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The Process of Inspiration for [Whiteleaf] Nomenclature

Posted: Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:53 pm
by willpell
In a failed attempt at establishing a definitive answer as to the Empire's origins, I found myself attempting to name one of its previously-nondescript Provinces, and the steps I bumbled my way through seem worth documenting, despite my eventual conclusion that my efforts had been worthless. My happiest moments as a worldbuilder are when I reread my old notes, find a proper name which I know I originally came up with as a lame pun, and am unable to reconstruct what that pun might have been, as I have so effectively disguised the dumbass inspiration that what remains now seems unimpeachable in quality. Obviously, it can't go that well every time, so I thought I'd try to look at what the process looks like when it fails miserably.

It's an open secret that the Tradespeak Imperium, central subsection of the Whiteleaf campaign universe, is intended to reflect the United States of America in a number of meaningful ways, much the way Tolkien's Middle-Earth takes obvious inspiration from Britain and other European regions. The 63 provinces frequently map to the 50 states, often splitting one state into two provinces, more rarely merging two into one, with additional inspirations inserting the leftover provinces and then later making an effort to tie that province to one of the less inspirational states. As I looked at figuring out which Provinces had been the first, I considered the original 13 colonies as inspiration, and found myself wanting to work on North Carolina specifically. The way this works, each state is looked at in terms of only its most iconic one or two aspects, and for NC there can be only one such kernel of an idea, especially when considering a colonial context (nearly everything else I know about the state is too modern to have any place in D&D). This is obviously the very imagination-firing story of the Roanoke Colony.

"Roan" is a word referring to the color of horses or other animals; that was all I remembered as I lay awake last night, puzzling through this problem. Combined with the obvious fact of "oak" being a tree, the most obvious translation would be "horsetree" or something to that effect, but clearly that wouldn't be satisfactory. So I thought further, about the fact that oaks have acorns and that some horses are unicorns, and I started trying to think of other words with a "corn" root in them which could be folded in, and ended up coming up with "cornucopia". Some effort was made to smash these several words together into something like "unicopia" or "ancorni", but nothing remotely satisfactory resulted. Not sure how I jumped from "horse" to "unicorn" anyway, I went looking elsewhere and came up with the goddess Epona as an indirect reference there, but attempting to mix that in with the other words wound up producing something like "pornucopia", and that's obviously not acceptable.

At this point I gave up on this entire line of inquiry, and tried a different tack. Misremembering the spelling as "ROANOAKE", with an extra A, I cross-referenced it with the famous inscription "KROATOAN" and mistakenly believed they both had eight letters, so the remainder of my experiments focused on attempting to anagram them into each other, producing such awkward fusions as "TOANEANO" or "ANOOTARK" (mostly I focused on dropping the "ROA" part from both names, while missing that an A and an N were also duplicated), as well as unscrambling the "eight remaining letters" into such nonsense phrases as "A NOON TEA" or "ONE AT NAO". After failing to get anything I could use out of this process, I gave it up for the night.

Reconsidering the subject today, I looked up what Roan actually means, and find that it could be loosely translated as "pale", leading to a possible connection with the Horseman of Death if I wanted to go there (it involves a lot of squinting and intentionally ignoring the facts, but that's how this form of ideological alchemy is achieved, with predictably mixed results; it's not like Tolkien faithfully duplicated British history without any fudging). I could continue tinkering with it, but at this point I'm not even trying to name the Province anymore; it's better to leave the flayed skeleton of this effort on display, so that some of my process may be understood for future reference.