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Thoughts on language and more

Name Meaning of a Real Person

Following up last entry about name etymology, let's do another one, and this time for my own name. This one's another one from my old list of entries to write. And it's probably the beginning of the list, the oldest thing on there that I'd yet to write, because it came to me when I was was doing a full watch of Lost. That was several task lists ago so I don't have a date on the note creation exactly, but I think that was summer of 2015.

When it comes to names, and particularly my name, one thing that comes to mind more often is not Lost, but actually Stargate. I think its brought up a few times over the course of the show, but there's one particular scene that comes to mind where Daniel Jackson explains the meaning of the name, which is 'God is my judge'. With that setting the stage, we move onto Lost, and the character of Daniel Faraday. I can't find any Youtube clips of this one offhand, but I had made this note to write this because of several times in Lost where - without any further addressing of it - he would be called Dan by someone and he would correct them that it's Daniel.

There is a particular reason for this, when you think about name etymology. Dan isn't simply just a diminuitive form of the name Daniel, but also has additional meanings of its own. Even in the same language origin, Daniel has similar meaning in Hebrew as Dan, but they have different origins. Both are Biblical names, but Dan (where by itself just means 'judge') is the name of one of the tribes of Israel, whereas Daniel comes much later, and is most famously associated with the man thrown to the lions. Myself, I was named particularly for that person. And in the Bible, Dan, the head of the tribe, is described as to be the judge of his tribe members, which is itself rather far from the meaning of Daniel, honestly. And that's just one of the etymologies of Dan, because there's also Dan's with English and Scandanavian origins.

As consequence, of course, there's people with particulars for the name. For Daniel Faraday in Lost, for Daniel Jackson in Stargate, and for myself. For me, it's kind of a special sticking point, just because for some reason ever since I'm a kid everyone's always called me by my last name, rather than my first. It's somewhat inevitable with people I'm friends with, and there's no avoiding that, but if it's not an aquaintenace then if I get asked for a preference than I will say Daniel. There are some friends that do call me Dan, including another one who specifically himself has Dan as his preference, but what I actually consider to be my name goes by the meaning of the name. I am Daniel, and God is my judge.

Also it's not 'Danielle', Mr. Whatever-your-name-was French teacher in my Jr High that also did the detentions. I don't care that it's 'a nice distinguished French name', my name is Hebrew, thank you very much.

5/24/2021 8:43:04 PM

Name Meaning of a Fictional Person

Long, long ago, back when I started playing Final Fantasy XI in 2004, I created a character, a simple human woman named Exelia. I've reused this character multiple times, in multiple video games, in D&D campaigns, and in stories I've written, all based on this same character and the archetype that's built over time for her.

When I first created the character, I didn't actually have anything in mind. The way Final Fantasy XI worked back then, you couldn't choose what server your character started on, it was assigned randomly. There was a way to get onto a specific server by getting a code from someone else already on that server, and I was planning on playing with some friends, but had a day before they could get me a code where I just played a throwaway character on a server to learn the controls and such. For the name of the character, I used the games built-in name generator, hitting that a bunch of times until I found something I liked. It was not Exelia at this point, though.

After I had the name, and since I had some free time, I had started just creating and deleting my character over and over, trying to land on the server I wanted to naturally. I never did, but I did find something else doing that: since the game every character name had to be unique, and you only had one name (the next Final Fantasy MMO, XIV, added a surname as well so there was less collision), and some of the servers I tried I couldn't join because someone else already had that name. I ended up rearranging the letters of the name, ending up with Exelia. At the time, according to what I could find on the internet, this was not a real name, either of a person or a business (since then a few businesses and a Youtuber have popped up with that name).

But.... Turns out that it isn't a fake name at all. Every so often, as I would make up new characters and look up name etymologies, I would try searching for a theoretical etymology for the name Exelia. And one day, suddenly there was a forum thread on a site discussing it as a real name. In this thread, someone looking at their family tree found the name belonging to their great grandmother, and was wondering about the meaning themselves. The thread has some discussion as they tried researching it, finding a few more instances of the name in 19th century Quebec, but since it was obscure and apparently localized to that region they couldn't come to a firm conclusion for origin.

Their best guess for the name was derived from the Latin word meaning 'to excel'. Another theory was that it derives from the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo, with excelsis meaning 'the highest'. Either one is an interesting theory, but for the particular women in question who knows which it would be (or even something different) without anyone having family records from the time which talked about the meaning.

Of course, by the time I made this discovery, I had long since had to come up with a surname for the character. I had done it in a mind blank moment when creating my XIV character the first time, and used the name Antonov as I was working on my short story The Pocketwatch at the time and that was the only surname that came to mind. I then canonized it by writing her into a book as the younger sister of the Fiole Antonov character. So now she's a Russian woman with what we've now learned is a French Canadian given name. Ah well.

5/12/2021 6:42:44 PM