When you name towns and people and the geographical landmarks of a fantasy world, you are bound to irritate some readers. But, they say, that name has Celtic origins, and that one Germanic, so how can they both be in your fantasy world? Or something similar.
My reply is, well, they are both in our world, are they not?
This attitude has earned me some criticism in the past. My reasoning is as follows:
Take a look at this selection of names that have been around for generations in England:
Courtney and Chelsea (Old English), Riley and Abigail (Irish), Eric and Arnold (Nordic), Charles and Henry (French), William and Richard (Norman).
Quite a mix, some of them Anglicized, some not. In other words, those who inhabited that section of the British Isles we now call England were no purists. The Norman invaders may have brought their own names, but that didn’t put a stop to the usage of previous names, and so on. I think that a writer who makes their naming system too rigid, must be writing of a world that never changes, and is never influenced by outsiders. So I look askance at a fantasy land where every female name ends in “ia” and masculine names all sound macho; or where all the town names are Germanic – or any other scheme that is just too bound by rules or uniformity.
I could have used names totally unknown to any reader. You know, things like “Neiggharg”, “T’lebb” and “Pottarossmolleth”. I prefer to use names found on – or similar to those found on – Earth, and let you, the reader, deal with them.
In the land of the Quartern, names are a mix, and show many influences for a reason. Some don’t mean anything at all.
Once someone has read the book, some influences should be more clear. Many names which may seem made-up actually have meaning to those with a specialised interest (e.g. Sardonyx) – and in my world, there is a reason for all this. Some names are mispellings, just as happens in real life. (Why – on Earth – did Nova Zeelandia not become New Zeeland?)
So when you look at the towns* or the people** of the Quartern, don’t be surprised if you find names that have varied origins. Of course, just as the reader has to mentally replace “English” with the language of the Quartern, so s/he has mentally to replace the idea of “Portuguese” or “Arabic” with other unnamed languages of countries outside the Quartern. (Btw, the map maker, Perdita Phillips, added in some names of her own too…)
What am I trying to say from all this variety?
That the Quartern was either inhabited by people of many cultural backgrounds, or was invaded multiple times, or had many trading partners or immigrants … just exactly what the answer is, you can work out for yourself if you want, as you read the trilogy. Or you can read the book and not worry about the back story of the world at all. The hints are there for those who like a layered story, and can just as easily be ignored if you prefer a straight tale.
But please don’t expect a naming scheme that is beautifully ordered and systematic, because you won’t get it, any more than you do in, say, England or Australia or America.
* For example:
Scarcleft – based on geographical formations
Sloweater – pertaining to the results of the movement of a geographical formation
Qanatend – Arabic/English
Dollypot – name of a tool
Fourcross Tell – English/Arabic word for a geographical formation
Athro Purida – Latin/Portuguese
** For example: