this morning.
And further, Dhunghatti is a very obscure language with only six surviving speakers according to the last census. I have been told supposed translations of perhaps three or four of those place-names, and don’t trust any of them. They are said to be references to mythological events that formed the landmarks. For instance “Yarrahapinni” is supposed to mean “Koala fell”.

“-bucca” means “river”, applied only to rivers and streams that flow calmly in deep channels, not to rivers and creeks tumbling over rapids and flowing down steep valleys.

Quote:
I did, however discover that you must also be fairly near the fantastically-named South West Rocks.
Indeed. In my youth I was a member of the South West Rocks Surf Life Saving Club, and I have a picture of the rocks in question hanging on one of my walls.
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Old 11-25-2020, 07:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

I've had a couple of naming conventions.

In one setting, I decided that the IAU (or its successor) would still have some influence over astrographic names. Individual worlds are named after gods, goddesses, or divine monsters -- no "Smade's Planet" here. In order to get a list of what might be considered acceptable, I downloaded a list of approved names for astrogeographic features from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and scrubbed it for mythological (vs. historical) names. The list came to 1,467 names, with a brief description of where they come from and what they refer to. I split up the list (somewhat arbitrarily) into cultural groups (Assyrio-Babylonian, Australian, Aztec, etc.) so that different political entities could have consistent themes. I took the descriptions at face value and used them to pick appropriate names, based on the type of planet, For example, in the Baltic group, a world that killed three survey parties before the fourth figured out why might be named "Aziren," after the "Estonian spirit of death." The final step, which I never completed, was to poll Google for how common each name is and preferentially use them in that order.

In another setting, I needed far more names than this would provide -- multiple thousands, to start. I decided that the UN agency in charge of naming would officially use codes consisting of five alpha-numeric characters. Rather than just assign them starting with 00001 or AAAAA, however, they would allow the applicant to request a code. This puts a premium on codes that are at least pronounceable -- much like intersections on IFR airways, if you're familiar. Again, I leaned on the IAU for what might be acceptable (vs., e.g., FARTS). I took the list of named asteroids and scrubbed them for those that are five characters long. That netted me 2,728 names. I added a list of English words that are five letters long but uncommon -- i.e., they don't show up in a standard spell-check dictionary and so get underlined in text -- for an additional 3,980.

I also tried a list of names taken from rail- and subway stations world-wide, for a setting with a strong "subway map" flavor of hyperspace travel. I wanted an international, multi-lingual framework to reflect the makeup of the setting. Unfortunately, what I discovered is that when my players couldn't pronounce the names at first glance (e.g., Boixeres, Caoying, Nizhegorod) they would hang a nick-name on the world and ignore the official name thereafter. This led me to consider English phonotactics -- the rules that make some nonsense words sound like plausible English rather than garbage.
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:53 AM   #9
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

If I'm naming just a single planet, I'll roll made-up words and sounds around my tounge until I come up with something I like. The titular planet for lawmen of Borlo was named this way.



Sometimes I'll name planets (and people, and cities) in foreign languages.



Sometimes I'll pick a naming scheme for planets in a setting. Space merchant was about refuges from a war that destroyed earth making contact with each other again. All the planets were named in reference to earth someway, all going in a different direction. One was named Aqua, after its dominant element and in contrast to earth. Another was bitterly named Hell. New Terra named all of its own cities after existing earth cities.


Often I'll name the planets as deliberate devices to recognize something about them. Aqua is mostly ocean. Elysium is the place where all the psis who achieve immortality at the price of giving up hyperspace retire, Monkey's Head landing is a barren rock with some distinctive formations, and so forth.



If I'm planning to name a LOT of planets, or am planning to name a lot of things the same way, I'll come up with a random phonetic generator with some rules. Right now game in my sig uses the following rules for names:


Valid Consonants: J, K, B, Z, N, Th, Ch, T, V, P
Valid Vowels: u, or, Ee, o, Ie



And set the rule that all syllables end in vowels. The results require some translation and filtering, but they give a distinctive feel.
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Old 11-25-2020, 12:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: How do you name planets?

One planet had two small moons. The bigger is named "Rainbow" because it has anaerobic bioluminescent (non-sophant) life. The second is "The Smuggler's Tail" because it is often used as a lair for smugglers (it has a number of terrain features that are useful for hiding persons or things).
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