A Little Insight on Fey Nomenclature and Social Etiquette

Or: In Which Pru Geeks Out Way Too Hard And Rambles Much, Much More than OP Probably Intended

An excellent question got raised a few days ago on the Under-London patreon, one which I thought could use a little explanation, if people are as interested in this sort of silliness the way I am.

Specifically, patreon user Andy asked this as of chapter 18

I’m wondering if Eden’s birth name is ever going to be revealed. Given the importance of names in this world, it seems like a fair question, but her birth name isn’t really who she is anymore, so I don’t even know if it would play into the Naming.

It’s a cool bit of speculation, and I’m going to assume he means her birth name ever being revealed to Ransley, since we as the audience learned it in Caroline’s story.

Eden’s birth name doesn’t really come into power in a magical way, not in the strictest sense–Caroline helped her pick the name Eden when she first came out, and even if Eden had picked the name solely on her own, she “gave” it to herself by legally having it changed. This is why it works in a way that a fey christening themselves with their “public” name wouldn’t. (Such as the name of Egidia’s boss.)

Theoretically a fey could go through the same process of legally changing their given name (which would be the case, most likely, in instances where the name change was a matter of personal safety, say in nasty domestic divorce cases, etc). This would remove the Naming power from that original name and confer it to the new legal first name.

 


Now for the geeking WAY hard part:

That lack of legal change is why “Wyn,” “Sig,” couldn’t really be used against those fey respectively in the Naming, even though they are shortened versions of their given/birth names, and names that they or someone else gave them.

For a real-world (ish) example: we know that the nickname system and general Naming etiquette for the fey  is sort of equivalent to gentrified social rules in period novels & dramas. Take Pride and Prejudice. To a stranger, Elizabeth Bennet is Miss Bennet. To a closer acquaintance, she’s Elizabeth. To her family and closest friends, she’s Lizzy.

ANYHOW. For “Wyn” and “Sig” the fact that they skipped straight to this name, a shortened version of their given names, with new acquaintances is a subtle little indicator, too, of their sociopolitical views. They don’t stand on the same sorts of social mores as their conservative counterparts, especially given that they give those names to humans straight out the gate. “Wyn” and “Sig” are safe, of course, for public consumption in the strictest sense, but they carry a connotation of the new acquaintance sort of saying, “This is the sort of name that comes with history between us. I know or could guess your given name. I could use it, but I won’t.”

In real life, nowadays, there’s sort of the same thing going on–you get introduced to someone named William, but they go immediately for the Call Me Billy. It does away with social formality and confers a slightly more immediate intimacy based on sharing their desired identifier, immediately links them to you on a more equal footing.

 


However–

Ransley’s, “Devon” is a bit of a different story. In Ransley’s case it isn’t a matter of Naming power so much as it is intimacy–he’s never had someone he trusted enough in a friend sort of way to share even that name.

Ransley’s is more of a personal preference than anything: he hates his given name, Bertram, and of course the shortened version to be made from it, Bertie.

Like me: I hated my given middle name growing up. So when I got married I jumped at the chance to dump it for my maiden last name. Now I’m legally Amanda Pruitt Holcombe. Bill collectors now have the power of using that name, lol. Oftentimes when meeting new people I go for the Call me Pru. (Which is a play on the fact that I got referred to as Pruitt a lot in school since there were a lot of Amandas running around. My friends shortened it to Pru and I really like that identifier.)

My own headcanon (which, huh, I guess is canon, isn’t it?) is that Ransley/Devon picked his nickname because in his own bizarre pursuit of human pop culture, he came across Devon Sawa in like some bootleg version of Final Destination or Idle Hands or something and… well. Pop idolization strikes in the weirdest places. So you can imagine pre-teen Ransley stroppily insisting to his family that “that’s his name now, omg.” And then of course, his mum basically just smiling indulgently and being like, “Yeah, sure thing, Bertie.”

Going back to the P&P example, for literally anyone to continue using “Bertie” after that exchange, rather than the name he wants for himself, is like when Caroline Bingley refers to Elizabeth Bennet as Eliza shortly after meeting her. It’s a dick move in a few different ways that we as the audience may not immediately consciously pick up on: one, C-Bings is skipping that social propriety of referring to her as Miss Bennet because she perceives herself (and technically so) as being superior to Elizabeth, and then the name Eliza compared to Lizzy is another reference to that assumed superiority: Elizabeth isn’t nearly  genteel enough to go by Eliza; her family refers to her by such a common name by affectionately calling her Lizzy. Good lord, her family may as well call her Elsie, which to C-Bings might sound like something she’d name a cow*.

If she is to be associated with Elizabeth, it is obviously up to C-Bings to to do better than that embarrassing family. (In her opinion, anyhow.)

It doesn’t matter to Caroline Bingley that Elizabeth might actually like the name Lizzy.

 

pandponion 2
Oh my god, go google “pride and prejudice onion articles”…

 

In Ransley’s case, there may not be a connotation of class-based social superiority if someone uses a nickname other than the one he wants to go by, but it is still a bit of a dick move in a psychological socially-superior way.

 


 

All this to go back around to Ransley knowing Eden’s given birth name:

Sharing birth names or even trans status is a YMMV sort of thing with trans folk. Some don’t mind. Others very, very, very seriously mind. Many in my generation and younger are very vocal about their being trans, because they view it as being a very intrinsic part of their life experience, and visibility as being vital to social change. Older generations may guard that aspect of their history very closely for a number of reasons, including safety. No matter one’s personal stance on the matter, those are reasons that those preferences should still be respected even among other transpeople.

(It’s sort of like the current debate swirling around the word “queer.” It’s a way I can describe nouns dedicated to the community–like “queer coding” or “queer history.” It’s also a word I use to describe myself and others who have expressed that they identify that way.  As far as I and those people are concerned, it’s not a slur–it’s a blanket term that accurately reflects upon our status in the QUILTBAG community. It’s not, however, a word I am allowed to use for someone who has not expressed that wish, or for anyone who has specifically said they do not want that word to describe them. That would be rude and potentially hurtful, since I don’t know if they perceive that word to be a slur or not.)

In any event, knowing that name or bit of personal history isn’t in any way anyone else’s business–it doesn’t do anything except open the trans person up for harmful commentary based on what the user would perceive as a superior social standing: I can use this because I know better than you about what you should be called or what pronouns you will be referred to. That vulnerability is something a person should be able to choose to hide or reveal.

This goes, in its own way, with the disparity in sharing names between Ransley and Eden. It’s a hellova dick move and even more hurtful than just refusing to call someone by the cool name they got from an actor or comic book or something.

Ransley sharing his name is a matter of preference and affection. Eden’s not sharing is a matter of personal vulnerability that doesn’t in any way negate or confer affection in the sharing.

Of course Ransley is decent and wouldn’t use her birth name. But for her part, Eden doesn’t want to remotely go there, not for intimate reasons, not for social reasons, but because it would be hurtful to her and just really isn’t something she wants associated with her. She’s open-ish about the fact that she’s a transwoman, but for her, that birth name is off-limits.

 


In conclusion

Honestly, I have no plans for bringing Eden’s birth name into the narrative again, at least in a way to where new characters learn it or established characters even slip up and use it. It may happen in the context of some unforeseen flashback–though I would think very long and hard before I did it. I’d probably find some way to interrupt the narrative long enough to conveniently avoid name and pronouns.

I don’t even plan on some enemy of hers using it, because seriously, who needs that kind of hurtful trope perpetuated? I mean hell, I’ve written a world where fairies are real and Procol Harum was a notable enough band to have ever been on a t-shirt. I can change that trope.

And finally, it’s why I won’t write Ransley, as a decent being, ever pushing her for that knowledge, nor Eden as being compelled to share it.

 

*Final note: I think Elsie is an adorable name and not one I’d immediately associate with a cow.
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3 thoughts on “A Little Insight on Fey Nomenclature and Social Etiquette

  1. Ok, you guessed correctly when you thought that this was more than I really needed as a response 😉 But one follow-up question: Given that many trans people say things like “This is who I’ve always been” meaning that they were always the gender they now identify as, regardless of what genetics, a parent (in the act of choosing a name), or a birth certificate might say, does that mean that Eden’s birth name couldn’t have been used on her prior to her becoming Eden legally? Or is the naming strictly based on legal name status? it seems like an odd thing to have to consult the local courthouse about, but then again, some of your characters have wings, so weird comes with the territory.

    Like

  2. Ok, you guessed correctly when you thought that this was more than I really needed as a response😉 But one follow-up question: Given that many trans people say things like “This is who I’ve always been” meaning that they were always the gender they now identify as, regardless of what genetics, a parent (in the act of choosing a name), or a birth certificate might say, does that mean that Eden’s birth name couldn’t have been used on her prior to her becoming Eden legally? Or is the naming strictly based on legal name status? it seems like an odd thing to have to consult the local courthouse about, but then again, some of your characters have wings, so weird comes with the territory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol I had that feeling, but it’s something I thought long and hard about, because my original ideas about the Naming had a /lot/ of plot holes.

      In response to your follow-up: That’s a great question! You’re right, it would be weird if it were solely a legal matter. There’s a bit of magic dedicated to it at birth. When a legal name-change goes through later in life, there’s a sort of… reinstatement. It’s part religious, part legal. Ceremonies and whatnot.

      But yeah, weird comes with the territory, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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