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Wraith Names

A reader asks, "I was wondering how you came up with, how you decided on the names the Wraiths give to the "Queens" of Atlantis, especially for Elizabeth and Sam."

The names are imperfect translations, the Wraith trying to render sounds that are meaningless, or whose meanings are not directly related to the objects, into mental pictures. For the Wraith, a telepathic species, it's impossible to have a name that is an essentially meaningless sound whose meaning is assigned arbitrarily.

For example, in English I can invent an object and decide to call it "ama." The word itself and its sounds have no relationship to the thing. I could just as easily call it "oomly." An oomly is whatever I say it is.

To a Wraith this makes no sense at all. So to make up a name and say, "This is my son, Oomly," is utterly ridiculous. "Oomly" tells you nothing about him. Nor does "this is my son, John."

So they've tried to make sense of what to them are very peculiar human naming customs. Carter is a word that has meaning. A carter is someone who carries loads in a cart. She Who Carries Many Things. It kind of makes sense to them, if you look at it in a metaphorical sense. Carter is someone responsible, who carries many burdens on her shoulders, who is "carrying" others.

Weir is harder, because Wraith do not have weirs. They don't build dams on rivers to control floods, and they have no words in their language for what that is. It's a stone construction, a strong thing. A strong place. She Who Is A Strong Place. That makes sense with what they know of Elizabeth. She's strong. She's a fortress. That follows.

They're stuck on Keller, but Jennifer at least has a meaning, Fair One, that makes sense. She's blonde and pale skinned. It's a simple descriptive meaning.

The Wraith aren't just a different culture and language, but a different way of communicating. The word picture is half the meaning, and so names particularly pose a challenge. Which is why names like "Todd" don't make sense to them. Calling him "Green Guy" would at least have followed. (Of course later he finds out that a todd is a male fox, which he concludes is what they meant, a trickster.)



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 14th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
I know Dust referred to O'Neill as Trickster - how did that name originate?
May. 14th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
A jack is a trickster -- which is awfully apt for O'Neill!
May. 14th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Todd would be pleased about that! And he certainly has no qualms about the comparison when he meets Jack in Secrets!
May. 14th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
I want to see that meeting NOW, and how they interact. I have a feeling there is a healthy amount of respect going both ways. :)
May. 16th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
It's a fun scene! One of Melissa's in Secrets!
May. 14th, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
I had a similar question in the bunch that got *ate* by LJ. But the naming also reminded me of the Native Americans who often used characters/personalitiesp of people or things to describe or name them.

I find your explanation enlightening in that although I did not know what a *carter* was I did know that it fit who Carter is as well as Elizabeth. I also like Teyla's Queen name, it too encompasses who she is,someone that seems as frail as a flower but really has the heart of steel when needed.
May. 16th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like Steelflower as a name! One of my inspirations for the "look" of the Wraith and Wraith culture was Berlin Iron, a style of 19th century jewelry that looks very goth and Wraithy.

(A selection here)

Literal steel flowers, flowers made out of wrought iron. That's what Teyla is like as a queen, her mental feel. Flowers made out of iron.
May. 16th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
Love the jewelry!

It would be so cool if someone could illustrate some of your Wraiths. I saw one for Queen Death and if I can find it again I will send your way. It really was a nice rendering of what one would image her to look like.
May. 29th, 2011 10:38 am (UTC)
Late to the party on this.

So, Wraith understanding of the terms carter, weir, shepherd etc are racial memory inherited from prior to the 'split' between humans and wraith? Or were there multiple conversations, way back when, that went something like :

Wraith : State your designation.
Human : I'm Sam.
Wraith : This means nothing. What is your role in your society?
Human : Don't know nothing about society, but in my village I'm a shepherd.
Wraith : What is a shepherd?
Human : A person who looks after a flock of sheep. Keeps 'em safe and fed so we have enough livestock for wool and meat.
Wraith : Ah, I understand. It seems we have something in common - I am a shepherd also.
Human : You gonna let me go?
Wraith : Do you let your sheep go?

...or words to that effect. Though why the Wraith would become interested in their foods societial structure, I have no idea. But I'm sure you guys are going to enlighten us all. Looking forward to it.
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
*g* That just plasters a big grin on my face!

You'll have to wait and see where the Wraith understanding of the terms came from originally! We'll see that in Secrets!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )