Thursday, January 14, 2016


As I do my genealogical research I am learning more about language. My father was born in Hungary. Their language is very complicated. I remember reading somewhere that language affects a person's world view. The Magyar language was that of nomads. I discovered when I was there that they had taken some Latin words for certain things like templom for church. It made sense to me that a nomadic people might not have words for things of permanence like buildings.

I was trying to translate some documents when I made another discovery. A lot of Hungarian names mean something. My own last name - szabo - means tailor. Almost all of the names I see in my father's village are either occupations or ethnicity. So there are Millers (Molnar), Carpenters (Acs), Cobblers (Varga), Blacksmiths (Kovacs), Germans (Nemet), Polish (Lengyel), Croatian (Horvat), and Friends (Barat). And of course the usual "son of" - Palfi, Simonfi, etc.

My grandmother's maiden name was Simonyai. I just learned recently that it meant she descended from people who came from Simonya, which is now Partizanske in Slovakia today, but was part of Hungary at one point.

When I wrote the first draft of Facade, (nearly 2 decades ago!) I threw in random names that I made up as I went. That was one of the criticisms I received - the names were too similar. For this rewrite, I took a good look at the names and made certain conventions by planet. If this one has a lot of double vowels, the next one shouldn't, and things of that sort. I already had a certain societal structure to each race so that attaching language restrictions felt right.

Now maybe I need to make some of those names mean something in their own languages. But maybe that's a rabbit hole I really shouldn't go down.

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