Sara L Uckelman on Thu, 14 Apr 2005 21:09:26 -0500 (CDT)

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[HS] Lesson 9: 'Weirdness' and what it means in a name


I haven't forgotten you guys, I promise!  Today's topic is one
I've been meaning to write on for a few weeks now, because it's
something that is crucial to how names are documented and
registered in the SCA.

RfS I.1 says "1. Compatibility.  - All names and armory shall be 
compatible with the period and domain of the Society.

"The Society for Creative Anachronism studies pre-Seventeenth Century 
Western Culture. The period of the Society has been defined to extend 
until 1600 A. D. Its domain includes Europe and areas that had 
contact with Europe during this period. Usages documented to have 
occurred regularly prior to that date within that domain shall be 
automatically considered compatible unless they have been specifically 
declared incompatible by these rules, Laurel precedent, or a policy 
statement of the Board of Directors. Usages not so documented may be 
defined as compatible by these rules, Laurel precedent, or a policy 
statement of the Board of Directors. In all cases, the burden of 
proving compatibility shall lie on the individual making the submission 
or that individuals duly constituted representatives."  

(We'll be coming back to this when we talk about documenting names
and consulting with clients).

RfS III.1 says "All names must be grammatically correct for period 
names and follow documented patterns.

"Standard grammatical rules for a language will be applied unless 
documentation is provided for non-standard usages in period names 
from that language. Names should generally combine elements that are 
all from a single linguistic culture, but a name may be registered 
that combines languages. As a rule of thumb, languages should be 
used together only if there was substantial contact between the 
cultures that spoke those languages, and a name should not combine 
more than three languages. Each name as a whole should be compatible 
with the culture of a single time and place."

And III.2 (relevant because a precedent we'll see in a moment refers
to it) says:

"Every name as a whole should be compatible with the culture of a single 
time and place."

Lastly, one more definition:

"Weirdnesses, Rule of Two.
"An informal term referring to the idea that the College can usually 
accept a name or armorial design that has one break with the usual 
period style provided that it is not overly obtrusive. A name or 
device that has two violations of period style, or two weirdnesses, 
is less likely to be registered. These weirdnesses are defined in 
precedents. See also SCA-compatible."

Since the time that this definition was written, the "Rule of Two
Weirdnesses" has become much more like a law - names with one weirdness
(also called "step from period practice") may be registerable, but
names with two are not.

So, what counts as a weirdness?  There are two types of weirdnesses,
temporal and lingual.

A name has a temporal weirdness if any of the elements cannot be
dated within 300 years of each other.  A name which has two elements
which cannot be dated within 1000 years of each other is not
registerable.  This precedent was set by Bruce:

"A couple of our onomasticists have argued for increased standards of 
temporal compatibility in SCA names: that the English of the 5th and 
16th Centuries are as culturally immiscible as Aztec and Viking, and 
should be as unacceptable, per Rule III.2. The College has mostly 
been concerned that the parts of a name be compatible geographically 
(e.g. French and Italian); we've never been strict about the equivalent 
temporal mismatches. Both Mistress Alisoun and Master Da'ud declined to 
make temporal compatibility a reason for return. To paraphrase Mistress 
Alisoun, in a Society where a 10th Century Viking can sit beside an 
Elizabethan lady at a feast, temporal requirements probably aren't 
worth the grief. Moreover, some names changed very little over time, 
in any given country (the modern English John hasn't changed in half 
a millennium); temporal problems are thus more difficult to demonstrate 
than geographic problems.

"I've no intention of completely overturning the policy of my 
predecessors. However, in a number of my recent rulings, I've ruled that 
excessive temporal mismatching can be considered a "weirdness", costing 
the submitter the benefit of the doubt. With this LoAR, I hereby make 
the new policy official: If the elements of a submitted name are dated 
too far apart, then any other anomaly in the name may combine to force 
it to be returned. The greater the temporal divide, the greater the 
anomaly: a given name and byname whose spellings are documented within, 
say, a century of each other will probably be all right, but a three-
century divide is pushing it.

"By itself, temporal incompatibility is still not sufficient reason for 
return. I haven't yet been faced with a case so extreme (a couple of 
millennia, say) to require a return; our worst instance of temporal 
mismatch (Tamas of Midian) also involved geographic mismatch as well. 
But henceforth, excessive temporal mismatch may contribute to a name's 
unacceptability; another problem with the name may cause it to be 
returned. (8 May, 1993 Cover Letter (March, 1993 LoAR), pg. 4)

It's not clear when the 1000 year temporal disparity became grounds
for automatic return, but it was so early in Francois I's tenure:

"Submitted as Arion the Falcon, the given name Arion was documented as 
the name of a "semi-legendary Greek poet of the 7th C BC, reputedly the 
first poet to use dithyramb". The suggestion was made that Arion could 
be viwed as one of the names revived in the Renaissance. Metron Ariston 
found a reference to this Arion in the poetry of John Gower (circa 
1325-1408). However, this is the only reference to Arion that the College 
found in English works from the Middle Ages. Barring evidence that the 
Greek poet Arion was more broadly known in England than a single 
reference in poetry, it is not likely that the name Arion was revived. 
As such, the documentation stands with only the reference to the 7th C 
BC Greek poet, which is more than 1000 years before an appropriate date 
for the byname, and therefore it would be returnable. [Aron the Falcon, 
08/01, A-Atenveldt]"

Lingual disparity, on the other hand, is a bit more tricky.  III.1
quoted above says "As a rule of thumb, languages should be used together 
only if there was substantial contact between the cultures that spoke 
those languages."

In the August 1999 cover letter, Laurel spelled out explicitly how
this was to be treated:

"One of the submissions on this LoAR (Laertes McBride from Caid) mixed 
Italian and Scots name elements. We know of no historical examples of 
such a mixture, but with the amount of contact between these two 
cultures, this name construction is allowed under rule III.1.

"Most cases of submitted mixed-language names fit into one of four 
categories. These categories are defined by three criteria: amount of 
contact, evidence of mixing name elements from the two cultures, and, 
for those languages where there is evidence, the language/orthography 
used to write these names.

"The first category is when name mixes elements of two cultures that 
have no contact during our period, for example, China and Scotland. 
Such names have not been allowed for some time.

"The second category is when names mixes elements of two cultures that 
have significant contact, but we have little or no evidence of mixed 
names, for example, Scots and Italian. The rule III.1 allows such names 
although the lack of evidence indicates that these mixed names were 
exceedingly rare at best.

"The third category is when names mix elements of two cultures where 
we know of many cases of names containing both elements, but the name 
is found in one orthography (i.e., spelling convention) or the other. 
Gaelic/Norse name mixtures are an example; a name is recorded using 
either Gaelic conventions or Norse conventions, but we find no example 
of both conventions used at the same time when recording names. Such 
names are also currently registerable even with mixed orthographies.

"The fourth category is when names mix elements of two cultures and we 
know of many case of names containing elements of both cultures and 
of both spelling conventions; for example, English and Welsh. As these 
names are historical we allow them even when the two languages are used 
in the same phrase.

"I have no intention of changing which names are registerable. Names in 
the second category, however, will be considered a "weirdness". Names in 
the third category will be considered a "weirdness" only when the names 
use mixed orthographies. Names in the fourth category or names in the 
third category using a single orthography are fine."

There is a table of different lingual combinations and whether they are
registerable without weirdness, registerable with a weirdness or not
registerable here:

This has been updated through the June 2003 LoAR, so if there is a
combination that is not listed, you might have to check more recent
LoARs.  Also, the status of some combinations are sometimes revised
due to new research.  For example, English and Scots were ruled
no longer a weirdness in April 2004:

"Michael Duncan of Hadley.  Name.

"This name mixes an English place name with an otherwise Scots name; such 
a mixture was declared one step from period practice in September 2001. 
However, many Scots name forms are identical to English name forms. 
Furthermore, many of the standard sources used by the SCA College of Arms, 
including the Oxford English Dictionary and Reaney & Wilson, Dictionary 
of English Surnames, make no distinction between English and Scots forms. 
We are therefore overturning this precedent, and declaring that names 
combining Scots and English forms are no longer considered a step from 
period practice."

And in June 2004, Russian/French combinations were ruled unregisterable:

"In February 2004, the College was asked to consider whether there is 
sufficient evidence of significant contact between speakers of Russian and 
French in period to continue to allow registration of this combination 
with a weirdness was or whether the contact was so limited that this 
combination should be unregisterable under the guidelines for the 
registerability of lingual combinations set forth in the Cover Letter 
for the August 1999 LoAR. (for details, see the section "From Pelican: 
Call for Comments Regarding the Registerability of Names Combining 
Russian and French" in the Cover Letter for the November 2003 LoAR) The 
College was unable to demonstrate such contact. Therefore, names combining 
Russian and French are no longer registerable.

"The registerability of names combining Russian and French has a mixed 

"Names mixing Russian and French were ruled unregisterable in 1993 (Marina 
la Perdu, 01/1993, R-West) for lack of "evidence of regular period contact 
between Russia and France". In 1996, a submission combining Russian 
elements with a French byname (Dasha Miloslava Broussard, 01/1996, R-
Atlantia) was registered based on a persona story of "Russian girl marries 
French trader and adopts his surname". In 2001, a submission that was 
submitted as Russian and French (Jarucha Ekaterina Delamare, 04/2001, R-
Caid) was redocumented in commentary as a mixture of Russian and English, 
though the ruling mentions French. In all of these cases, no evidence was 
provided supporting regular contact between Russian and French cultures.

"In researching this issue, The College found only one mention of contact 
between these cultures. Nebuly describes his findings, which are typical 
to the information found by others in the College:

"I have no good histories of either France or Russia, except what appears 
in larger volumes of mine covering the whole of Europe. However, I do own 
a rather lengthy, detailed, and recently published history of the Ukraine 
by Magocsi. Ukrainian and Russian were essentially the same language 
during SCA period, and as the westernmost portion of a region in which 
political boundaries were shifting and often ill-defined, a Ukrainian 
history can suitably stand in place of a Russian one for the purpose of 
seeking evidence of period cross-cultural contact. Using the index to 
Magocsi's book as a guide, I thus examined all pages in the book with 
reference to France through the chapters covering the 18th century.

"Though the book itself is nearly 800 pages long, with considerable 
attention given to events in SCA period, France receives almost no 
mention prior to the Napoleonic period. With only two exceptions, 
period France is mentioned in Magocsi solely as an arena for events 
happening more generally in the whole of Europe, as for example in the 
discussion of Viking attacks, the Catholic Reformation, and other pan-
European events. The earliest specific mention of a Ukrainian traveling 
to France and returning to Eastern Europe is on p. 274 (ibid.), where 
Kyrylo Rozumovs'kyi is described as "an eighteenth-century intellectual 
dilettante par excellence," in part because of his education in France, 
Italy, and Germany. As this is an 18th century event, it is well after 
the date needed to support the kind of cultural contact needed for the 
issue at hand. The only other example of contact given by Magocsi is a 
mention on pp.75-76 that Anna (daughter to Iaroslav the Wise, "grand 
prince and undisputed sovereign of all Rus', from Novgorod to 
Tmutorkan") was married to King Henry I of France in the early 11th 
century. Iaroslav apparently had an aggresive policy of marital diplomacy 
with several countries. However, his efforts to establish a strong 
centralized Russian state collapsed upon his death (Davies, p. 334), 
so any possible connection between Kievan Rus' and France would have 
died with him.

"A single example in an extensive regional history of period contact, 
limited to a single royal marriage with no lasting dynasty on the 
Russian end is not significant cultural contact. Significant cultural 
contact would require evidence ongoing and extensive contact in one 
or more of the following areas: direct trade, diplomacy, travel, 
colonization, or other cultural contact. RfS III.1 says "Languages should 
be used together only if there was substantial contact between the 
cultures that spoke those languages." Because substantial contact 
between French and Russian cultures is lacking, French/Russian names 
can no longer be registered. Any French/Russian names considered after 
December, 2004 will be returned."

So you can see that you can't rely completely on that table; the best 
way to know what is a lingual weirdness is to read the new LoARs as they 
come out, to keep up to date with the new rulings.

So, that's onomastic weirdnesses.


vita sine literis mors est
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