As I sat there thinking, as I do every once in a while, I started drifting into the idea of naming conventions – specifically, on how geography is named. You know, what gets one culture to name their landmarks and cities after their famous people (like Pittsburgh) and other cultures do it based on whatever happens to be there (Kathmandu in Nepal, or "Wooden Temple") – or why in the American Civil War the Union named battles after nearby rivers and creeks (Antietam and Bull Run) while the South named battles after nearby towns (Fredricksburg and Gettysburg), and why did some names stick from both sides.
I did some very thorough research (about five minutes of Googling) and didn't come to any real conclusions. I did find something slightly unnerving. Back to that in a second.
This is something I never tried to do as a fledgling writer. I often just slapped names on places and people and didn't give it much thought. I still do in emergency situations, but mostly, I try to find some dynamic reason for why people and things are named as such. I also try to give different cultures different conventions, that are somewhat consistent internally. This is part of a good world-building, am I right? Here's an example for my tabled Sheyla stories:
– In the Innorian Empire (a pastiche of medieval England and some Roman factors), the standard was for male names to end with consonants. Female names ended in vowels or vowel sounds. "Soft" letters, like "y" or "n" end either. On the mainland, names tended to be made of up of harder sounds: "v," "k," "j," "g," and "p." On the islands, the softer sounds – "s," "l," "h," "w" – figured more prominently. In the outlands, the barbarian riders – not of the Empire but of common peoples – usually had short names, where each tribe identified with a single letter which was incorporated in each name.
– Save for Innoria, the town names tended to be English-style conglomerations – Stonebridge, Highgate, etc. – or Latin-ish pastiches. (Gimme a break, at least I was consistent.)
Other nations and cultures had their own "rules" for naming. I had not fully fleshed all of them out but just having those guidelines in place not only made naming my people and places much easier but I think it aided in making the stories more consistent. (Note to longtime readers: the versions out online no longer resemble the revamped versions, so I can't speak to their crappiness.) A little thing, to be sure, but something that may help with world-building. Building a richer world makes a richer place in which your story takes place and some of that background depth can't help but creep into the tale.
Back to Google.
I've been thinking about this topic for about two days now. So in the course of my Googling, I found this article. Tangentially relevant … but the scary part is the author. I met her once. She's married to a guy I worked with a few years ago. She posted this the same day I was thinking of this subject. Who says there isn't some mass human consciousness already in place?
Eat your heart out, Arthur C. Clarke. We didn't even have to kill everyone to do it.