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Alien names in Sci-fi

Crumbly Writer

I'm running into an interest dilemma in my newest story. Since it a continuation of a story where the original characters abandoned the Earth to journey to a distant galaxy, I'm creating a lot of alien names. While that worked well in my "Demonic Issues" books, it's getting out of hand here, where EVERY non-human's name is entirely invented.

Does anyone have any advice on keeping alien names reasonable (i.e. making them seem authentic, reasonable, or fitting the characters)?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP  red61544  Argon
sejintenej

Please do NOT start using strange characters like @, % etc which I have seen. Why not find ordinary (say five or six letter) words and use those reversed. For example letter becomes rettel or retel.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

While that worked well in my "Demonic Issues" books, it's getting out of hand here, where EVERY non-human's name is entirely invented.


If that's not enough, use Google translate to convert a word to a less well known language using the Latin alphabet, then reverse them.

Another option would be to make the alien's true names nearly (or actually) impossible for humans to pronounce, so the humans end up substituting vaguely similar sounding human names / phrases.

Ernest Bywater

I'd also make an effort to have them at least pronounceable in English - I hate it when someone has a name as Fgtkllk when they could've just as easily had it as Fegkilk which you can get your tongue around.

AmigaClone

@Dominions Son

Another option would be to make the alien's true names nearly (or actually) impossible for humans to pronounce, so the humans end up substituting vaguely similar sounding human names / phrases.


In addition or in place of impossible to pronounce names there could also be a cultural taboo about someone revealing their true name - especially to someone from outside their civilization.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

t's getting out of hand here, where EVERY non-human's name is entirely invented.


Take a leaf out of the ancient naming system, especially the Norse system. Have a few base names, a couple of words for son and daughter, and add them together.

Thus a few names like: Feg, Hilk, Gort, Flek, Pult - with dop (daughter) sep (son) can give you Fegsephilk, Pultdophilk, etc. That will help you group families. and for the very important ones you add ancestors to get Fegsephilksepgortsepflek.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Have a few base names, a couple of words for son and daughter, and add them together.

Thanks. That seems like a practical approach.
Perhaps some consideration could be given to whether the custom of the society is to usually call others by their family name, and given names reserved for close personal relationships.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Perhaps some consideration could be given to whether the custom of the society is to usually call others by their family name, and given names reserved for close personal relationships.


From a historical perspective the idea of a family name is fairly recent. Especially amongst what is now called Western Culture.

For millennia people were known only by their first name. Then when you had more than one person with the same first name they were known by their profession as well, thus you had Peter the Potter and peter the blacksmith. If they travelled a lot they sometime go known by where they cam from, like Peter of Blackpool. Many were also known by their parentage, due to the Saxon influence thus you had Peter David's son became Peter Davidson.

The you can add in the peerage to get names like Mark Lord of Halifax or Mark Lord Halifax or Mark of Halifax or Lord mark Halifax - depending on the title and the rank and the era rules.

Many of the Eastern Asians also had their names in reverse with a personal name, family name, and a name for use by friends and family only. Song Lee Kim would be of the Song family, known as Lee by his familiars, and known as Kim to the world at large.

Then you get famous people known by their looks or the behaviours - Hans the Fierce, Vlad the Impaler, Rudolph the Red, Blackbeard, etc.

Lots of options if you want to use them.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Peter the Potter and peter the blacksmith

A capital idea. Some names with capital letters, some in lower case.

helmut_meukel

@Ernest Bywater

Then you get famous people known by their looks or the behaviours - Hans the Fierce, Vlad the Impaler, Rudolph the Red, Blackbeard, etc.


Just to add some more:
Harald Bluetooth, Sweyn Forkbeard, Louis the Pious, Louis the German, Charles the Bald, Charles the Fat, Harald Fairhair, etc.

Then there are names in the german lower nobility like Schenk/Schenck, Truchseß/Truchsess (= Steward), etc.

In rural Bavaria people are often called by their 'Hausname' (house name). The farm is named after the location (e.g. Seehof = Lake Farm) or one former owners family (e.g. Huber), even if the "new" owners are now there in third generation and their family name is "Meier" they are called the "Seehofers" or the "Hubers" respectively.

HM.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

A capital idea. Some names with capital letters, some in lower case.


old worn keyboard, old worn keyboard operator, sometimes fingers move on faster than keyboard commands can work.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Does anyone have any advice on keeping alien names reasonable (i.e. making them seem authentic, reasonable, or fitting the characters)?


In my story Time Scope, I created a number of names for the aliens by using unusual spellings. One of my readers said he liked the story but wasn't going to continue reading it because he found the names were hard to pronounce. Out of 14 names, the most difficult to pronounce were Gletb, Shimlt, Blitht, and Tomrd.

Bottom line is, if you go with something that seems 'alien' for an alien name, it is likely to be upsetting to some readers for it is 'alien'.

Dominions Son

@REP

Bottom line is, if you go with something that seems 'alien' for an alien name, it is likely to be upsetting to some readers for it is 'alien'.


Anything you write, in any kind of story, for any reason, is likely to be upsetting to some readers.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Anything you write, in any kind of story, for any reason, is likely to be upsetting to some readers.

Anything you write, in any kind of post, for any reason, is bound to be upsetting to some readers. :-)

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

Anything you write, in any kind of post, for any reason, is bound to be upsetting to some readers. :-)

I'd think that's a rare and valuable talent but I suspect some readers want to get upset and don't need much of a reason to do so.

REP

@Dominions Son

advice on keeping alien names reasonable


Perhaps we interpreted CW's request differently.

I understood "advice on keeping alien names reasonable" to mean names that his readers would find acceptable. So I passed on the problem one of my readers had with made-up names.

There are many valid foreign names that are difficult for English speakers to pronounce. Personally, I feel that my reader would be unhappy with any non-English name.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Vlad_Inhaler

For the purposes of this discussion, try treating Chinese as alien. Their alphabet is utterly different, and they sometimes anglicise their names.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

Please do NOT start using strange characters like @, % etc which I have seen. Why not find ordinary (say five or six letter) words and use those reversed. For example letter becomes rettel or retel.

Don't worry, I won't use any nonsense characters, though I might add the traditional accent characters, just to make it look a little more eccentric (to the unnuanced American eye, at least).

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

eccentric

Xcentric for SOL, much sex.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Another option would be to make the alien's true names nearly (or actually) impossible for humans to pronounce, so the humans end up substituting vaguely similar sounding human names / phrases.

I did that, but only once or twice in the entire story, where the automatic language conversions would replace the alien's name with something like "Bob" or "John" if it was a really common name among a specific Alien species (that way you could have different alien species, each of which are named Bob).

As for your other suggestion, I'll have to try it out and see if it works, starting with the impossible to pronounce names to see if they read any easier. I'll let you know after I play around with it for a while.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I'd also make an effort to have them at least pronounceable in English - I hate it when someone has a name as Fgtkllk when they could've just as easily had it as Fegkilk which you can get your tongue around.

At the moment, I have a bunch of "q"s, "k"s" and other hard sounds to represent the various hard clicking or chirping sounds an alien might make. I don't know how well they'll work though until my editors weigh in once they start editing the chapters (which is still a ways off).

Crumbly Writer

@AmigaClone

Another option would be to make the alien's true names nearly (or actually) impossible for humans to pronounce, so the humans end up substituting vaguely similar sounding human names / phrases.

Again, I tried that, but only as an exception, rather than a general rule. In one case, they met an alien who had bark-like skin, who cared for the trees largely ignored on the planet (he was tall, so for him they were his own private food supply) and the humans call him "Woody" instead of his actual name. (Though that's a little too LOTRs.) :(

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Bob

Other good palindromes might be Dad, Pop, Nan, Sis and Sexes. Are one letter names palindromes? They read the same forwards and backwards. X as a character, marks the spot.

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

I'd also make an effort to have them at least pronounceable in English - I hate it when someone has a name as Fgtkllk when they could've just as easily had it as Fegkilk which you can get your tongue around.


Makes sense. If you have characters called Fgtkllk, Fgtklmk, Gtkllk people will be confused immediately but having something pronouncible makes it more understandable.
As for cultures where proper family names are never used then they surely must have some way of addressing a specified being even if it is by a number, rank or position?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Take a leaf out of the ancient naming system, especially the Norse system. Have a few base names, a couple of words for son and daughter, and add them together.

A good idea, except ... we're talking about thousands of different alien species, so each individual would represent a unique naming system. They could explain what their names meant, but it wouldn't come through in the spelling.

However, I did use that in my "Demonic Interests" series, where each alien species has a different type of name and a different speech pattern, to lend some consistency to each character. It just won't work in this story. :(

Although, the translate to a foreign language and reverse it would work as long as I use a different language each time I did it (so they all looked distinct but produces natural sounding names, rather than the purely invented kinds).

Good ideas.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Perhaps some consideration could be given to whether the custom of the society is to usually call others by their family name, and given names reserved for close personal relationships.

So far, in order to avoid making things too complicated, the only ones with family names are the humans, everyone else has only a single name. Not as realistic, but it's easier to keep track of unusual names for repeat characters.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

From a historical perspective the idea of a family name is fairly recent. Especially amongst what is now called Western Culture.

For millennia people were known only by their first name. Then when you had more than one person with the same first name they were known by their profession as well, thus you had Peter the Potter and peter the blacksmith. If they travelled a lot they sometime go known by where they cam from, like Peter of Blackpool. Many were also known by their parentage, due to the Saxon influence thus you had Peter David's son became Peter Davidson.

In my story, the only time I use that technique is for the humans, when they introduce themselves (ex: "Hello, I'm Al from Earth.") For the others, it's assumed most are at least vaguely familiar with where each species comes from.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Peter the Potter and peter the blacksmith

A capital idea. Some names with capital letters, some in lower case.

Only one of those is a capital idea, the other is a lower idea. ;D

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Then you get famous people known by their looks or the behaviours - Hans the Fierce, Vlad the Impaler, Rudolph the Red, Blackbeard, etc.

Or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Impaler".

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Bottom line is, if you go with something that seems 'alien' for an alien name, it is likely to be upsetting to some readers for it is 'alien'.

That's why I'm questioning how I'm currently naming everyone, and also why I like the 'pick a name, translate it into a different language, and then reverse it so each name sounds like it comes from a different culture, yet it still pronounceable.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Anything you write, in any kind of story, for any reason, is likely to be upsetting to some readers.

Thus was born "Bob ShuttheHellUpYouIlliterateFuckwad". 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Vlad_Inhaler

For the purposes of this discussion, try treating Chinese as alien. Their alphabet is utterly different, and they sometimes anglicise their names.

That's true, but the Chinese and Japanese characters are largely recognizable by most readers, even if they have no clue what they represent. Thus they wouldn't represent an alien race, merely alien Chinese. :(

Maybe I could use Vietnamese or Laotian, who use Latin characters with unusual accent marks. That worked well with my "Catalyst" series (featuring all human characters).

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

As for cultures where proper family names are never used then they surely must have some way of addressing a specified being even if it is by a number, rank or position?

Since these aliens all use the same translation technology, the 'titles' are all English based (ex: "Captain", "Admiral" or "General"). Sorry, no privates, though. I guess they're very class conscious.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

From a historical perspective the idea of a family name is fairly recent. Especially amongst what is now called Western Culture.


If the aliens are advanced enough to understand genetics, it's hard to see them not using family names.

AJ

Dominions Son

@REP

So I passed on the problem one of my readers had with made-up names.


The problem is, you have no way of knowing if that will be an issue for anyone other than that one reader.

1. You can find at least one person who will be upset by almost anything. I don't consider that a valid criteria for "reasonable".

2. Personally, I would be more bothered by lots of aliens using names that are too human.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
AmigaClone

@awnlee jawking


If the aliens are advanced enough to understand genetics, it's hard to see them not using family names.


While aliens could have the ability to trace the biological ancestry of an individual back several generations, it would still be possible that they would not use family names for the simple reason that families (as we know them) don't exist in their culture.

On the other extreme, there could be cultures where an individuals' "family name" would indicate their ancestry going back several generations. Even so they might be known by a single name like some artists. For instance, Madona .

REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

You could give them an unpronounceable name which we humans can't say and have them tell us to use a substitute - Tom, Sam, Jim, Ruth, Sally, etc.

I recall a story in which the aliens were clones so they used the original name and a numeric designator. So instead of names, your aliens could have designators JM539834, UPF1287. Their short reference could be 34 and 87 or 834 and 287. Easy to type and remember, but also an alien naming convention.

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

Then you get famous people known by their looks or the behaviours - Hans the Fierce, Vlad the Impaler, Rudolph the Red, Blackbeard, etc.

Some of which have become current surnames; to confuse even further mine (which related/s to appearance) has certainly been translated once and perhaps even twice.
At a guess Hans the Fierce (originaly Hans Heftiger) could become Hefty then Heffy....

Replies:   richardshagrin
REP

@Dominions Son

You can find at least one person who will be upset by almost anything

I would be more bothered by lots of aliens using names that are too human


I agree.

For CW the situation is he has a number of aliens and Earth names won't do. Complex spelling of a name can be hard to remember and type. When I was typing my alien's names it was difficult to remember how they were spelt. Word kept indicating spelling errors, so I was constantly referring to my character list for the proper spelling. Problem was, in a few instances the misspelt name was a valid word.

Replies:   sejintenej
richardshagrin

@sejintenej

Heftiger

That's a great name. Tiger is a fierce predator with furry cat overtones and Hef evokes Hugh Hefner the playboy founder. He used Hef a lot as a nick-name. Nick also is good, as a Nick name.

Replies:   sejintenej
madnige

I would suggest looking at how C.J.Cherryh deals with this same issue in her Chanur books with multiple species of aliens. I also remember reading her advice on designing alien species/languages on her website, although this was some years ago (over a decade?) so may not be on her current website, but since she has received literary praise for her consistent designs it's probably worth a look.

One of her alien species is the Kif with speech described as all hisses and clicks, with one character named Skukkuk who features in a few of the books. Human speech is described (by the roughly feline main character) as 'all moans and purrs'.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

If the aliens are advanced enough to understand genetics, it's hard to see them not using family names.

More than anything else, it was an attempt to simplify the overly complicated names by requiring the use to remember fewer awkward names, but in the context of the story, it's a multi-species culture, where everyone interacts with each other, but there isn't many interspecies relationships (both for culture reasons as for sexual incompatibility). Thus, while the various alien species might use family names among their own kind, they wouldn't when addressing them among a group of different alien species.

However, that'll likely be the sort of backstory detail one leaves OUT of the story!

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The problem is, you have no way of knowing if that will be an issue for anyone other than that one reader.

You've got a point, except generally, for every reader who complains, there are at least twenty who feel the same but who didn't bother to complain (or who simply never contact an author about a story).

Still, I'd ignore a single complaint, but if you get multiple complaints, I'd multiply them by 20 for the likely amount of people feeling that way.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@REP

When I was typing my alien's names it was difficult to remember how they were spelt. Word kept indicating spelling errors, so I was constantly referring to my character list for the proper spelling. Problem was, in a few instances the misspelt name was a valid word.

Depending on your software, when I was writing text where difficult names or long words/phrases occurred frequently each would have a short "strange" letter/number combination. At the end it was a case of find and replace
I admit I did bulk replacements and then proofread to ensure I hadn't replaced an intended word.

sejintenej

@richardshagrin

Heftiger

That's a great name. Tiger is a fierce predator with furry cat overtones and Hef evokes Hugh Hefner the playboy founder. He used Hef a lot as a nick-name. Nick also is good, as a Nick name


LOL The original reference was to "{someone} the fierce"
Heftig is simply Norwegian for fierce and the er ending is grammatically correct for "the"

I like your break down (which I hadn't noticed) but this shows that playing with language can be effective (as others have suggested)

Replies:   helmut_meukel
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

You've got a point, except generally, for every reader who complains, there are at least twenty who feel the same but who didn't bother to complain (or who simply never contact an author about a story).

Perhaps an oddity of the genre? In a service arena you will get 20 complaints for every word of praise (and of the 20 half will be unjustified)

helmut_meukel

@sejintenej

The original reference was to "{someone} the fierce"
Heftig is simply Norwegian for fierce and the er ending is grammatically correct for "the"


Hmm, heftig is a german word too, with a wide range of meanings: violent, vehement, fierce, passionate, furious, intense, intensive, sharp, severe.

In German -er is used in the comparison.
heftig -> heftiger -> (am) heftigsten. (like in English sharp, sharper, sharpest).
Another usage of -er is to create a noun (like in English sing, singer).

HM.

Ross at Play

Let's hope there is intelligent life out there somewhere.
This chart was published in the latest Economist.
It comes from an analysis of data from a research study that has followed half a million people in UK for 40 years.
It calculates "lifetime reproductive success", how many children do you parent, against various factors.

The conclusions ...
Intelligence and education are a big negative when it comes to having a lot of children, especially for women.
Being overweight is a bonus, very much so for men.

The species is doomed. :(

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Let's hope there is intelligent life out there somewhere.

... Intelligence and education are a big negative when it comes to having a lot of children, especially for women.

Being overweight is a bonus, very much so for men.

The species is doomed. :(


My newest (in progress) story doesn't reveal much encouraging news, as my galactic empire is in disarray, crumbling around the characters who try to put it back on track, only to face hostility from those they're seeking to aid every step of the way. (Notice how that description focuses on the challenges, rather than detailing HOW their empire is collapsing?)

I tried the translate to another language and reverse the spelling, using physical descriptions "meek mouse" results in "Sujub-eun UesuaM" instead of using a name "Ferdinand" (the bull), which produces "Uednanidoep".

Still, both look much better than my off-the-cuff imaginary creations, though I'm still looking for more pronounceable alien names. Not reversing the name works better "Peodinandeu", but I'm afraid of native speakers identifying the translation source. :(

red61544

@Crumbly Writer

"My name is unpronounceable in your language. You may call me 'Joe'."

Crumbly Writer

@red61544

"My name is unpronounceable in your language. You may call me 'Joe'."

I tried that, but if the aliens have never met a human before, how would they know what they can pronounce?

Also, in my story, everyone uses alien technology that translates terms into their own vocabulary, except for names, of course. So for common names, like "Joe", that works, but for "Philomena", "Ingrid" or "Diamonique", it won't help at all, as there's no equal phrase in the alien language.

Replies:   richardshagrin  REP  sejintenej
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

My newest (in progress) story doesn't reveal much encouraging news, as my galactic empire is in disarray

My newest (in progress) story doesn't reveal much encouraging news about what comes after, either. God is as vain, obstinate, and stupid as we are.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

My newest (in progress) story doesn't reveal much encouraging news about what comes after, either. God is as vain, obstinate, and stupid as we are.

Or, stealing someone elses words (also from my newest book):

The gods too are fond of a joke.
~ Aristotle

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

The gods too are fond of a joke.
~ Aristole

The gods are too fond of a joke.
~ Ross at Play

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

The gods are too fond of a joke.
~ Ross at Play

I used my epigraph in my first chapter, where the protagonists who fled the inhumanity of Earth discover that foreign alien cultures are little better, and they then spend the rest of the book trying to introduce humanity among the alien culture.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Diamonique

Little Carbon Chrystal? Diamon(d) ique (suffix means small).

In Grid means Networked. Philomena means Friend of Men (a?)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@richardshagrin


In Grid means Networked. Philomena means Friend of Men (a?)


Ingrid is Scandinavian for Ing's ride (Ing was the Norse god of peace and fertility). Sounds like the perfect protagonist's name for an SOL story. ;D

Philomena means "Lover of strength" (not men) and was the name of a 3rd century Italian martyr. Perhaps another great SOL protagonist name?

By the way, "menos" can also mean "mind" or "force", as well as "strength" or "power", making it useful for a number of fronts.

"Diamonique", though, means nothing at all. It's a modern construction, most likely a combination of "Diana", "Diamond" and "Monique", with no specific history or meaning. :(

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

"Diamond"

I once worked with a woman who did not like her ethnic-sounding surname, so she had it legally changed to "Diamond". Some of the guys in the office were unkind enough to ask Vicki about her new initials. :(

REP

@Crumbly Writer

I tried that, but if the aliens have never met a human before, how would they know what they can pronounce?


Not that hard to accomplish CW.

For the alien to be able to make such a statement, he has to understand the language. That implies an analysis of the spoken language. During that analysis, it could be determined that the upper frequency range of the aliens' speech may be much higher than anything a human speaker's voice generates. While It is an assumption, the alien could conclude that since humans don't make sounds within the upper range of the aliens' speech, humans can't pronounce words in that frequency range.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

For the alien to be able to make such a statement, he has to understand the language. That implies an analysis of the spoken language. During that analysis, it could be determined that the upper frequency range of the aliens' speech may be much higher than anything a human speaker's voice generates. While It is an assumption, the alien could conclude that since humans don't make sounds within the upper range of the aliens' speech, humans can't pronounce words in that frequency range.

Again, I introduce that technique, but didn't want to use it repeatedly as it presumably gets old fast. Thus I introduce it, maybe use it another time, and then generally drop it for a different approach. Once again, I was going for the one-among-thousands-of-alien-cultures, rather and new people in a SINGLE alien culture.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

though I'm still looking for more pronounceable alien names.


Why? Different alien species with different evolutionary origins would likely have significantly different vocal apparatus. Properly pronouncing each other's languages would likely be close to impossible.

Alien names that are easily pronounceable by humans strike me as highly improbable.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Why? Different alien species with different evolutionary origins would likely have significantly different vocal apparatus. Properly pronouncing each other's languages would likely be close to impossible.

Alien names that are easily pronounceable by humans strike me as highly improbable.

Again, while it's unlikely, many tire of it quickly and many will abandon a story over it, so I'd prefer introducing those elements early, and then dropping them as the reader gets involved in the story (so they don't keep tripping over the same names).

My solution to that, is everyone who comes 'friendly' with the humans adopts the same two to three letter pet names as the humans use (ex: Al for "Albert" and Be for "Betty", among the humans, and Myi for "Mryzzl" and Siss for "Sisslistr" among the aliens).

Unfortunately, I really can't use that for anyone who's not intimately familiar with the protagonists (i.e. the "bad" guys or prominent political of social figures).

It's the same concept for accents. When you first introduce a foreign or regional character, you lay the language and accents on thick, but after the first couple paragraph you go easy, relying on a couple pet phrases to reinforce how they sound, rather than accenting each word.

Here, I introduce the problem, then back off, avoiding the more difficult pronunciations, but I'm finding it more difficult with aliens than I do with foreign human cultures. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

many tire of it quickly and many will abandon a story over it


Personally, I would be very surprised if as many if not more readers would quickly abandon such a story over the opposite problem, too many aliens with names that sound too human.

For me, that's an issue that would break the suspension of disbelief.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Personally, I would be very surprised if as many if not more readers would quickly abandon such a story over the opposite problem, too many aliens with names that sound too human.

For me, that's an issue that would break the suspension of disbelief.

I never suggested giving them 'human' names, just making them less-difficult to pronounce. Even with those close to my core group, every time the're referred to by someone in authority, they use their full names, not their 'pet' names.

That's why using current Earth-based names, but making them appear foreign by using foreign translations and then reversing the spelling seems like a realistic alternative. They're still all strange, but they're still easier to pronounce.

Replies:   Dominions Son
REP

@Crumbly Writer

You don't want to use human names and the spelling of alien names would be too complex or wouldn't fit our alphabet and pronunciation rules.

The answer seems fairly obvious. If you were to ever meet an alien and try to write their name, you would create a phonetic spelling of the sounds you hear. So adapt that by creating non-human or non-standard spellings of actual or made-up names that can be easily pronounced by your readers. Perhaps all of your alien names start/end with a 'th', 'lth', or other sound. For different alien species, the sound could be different and appear at either the start or end of the name. Perhaps they precede the name with an honorific such as 'Thel' for Mr., 'Thec-' for Mrs., etc. Perhaps a prefix/suffix to indicate social status (i.e., upper, middle, or lower class).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I never suggested giving them 'human' names, just making them less-difficult to pronounce


An alien race with a drastically different vocal apparatus, insectoid for example, having names that are less than extremely difficult (if not impossible) for any human to pronounce is sufficiently implausible as to break suspension of disbelief.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

The answer seems fairly obvious. If you were to ever meet an alien and try to write their name, you would create a phonetic spelling of the sounds you hear. So adapt that by creating non-human or non-standard spellings of actual or made-up names that can be easily pronounced by your readers. Perhaps all of your alien names start/end with a 'th', 'lth', or other sound. For different alien species, the sound could be different and appear at either the start or end of the name. Perhaps they precede the name with an honorific such as 'Thel' for Mr., 'Thec-' for Mrs., etc. Perhaps a prefix/suffix to indicate social status (i.e., upper, middle, or lower class).

Again, using 'trends' falls apart in a multi-species society, as few of the aliens the protagonists meet belong to the same species (other than spouses), so there really IS NO consistent naming or word-use trends between any two characters.

I'm trying to describe a complex poly-glot society, thousands of years more advanced beyond our own, where the cities are MUCH larger and congregated, there are LESS freedoms, and the fear factor has led to SEVERE restrictions on individual freedoms.

Thus, although every individual in the story is an alien, few are identical to any OTHER alien in the story (there aren't even many married couples, as the military frowns on assigning them to the same ships).

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

An alien race with a drastically different vocal apparatus, insectoid for example, having names that are less than extremely difficult (if not impossible) for any human to pronounce is sufficiently implausible as to break suspension of disbelief.

I get around that by using the standard English letters in different arrangements (to simulate how each species talks). Thus the bug-like use a lot of "s"es and "z"ex, while others use more "q"es, clicks or pops, but that's NOT part of the text, merely observations by the characters and narrator.

I may add various accent marks, like those found in Vietnamese, just to add to the 'alien' look of the words, but I'm not about to try inventing my own vocabularies or languages, as there are simply too many. These aliens have 'universal translators' in their brains, so they understand everything. Most of the differences are in the physical descriptions and observations about their speech.

The names themselves, though, are the main sticking point.

Ernest Bywater

One other aspect I don't think was mentioned is people tend to hear sounds in a way and pattern they recognise, then they say them how they 'heard' them which may actually be a little different to what was said. Think on how the same word sounds when said with different accents. Thus a name said by a person with one strong accent may be heard differently by someone with a very different accent. When you apply this to names you get many variation. There are many Irish names that have the same root name, but are now written with different spellings due to the way the clerks writing the names down during the 19th century wrote the name down in the way they 'heard' it through the speaker's accent. Then other later said them differently.

When this happens between cultures it's not uncommon for the original culture to accept the other idiots don't know how to say their name and respond to the mispronounced name.

Keeping that in mind you could start the story with a Foreword or early note that the names are how the Narrator 'hears' the names and spells them, while that may not be the correct spelling in the alien language because they use a very different alphabet. The way we write the names of Asians and Russians are classic examples of this.

Replies:   Ross at Play
sejintenej

@red61544

"My name is unpronounceable in your language. You may call me 'Joe'

You don't need aliens for that; what you quoted is very very similar to what I was told last summer in Prague about their language.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

results in "Sujub-eun UesuaM" instead of using a name "Ferdinand" (the bull), which produces "Uednanidoep".

So from just that you have four possible names:
Sujub (with or without the -eun)
Uesua
Anidoep
Ednani

They are all pronouncable and rememberable by English speakers though it might be worth checking with Google that your choice is not "condom" in a Catholic country

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

I tried that, but if the aliens have never met a human before, how would they know what they can pronounce?

Very much depends on your story. If the aliens have the ability to find and fly to Terra then it seems likely that they would have been monitoring wireless signals for a long time and either learned the languages or developed effective AI for that purpose.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

If the aliens have the ability to find and fly to Terra then it seems likely that they would have been monitoring wireless signals for a long time and either learned the languages or developed effective AI for that purpose.


Personally, I've always thought it implausible that a civilization capable of FTL travel would be monitoring radio frequencies with equipment sensitive enough to pick up a decipherable transmission at inter-stellar distances.

Replies:   sejintenej
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

"My name is unpronounceable in your language. You may call me 'Joe'

But just don't call me late for dinner! (A VERY old American joke.)

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

They are all pronouncable and rememberable by English speakers though it might be worth checking with Google that your choice is not "condom" in a Catholic country

Good point. I'll double check that. Does anyone know a decent international (all languages) online dictionary?

As for the various name options, since this character is the Galactic Emperor, while everyone else only gets a single first name, the Emperor gets a bunch of them (all signifying something very specific, though it's never spelled out the humans).

I decided, though, that "timid mouse" works better than "Ferdinand", even if no one ever guesses where the various names come from ('cept now everyone reading this does!).

Replies:   sejintenej
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

Very much depends on your story. If the aliens have the ability to find and fly to Terra then it seems likely that they would have been monitoring wireless signals for a long time and either learned the languages or developed effective AI for that purpose.

The aliens are advanced enough, that they've mastered MUCH faster than light travel, so while the radio signals would take thousands of years to travel that far, a single ship could make it in several months if they never stopped. The lead character makes a name for himself, though, by managing to pull it off in record time.

However, the aliens aren't terribly interested in visiting unknown lands anymore, as they're involved in a gigantic galactic war with a fiercely aggressive alien bug society.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

When this happens between cultures it's not uncommon for the original culture to accept the other idiots don't know how to say their name and respond to the mispronounced name.

Keeping with the Australian culture of never missing an opportunity of pointing something really stupid Americans do ...
Martina Navratilova and Maria Sharapova quickly abandoned hopes that any American might one day pronounce their names correctly.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

In your original post, you wrote:

it's getting out of hand here, where EVERY non-human's name is entirely invented.

Does anyone have any advice on keeping alien names reasonable (i.e. making them seem authentic, reasonable, or fitting the characters)?


Perhaps you need to step back and reflect on what you want as help from us.

You seemed upset that all of your non-human names were invented. Non-human names have to be invented. You want 'authentic' names and human names are not authentic for an alien. Any combination of our alphabetic characters that would seem 'alien' would probably be impossible to pronounce.

You shot down Red61544's idea of something like - "My name is unpronounceable in your language. You may call me 'Joe'." So substitutes for weird spellings are out.

In the first paragraph of your reply to my post you said:

Again, using 'trends' falls apart in a multi-species society,


I provided you with several conventions that could be applied to create names for different alien races. You can come up with others. You use one naming convention for one race, a second for the next, etc. It doesn't matter if you generate one name or a hundred, just stay with the specific race's convention. But then you went on to say:

as few of the aliens the protagonists meet belong to the same species (other than spouses), so there really IS NO consistent naming or word-use trends between any two characters.


That puts you back to where you were at the start of the thread, CW. You want multiple names that don't follow a single convention. That means you will have to create them yourself.

Your second and third paragraphs were you pontificating on the cultural aspects of the societies you are creating. I notice you do that a lot. Your pontification added zero to how we could help you. I don't know about the others in this thread, but I get the feeling you are going to shoot down every idea anyone comes up with to help you. So other than us presenting ideas that you can shoot down, what are you looking for.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Personally, I've always thought it implausible that a civilization capable of FTL travel would be monitoring radio frequencies with equipment sensitive enough to pick up a decipherable transmission at inter-stellar distances.

Understandable. Early radio and communications were, I understand, at higher power than now. The aliens don't have to be at home to pick up signals as they explore.
Equally isn't SETI transmitting with the intention that their signals will be picked up? If that attracts aliens I would hope that they would have more sense than to streak through the atmosphere and demand "take me to your leader" :D

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

As for the various name options, since this character is the Galactic Emperor, while everyone else only gets a single first name, the Emperor gets a bunch of them (all signifying something very specific, though it's never spelled out the humans).

Competition time; Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes,had over 50 aristcratic titles of which she inherites over 40. Despite her name she was Duchess of Berwick which is on the Anglo-Scottish (Alba) border

Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

The lead character makes a name for himself, though, by managing to pull it off in record time.


You're writing a story about Han Solo? ;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Equally isn't SETI transmitting with the intention that their signals will be picked up?


No, SETI is not transmitting, they are analyzing radio telescope data looking for transmissions from aliens. Anything they pick up is likely to be from a pre-FTL civilization and so useless on other than a curiosity/"are we alone in the universe?" basis.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Understandable. Early radio and communications were, I understand, at higher power than now.


Yes, and even those signals would be extremely difficult to pick out from background noise, tens or hundreds of light years out.

The aliens don't have to be at home to pick up signals as they explore.


True, but the question you have to answer is why would they even be listening to radio signals?

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

but the question you have to answer is why would they even be listening to radio signals?


Because they want to know whether any humans are out there, being desperate to be converted to one of the religious mythologies originating in a few square miles of our Middle East ;)

AJ

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Yes, and even those signals would be extremely difficult to pick out from background noise, tens or hundreds of light years out.

Yes, and if we wanted to transmit a signal that others might have a remote chance of detecting our best option would probably be landing a transmitter on Pluto.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

Yes, and if we wanted to transmit a signal that others might have a remote chance of detecting our best option would probably be landing a transmitter on Pluto.

LOL - a miniscule fraction of the way to Alpha Centauri. Hard to place, hard to build (Pluto is not much warmer than O Kelvin). How would you refuel it?

Dominions Son wrote:

Yes, and even those signals would be extremely difficult to pick out from background noise, tens or hundreds of light years out.


See your reply about SETI.
True we have been transmitting for about a century which is a short time but what about those Americans who daily claim on TV that aliens were here ten thousand years ago and others who talk of seeing flying saucers? :D
I doubt much of it but I accept that we may not be the oldest race of sentient beings

Ross at Play

@sejintenej

LOL - a miniscule fraction of the way to Alpha Centauri. Hard to place, hard to build (Pluto is not much warmer than O Kelvin). How would you refuel it?

I didn't say it was technically feasible!

My point was nobody else could possibly detect anything coming from earth. We're so close to the sun nothing we're sending out would be swamped by its radiation. Others might, conceivably, be able to detect signals from Pluto as originating from a different source.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

See your reply about SETI.


Yes, please do. SETI has yet to find anything definitive and they are analyzing signals picked up by radio telescopes arrays, arrays of ground based dish antennas that are the equivalent of a single dish thousands of meters across.

It would be rather impractical to mount a radio antenna that size on a star ship.

but what about those Americans who daily claim on TV that aliens were here ten thousand years ago and others who talk of seeing flying saucers?


If true, they found us without listening for our radio transmissions.

I doubt much of it but I accept that we may not be the oldest race of sentient beings


I share your opinion.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@sejintenej

I doubt much of it but I accept that we may not be the oldest race of sentient beings

I'm as near as possible to certain we are not. If you dissolve methane and ammonia in water, then repeatedly freeze and unfreeze that, you will create the four types of RNA molecules. After that, sentient beings are pretty much inevitable.

However, I've never heard of anything that even suggests FTL is not impossible, so I'm not anticipating any UFOs to arrive here before the planet evaporates when the sun becomes a red giant.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

However, I've never heard of anything that even suggests FTL is not impossible


Neither is there anything empirical that remotely suggests that FTL is not possible.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Neither is there anything empirical that remotely suggests that FTL is not possible.


I take the opposite view - that all the empirical evidence we have suggests FTL is not possible.

That doesn't necessarily mean that FTL is impossible, but in our current scientific dark age we lack the will and the wherewithal to mount a serious assault on the problem.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@REP

You seemed upset that all of your non-human names were invented. Non-human names have to be invented. You want 'authentic' names and human names are not authentic for an alien.

Not quite. I don't object to the invented names, but I wanted them to be more 'readable' (i.e. pronounceable, rather than consisting of made up sounds).

There have also been a lot of terrific ideas, but as I told Red61544, I'd already adapted his idea of "You may call me 'Joe'", but I didn't think I keep repeating it, over and over, without it getting repetitive.

The translating a name or concept into a foreign language and then spelling it backwards so it's both pronounceable but also recognizable I've already put into practice, but I'd approaching those one at a time.

As far as my "pontifications" go, I wasn't trying to sell the story here (since it's not available anywhere), rather I was trying to highlight how it was difficult to implement several of the ideas.

Yes, I can create separate naming conventions for each individual—and I may still do that—but again, if I do that for each individual, it will get tedious quickly. At best, most of these techniques I can use a couple of times (for only a couple of individuals), so I'm going to have to mix and match the various techniques to each of my characters, in order to get the biggest bang out of each.

That's going to take some time. I'm not rejecting the ideas out of hand, but I really can't implement many of them until I get into the review phase of the story.

The ideas are ALL useful, but I'm simply adding caveats. They don't reject the suggests, they merely implement how widely I can implement them.

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

You're writing a story about Han Solo? ;)

It's a similar idea, but rather than being a faster racer, it reflects the fact that the aliens, having been beaten down over time, are simply not as motivated as the newly-arrived humans. That's a consistent theme throughout the story. They manage to milk it for all it's worth.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

True we have been transmitting for about a century which is a short time but what about those Americans who daily claim on TV that aliens were here ten thousand years ago and others who talk of seeing flying saucers? :D
I doubt much of it but I accept that we may not be the oldest race of sentient beings

Few are actually claiming that UFOs are actually aliens, just that there are still a LOT of 'unidentified flying objects', which could be anything.

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I take the opposite view - that all the empirical evidence we have suggests FTL is not possible.


You are mistaken. We have exactly zero empirical evidence either way.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

We have sound evidence for time dilation, showing the 'impossibility' of a massive object reaching the velocity of light.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

That doesn't necessarily mean that FTL is impossible, but in our current scientific dark age we lack the will and the wherewithal to mount a serious assault on the problem.

The key there is that WE don't possess the resources or the will, which doesn't suggest that some alien race hasn't. However, all evidence now suggests that WE're on the front line, that it takes SO long to accumulate the building blocks for life (i.e. dying black holes blowing off heavy elements created within necessary for life, and the likelihood that life will first develop on a small drawf star with a much dimmer sun (where the stay remains active for much longer, but life would supposedly develop slower), it suggests we ARE mostly alone.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

You are mistaken. We have exactly zero empirical evidence either way.

Except, we DO have evidence that it's possible (observations of distant object moving faster than light before disappearing) and we now understand several physical phenomenon which might support it, but we're a LONG, long way from ever approaching such a thing.

For now, about the best we can do is 'dream sequences' in shows like Dallas. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

We have sound evidence for time dilation, showing the 'impossibility' of a massive object reaching the velocity of light.

Technically, given enough power, you don't NEED to travel faster than light. If you can create (i.e. expand space ahead of your ship, while contracting it behind it, you'll get a push/pull effect. You'll still be traveling well under the speed of light, but you'll get to any destination at many times the actual speed of light (I've used it as the plot in several stories already).

The problem, of course, is in knowing how to create such an effect, how to control it, and how to generate the necessary energy.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Few are actually claiming that UFOs are actually aliens, just that there are still a LOT of 'unidentified flying objects', which could be anything.

Surely you believe them when they claim that aliens were the original Indian Gods, they supplied the technology to build the Yukatan pyramids, Macchu Pichu, etc. ;-)

I'm just waiting for them to admit that aliens are running Area 50

As stated before I think there is a heap of bovine effluent there

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Technically, given enough power, you don't NEED to travel faster than light. If you can create (i.e. expand space ahead of your ship, while contracting it behind it, you'll get a push/pull effect.

ISTR that mass increases with velocity so that at light speed your mass would be infinite.

I think you need to consider the idea of space wormholes

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

We have sound evidence for time dilation, showing the 'impossibility' of a massive object reaching the velocity of light.


There's also experimental evidence going the other way.

Time dilation by itself at levels we have supposedly successfully measured does NOT prove the 'impossibility' of a massive object reaching the velocity of light.

Besides, not all proposed methods for FTL travel involve reching light speed in "normal" space.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

ISTR that mass increases with velocity so that at light speed your mass would be infinite.


That is the conjecture based on the general theory of relativity and it's curved space/time model. But at this point in time, conjecture is all it is.

However, The quantum mechanics does not need and does not want curved space/time and is actively looking for an explanation of gravity by charged particle exchange which would directly contradict the general relativity theory's curved space/time model.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
helmut_meukel
Updated:

Sorry if someone already wrote something similar, I didn't wait with my answer until I read all the other posts.


though I'm still looking for more pronounceable alien names.


DS:

Why? Different alien species with different evolutionary origins would likely have significantly different vocal apparatus. Properly pronouncing each other's languages would likely be close to impossible.

Alien names that are easily pronounceable by humans strike me as highly improbable.


DS is right, but if there are so many alien races they have probably developed a lingua franca which can be pronounced by most alien races. Probability would be high humans can pronounce this lingua franca too.

The other – high-tech – solution would be a simultaneous translator device.

In both cases names can't be excluded from translation. There must be substitutions for unpronounceable names. The aliens should be used to those substituted names.

HM.

edited for typo

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

There's also experimental evidence going the other way.


I don't understand that. You seem to be saying that someone has accelerated a massive object beyond the speed of light.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I think you need to consider the idea of space wormholes

Except, the only theoretical wormholes they've ever postulated exist at the center of blackholes, and we'd be crushed before we could ever reach them. Wormholes seem like a technological dead-end. I'm not holding out much hope for that solution.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I'm not holding out much hope for that solution (wormholes).

I'd say postulations about wormholes is one of the main reasons many reasonable ordinary folk think theoretical physicists are a bunch of stupid wankers!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Time dilation by itself at levels we have supposedly successfully measured does NOT prove the 'impossibility' of a massive object reaching the velocity of light.

According to most experts (mostly astrophysicist mathematicians) you can NEVER reach the speed of light, but you can go faster. The speed of light is impossible to reach, but there do appear to be a number of ways of going beyond it. That's why, with my 'expanding space' concept, a ship can never get much faster than 90% of the speed of light, and even that speed is questionable. The key is to travel faster than light while traveling under the speed of light. (i.e. the ship itself never travels any faster, but as you expand space ahead of it, space expands much faster than light, carrying the spaceship with it. That would also limit the time-dilation effect which theoretically means everyone you know will be dead by the time you return. They will be much older, but individuals could theoretically travel to distant worlds and return to report on it.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That is the conjecture based on the general theory of relativity and it's curved space/time model. But at this point in time, conjecture is all it is.

The mathematics hold up, which proves that it's theoretical possible, but no one has any clue how to implement it, or even if it's possible to.

It's clearly not impossible, simply unlikely to ever occur.

Crumbly Writer

@helmut_meukel

The other – high-tech – solution would be a simultaneous translator device.

Excellent point, but one already covered. My 'universe' includes a common 'translator device', stored inside the brain (conveyed via the bloodstream) so everyone can understand everyone else, hearing it in their own language, but other than common names (like "Joe", "Bob" or "Mary Sue") foreign names generally wouldn't translate. Thus I'm not worried about the language itself, just with how to make the names both more realistic but also more readable (a difficult combination to reach easily).

So far, I'm using a variety of different techniques, but I'm afraid to use any more than a few times, for fear or recycling ideas and boring readers. So I'm hoping to apply a variety of different ideas, continually keeping the reader surprised.

Note: When I complain about ideas, I'm not rejecting them, I'm merely specifying possible limitations which I need to overcome. But that's on me, not on those submitting the ideas.

Replies:   helmut_meukel
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

There's also experimental evidence going the other way.

I don't understand that. You seem to be saying that someone has accelerated a massive object beyond the speed of light.

Not 'experimental' evidence, but observational and recorded evidence. We're literally recorded multiple objects traveling faster than light across the expanses of the universe (include all of space itself, which continually expands much faster than light ever since the Big Bang, actually speeding up over time).

That's pretty conclusive evidence that time travel and FTL travel is theoretical possible, even if there's no way for humans to ever achieve it.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'd say postulations about wormholes is one of the main reasons many reasonable ordinary folk think theoretical physicists are a bunch of stupid wankers!

That and string theory experts like Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory", as string theory simply doesn't pass the 'common sense' test for most people. You can make the numbers work out, but only by stretching the limits of acceptability (though I have used it in stories before).

As long as you avoid talking about the specifics, it's a nice way to dance around the problem in a story, only providing just enough details for it to seem logical.

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

You seem to be saying that someone has accelerated a massive object beyond the speed of light.


No, but there are experiments by physicists who support quantum mechanics that supposedly disprove the notion of curved space.

The entire notion of light speed as some kind of absolute limit is entirely based on the curved space model of general relativity.

Replies:   REP
Dominions Son

@helmut_meukel

DS is right, but if there are so many alien races they have probably developed a lingua franca which can be pronounced by most alien races.


Again, if you have many alien races with different evolutionary roots (intectoid, reptillian, various mammal roots) such a common ingua franca would be an impossibility.

Even limiting yourself to just mammals, the specifics of how primates, canines and felines vocalize is sufficiently different, that coming up with a language that is easily pronounceable by all members of a group alien races with evolutionary roots in all three and is still capable of expressing complex concepts would be next to impossible.

REP

@Dominions Son

The human mind is highly creative. People create ideas about things and concepts in their minds that are not currently possible. Some people judge these ideas based on current knowledge and find the ideas impossible and state why they are impossible.

What those judges overlook is new capabilities are being created all the time, and those new capabilities may make that 'impossible idea' possible. For now, I'm happy to use those 'impossible ideas' in a story if they fit the story's plot.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Even limiting yourself to just mammals, the specifics of how primates, canines and felines vocalize is sufficiently different, that coming up with a language that is easily pronounceable by all members of a group alien races with evolutionary roots in all three and is still capable of expressing complex concepts would be next to impossible.

Again, in my case (the story's case, that is), everyone has triggers in their brains, which substitute the spoken words into the brain synapses which represent the same concepts, so you hear both the original language (hoping you learn it), but also the words in young own primary language.

So no, the specific language patterns aren't a major stumbling block. I DO include specific linguistic issues, but mostly as stumbling blocks in attributing the wrong meaning to the wrong words. In other words, they do have universal translators, but that doesn't eliminate all of the confusions which might arise (and a good thing too, as those provide the necessary story humor).

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
helmut_meukel

@Dominions Son

Hmmm, the vocal apparatus of avians is quite different from humans, nevertheless some birds are capable of pronouncing human language. OTOH, language is not reduced to aural expressions, sign language and gestures can help to overcome vocalisational deficiensies.

I doubt high intelligence will evolve in a species incapable of expressing their thoughts to their fellow people. If they can only vocalize some distinguishly different sounds and/or signs it's improbable their intelligence will ever rise above the level of terran cats or dogs.

HM.

Replies:   Dominions Son
helmut_meukel
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


but other than common names (like "Joe", "Bob" or "Mary Sue") foreign names generally wouldn't translate.


If the crew of a spaceship consists of more then a dozen alien races and foreign names wouldn't translate, how to order one of them to do something? Using a rank/function combination that identifies the addressed?

HM.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

It's not the greatest, but you can get some interesting results: http://www.springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/sf_namegens.htm

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

If objects travelled faster than light, we wouldn't be able to detect them.

AJ

Dominions Son

@helmut_meukel

Hmmm, the vocal apparatus of avians is quite different from humans, nevertheless some birds are capable of pronouncing human language.


Those birds capable of doing that have an extraordinarily high vocal range evolved to mimic sounds broader than "language", and that's a very small subset of avian species.

If they can only vocalize some distinguishly different sounds and/or signs it's improbable their intelligence will ever rise above the level of terran cats or dogs.


Even the human vocal apparatus has finite limits on the range of sounds it can produce.

This does absolutely nothing to counter my basic point that even among sentient species with complex vocal languages, differences in the vocal organs will make speaking each-others languages clearly without a lot of effort and heavy accents next to impossible.

Crumbly Writer

@helmut_meukel

If the crew of a spaceship consists of more then a dozen alien races and foreign names wouldn't translate, how to order one of them to do something? Using a rank/function combination that identifies the addressed?

Any time you're speaking to anyone, regardless of race, class, job or species, they want to feel the personal connection. Thus you call them by THEIR name, not a name one Earthing calls another. They don't have to get it precisely, but the mere fact that they try makes all the difference (that, and how they taste with some Chianti!)

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

If objects travelled faster than light, we wouldn't be able to detect them.

That's hogwash, but often, it's not that anyone LOOKS for objects traveling faster than light, it's that they figure it out after having seen it (such as a meteorite getting bigger, rather than smaller the farther it travels, or when the radiation they give off goes from the later stages (heaver elements) to lighter elements.

Those observations are never lost, but since they're recorded by telescope, they can be studied in detail, as the scientists figure out WTF happened to it.

Your point is akin to the nonsensical arguments about antimatter. It DOESN'T destroy matter. That's hogwash. Scientists created antimatter in a lab. They even fashioned it into a super ball and played with it for days until they eventually got bored and allowed it to eventually dissolve on its own.
anti-' matter destroying 'regular' matter is based exclusively on the name choice, nothing more, and it's an empty argument. So too are your assumptions of light. They're not based on mathematics or observational data, just how YOU think light SHOULD behave. But light, like those particles, doesn't listen to you, it just is, and it's OUR job to understand it.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Even the human vocal apparatus has finite limits on the range of sounds it can produce.

This does absolutely nothing to counter my basic point that even among sentient species with complex vocal languages, differences in the vocal organs will make speaking each-others languages clearly without a lot of effort and heavy accents next to impossible.

Just compare humans to dolphins to whales. They each produce very unique sounds, which convey very specific things. If we don't understand what that is, it doesn't mean they don't communicate, it just means we're too stupid to understand it!

Replies:   Dominions Son
helmut_meukel

@awnlee jawking

If objects travelled faster than light, we wouldn't be able to detect them.

Why not?

IIRC, the speed of a moving object (sub-light velocity) does not add or subtract to the speed of light send out by the object. Instead the wave-lenght gets affected.
However light send out from the moving object in exactly 90° to its moving direction is not affected.

I can't see why this special case should be affected when the object travels faster than light.

HM.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
helmut_meukel

@Dominions Son

Even the human vocal apparatus has finite limits on the range of sounds it can produce.

This does absolutely nothing to counter my basic point that even among sentient species with complex vocal languages, differences in the vocal organs will make speaking each-others languages clearly without a lot of effort and heavy accents next to impossible.


But that's exactly why I suggested a lingua franca, a language created using sounds most – probably not all – can master with their vocal organs. If this subset of common sounds is too small, add signs and gestures which these alien species can perform with their hands, paws or tentacles and most of them can communicate with the others using this lingua franca.

When meeting a new alien species – like the humans – just teach them the lingua franca.

HM.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

Scientists created antimatter in a lab.


More likely they just created something and called it antimatter. Since it did not fit the pre-existing definition and aspects of antimatter, they just used the name for their creation.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

If we don't understand what that is, it doesn't mean they don't communicate, it just means we're too stupid to understand it!


Exactly may point. What you are asking for is the equivalent of dolphin names in the dolphin native language, but that are also easy for humans to pronounce. It's exceedingly implausible.

Dominions Son

@helmut_meukel

If this subset of common sounds is too small,


Something I would put at 90+% probability.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

The Hawaiian's solved it (17 letters in their alphabet) by having very long words.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

That's hogwash, but often, it's not that anyone LOOKS for objects traveling faster than light, it's that they figure it out after having seen it

I assume what you are saying is incorrect, but I'm certainly incapable of explaining.
I think the explanation has something to do with the fact that 0.9c plus 0.9c equals approximately 0.99c.

But, I'm no going to argue with you about something I am incapable of comprehending.

Ross at Play

@Capt. Zapp

More likely they just created something and called it antimatter.

The scientists originally wanted to call it antimass, but the Vatican vetoed that name.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

it's not that anyone LOOKS for objects traveling faster than light, it's that they figure it out after having seen it


How can they see it? It the object is approaching, it will arrive before any radiation from it. If it's receding, how will radiation from it ever reach us?

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
awnlee jawking

@helmut_meukel

IIRC, the speed of a moving object (sub-light velocity) does not add or subtract to the speed of light send out by the object. Instead the wave-lenght gets affected.


That's my understanding too. But that maths doesn't work for massive objects travelling faster than the speed of light.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

How can they see it?

I'm with you, AJ. My question is: if there is any physical evidence, why haven't I heard about it before now?
The last major "discovery" from physics I have heard about was evidence suggesting the existence of the Higgs boson. I'm sure I'd have heard about any experimental observations suggesting the Theory of Relativity is not essentially correct.
Regarding the fiction I read and watch, I don't give a damn about the science, I just want something that's sufficiently consistent internally to maintain my suspension of disbelief.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Various sources have posited that the universe is expanding faster than the speed of light. The universe is 'nothing' and nothing can exceed the speed of light, so the laws of relativity aren't being broken.

However, as far as I'm aware, it's just a thought experiment.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

as far as I'm aware, it's just a thought experiment.

A wise man once said, "reasonable ordinary folk think theoretical physicists are a bunch of stupid wankers!"

helmut_meukel

@Ross at Play

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light#Astronomical_observations

HM.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@helmut_meukel

Thx.
I assume you, too, think the relevant words in that link are "optical illusion".

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

But that maths doesn't work for massive objects travelling faster than the speed of light.


That might be a flaw in the mathematical models behind the theories rather than anything physical.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

That might be a flaw in the mathematical models behind the theories rather than anything physical.


I agree. Now if we had some empirical evidence that it was possible ... ;)

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
sejintenej

For goodness sake, stop listening to these experts. My wife has just reminded me that when she asked how she would know she was at the International Date Line Mr Fincher, her teacher, told her that there is a fence to stop people crossing. .

I understand that the Vatican is infested with top scientific experts yet they declared that the sun goes round the earth and their boss declared that the scientist who disagreed would ....

Now, per Ross at Play

The scientists originally wanted to call it antimass, but the Vatican vetoed that name


Experts - who would have 'em?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I agree. Now if we had some empirical evidence that it was possible ...


I take the opposite view. I assume it's possible in the absence of empirical evidence that it is not.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

The scientists originally wanted to call it antimass, but the Vatican vetoed that name.

Sometimes I wish I could carry a vial of anti-mass when I attend Catholic services, and sprinkle it around liberally.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I understand that the Vatican is infested with top scientific experts yet they declared that the sun goes round the earth and their boss declared that the scientist who disagreed would


That was the prevailing scientific consensus of the day, even if you take the Vatican out of the picture.

Scientists not connected to the Vatican, who supported the consensus, asked the Vatican to do something about him.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

vial of anti-mass

Skunk oil would work.

Argon

@Crumbly Writer

Take French names and write them phonetically (Louis –> Looee). Take Dutch or Finnish names, or mix all of those :o)

REP

@awnlee jawking

How can they see it?


An object traveling at faster than light speed give off light/radiation which travels toward us at the speed of light.

One interesting thing though, assume the object is approaching us and is at point A, then B, and then C. The light from point C will be observed first, then the light from point B, and finally the light from point A. Due the arrival times the object will appear to be traveling away from us.

awnlee jawking

@REP

An object traveling at faster than light speed give off light/radiation which travels toward us at the speed of light.


Relativity says that the speed of light is the same for all observers but also says that it's impossible to exceed the speed of light. If you break one facet of relativity, you render the whole thing invalid.

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

Just responding to your question based on exceeding the speed of light being possible.

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

Relativity says that the speed of light is the same for all observers but also says that it's impossible to exceed the speed of light. If you break one facet of relativity, you render the whole thing invalid.


Not necessarily. Einstein declared as part of the theory that exceeding the speed of light is impossible.

This is because the mathematical model he built for the general theory of relativity and it's curved space/time results in the past and future being indistinguishable at faster than light speeds.

On the other hand, that same mathematical model pops out a particle that travels faster than the speed of light and has a mass equal to the square root of -1. Someone eventually called that particle a tachyon.

The tachyon also shows up in the mathematical models for quantum mechanics.

Physicists don't like the tachyon. They've been trying for decades to adjust both of the major models to get rid of it, but every attempt has resulted in the entire model collapsing.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Crumbly Writer

@REP

One interesting thing though, assume the object is approaching us and is at point A, then B, and then C. The light from point C will be observed first, then the light from point B, and finally the light from point A. Due the arrival times the object will appear to be traveling away from us.

Thus my example of distant objects seemingly 'growing younger' over time.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Relativity says that the speed of light is the same for all observers but also says that it's impossible to exceed the speed of light. If you break one facet of relativity, you render the whole thing invalid.

Nope. No one who has ever studied relativity will make that claim. You CAN'T REACH the speed of light, but we've observed many instances of objects traveling faster than light. The most common explanation is that they likely were created already traveling faster than light, but they're not really sure, never actually being able to observe their creation. (Hint: they've also recorded objects in the CERN super-collider where particles THEY CREATED traveled faster than light, but again, they tend to die quickly, and NEVER slow down to light speed or slower.)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

The superluminal neutrinos? That's the only reference on the first page of a google search.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt. Zapp

@Dominions Son

Einstein declared as part of the theory that exceeding the speed of light is impossible.


Throughout history scientists have declared things 'impossible' only to have them proved wrong in later generations.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

The superluminal neutrinos? That's the only reference on the first page of a google search.

Just came across this today (shortly before I re-entered the Hospital ER, hence the delay):

Electrons moving backwards in time

Richard Muller, Prof. Physics at UC Berkeley, author of "Now—The Physics of Time" (2016)

The photo shows an electron moving backwards in time. It is labeled as a "positron", and this photo led directly to a Nobel Prize for Carl Anderson. (This annotated version is taken from my book.)

At the time Anderson made the discovery, he thought it was something even crazier than an electron moving backwards in time; he thought it was a "hole" in a sea of negative energy electrons that filled the entire universe. But a few decades later, Richard Feynman gave the modern interpretation: a positron can be thought of as an electron moving backwards in time.

Electrons moving bacwards in time (positrons) are created every day in hospitals when they give PET scans. The P stands for "positron".

Are positrons really electrons moving back in time? According to the theory, we can't distinguish the difference. However particles truly moving back in time are not compatible with our concept of free will, so if you believe in free will, then you will think of Feynman's interpretation as merely a computational convenience and not a reflection of the truth.


You can continue insisting that proven science is invalid if you want, but the evidence is there, without having to look very far, though it may require typing "is faster than light speed proven?" into Google. Generally, you have to target scientific sources, rather than conversation or retail sources.

By the way, I have no clue what a "superluminal neutrino" is. I'll also admit that the photo in THIS report isn't very clear, as it a only a still photo from the 60s or 70s, but it was still enough to warrant a Nobel Prize, so I'm sure it was replicated and thoroughly authenticated.

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

Throughout history scientists have declared things 'impossible' only to have them proved wrong in later generations.

I never claimed it wasn't, just that the MATH doesn't support it. If the math doesn't work, few are willing to invest much in trying to 'make' it work. Instead, there are numerous alternatives which don't involve reaching faster than lightspeed directly (expanding space, wormholes and string theory's 'bending space back over itself'). All have a much likely chance of success than violating the rules of physics entirely. Plus, they'll demonstrate that an author has read a couple science books, rather than making up details entirely so he's not required to do any necessary research!

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