I was taking a bathroom break from an enriching conversation with friend of the blog Phlox yesterday when, mid-stream, something caught my eye: a tube of toothpaste - and on that toothpaste: the name "Pronamel". Pronamel. Pro-nam-el...
There was something there. Something fantastic. When I returned from the toilet to excitedly report this to Phlox, he was skeptical.
Inspiration's been taken from the names of stars before, from the literal translation of words, and from reversing the names of D&D monsters, but could it be done with the names of toothpaste brands? Let's find out.
I believe the origin of the brand's name is that it is "pro-enamel (the hard outer covering of the tooth)" - pro as in "favouring" or "supporting", and not as in "professional". Let's keep that. Let's keep it favoured.
Now for the -namel part... it can't simply be "enamel", or we've arrived back at the brand's name, and using that would step on some powerful dental industry toes. What it could be is Nam-El, nam from the Sumerian 𒉆, meaning "fate", and el from the Ugaritic 𐎛𐎍, meaning "god", or "lord". So we get "Favouring the God of Fate" - sounds like a theophoric name*.
Who favours the god of fate? Fate unchanging, unerring, inescapable, fate which finds Oedipus in the steps he takes to run from it. Perhaps some proto-Nietzchean, elated with his allotted path. Perhaps a seer content to be a Cassandra, getting more joy out of being able to say "I told you so" than in averting disaster. Perhaps someone who can roll with all of life's punches, if only he can see them coming. Maybe you'd take on the name as a propitiatory measure - "I hope in your foresight you decided to take it easy on me".
Col-gate... gate is obvious, but col?.. It could be a misspelling of kohl - an ancient Egyptian cosmetic made from grinding the mineral stibnite. Large deposits of stibnite are rare, so perhaps Kohl-gate is a city which controls the trade route to such a deposit, becoming filthy rich so long as kohl remains in fashion and so also patronizing and exporting portraits and poetry that portray kohl in a desirable light. The advertising-houses of Kohl-gate would be the first and finest in all the world, penning treatises on propaganda that would be read by rulers for centuries to come.
Perhaps Colgate is a mispronunciation by numb tongues - its true name is Coldgate. Is Coldgate an empire's passage through mountains to a vast tundra - a swamp where mosquitos swarm thick as tar in the summer, a coldly hateful wasteland in the winter, though always calling to fresh and foolish souls with its wealth of sable-fur and amber? Is it not a passage to a cold place, but rather the coldness of the gate itself that's the origin of its name? A cold gate, frost-rimed or itself carved from blue-grey ice, set in place to keep out things of hungry flame from the lands of men, as Dhu al-Qarnayn raised a wall of iron and copper against Ya'juj and Ma'juj.
Perhaps Colgate is truly neither the Kohl-Gate or the Cold-Gate. It could be a contraction of Cole-Gate. Cole is related to the German kohl (which is, as far as I know, unrelated to the Egyptian kohl) which is itself derived from the Latin caulis - meaning cabbage, or stem. Apparently the whole family of cabbage, kale, broccoli, and so on are called cole crops - or cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous, from the New Latin Cruciferae: "cross-bearing". Cole-gate could be an elaborate, Rosicrucian obfuscatory name for a Christian intentional community, honouring the cross-bearing Christ in an oblique way. The ancient Greeks believed that cabbage was detrimental to grapes, lending the fruit their bitter taste if grown too close together. Grapes, the sacred fruit of Dionysus - perhaps Cole-gate is declaring itself an Apollonian haven for reason. The largest cabbage ever grown was 138.25 pounds, presented at the 2012 Alaskan State Fair by Scott Robb (congratulations Scott!). Extrapolating this to a fantasy world, perhaps Cole-gate is a city built within the petals of a titanic cabbage.
Maybe it's even simpler than all of those explanations: some time ago there was a man named Cole who named a place Cole's Gate, and over time that name shrank down to Colgate.
First impression? Sounds like the name of a dragon. Let's break it down:
Paro - slang, French, meaning "crazy" popularized - maybe even invented - by the rapper Kerry James.
Don - Spanish title, high-ranking member of the Mafia, name derived from the Irish donn, meaning "chief" or "noble"
Tax - English, a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions
This Parodontax is a dragon, spoon-billed and serpentine, with scales of white and pink that fade translucent at the edges. Her hoard is lakes of liquid metal - mercury, gallium, caesium, and rubidium, kept within their melting points by the heat of her deep geothermal lair. Parodontax's breath is flame of a similar colour to her scales, though even paler, and its touch brings clarity - helpful with just a whiff, but receiving it full-on is paralyzing, agonizing, every little mistake and regret magnified monstrously. She sends agents to poison aristocrats with the maddening poison of her hoard, then demands these victims come and pay homage and tribute to her to receive the temporary treatment of her flame. Lapses in this treatment can then be blamed on the mental consequences of noble inbreeding.
Or how about:
Par - English, meaning an equality in value or standing
Odon - Basque, meaning "after", and resembling Formless Oedon... and also udon noodles...
Tax - Latin onomatopoeia for the sounds of blows - comparable to "whack"
This Parodontax is also a dragon, built like an albatross, with a toothy beak and a wingspan to evoke primal terror. He was paid an outrageous, treasury-emptying sum to serve as a mercenary in a war between leagues of neighbouring city-states which by any rational measure absolutely did not need a dragon involved in it - only mutual hatred which grew over generations of inter-city feuds got Parodontax involved. Over the course of the war Paradontax gained a taste for being paid to fight, as well as a sort of respect for the human mercenaries he fought alongside. After the war, he absconded with these mercenaries, forming them into a new free company with him as their captain - the Fangs of Parodontax - and considering the boss is a dragon, the pay's pretty good.
But we can also go further:
Parod - Welsh, meaning "instant"
Ont - Suffix meaning "being"
Ax - An axe
This Parodontax is a magical axe, hammered forgeless from bronze heated to malleability by a stroke of lightning. Its head bears a tassel from the tail of a mare who mothered a line of horses fit for kings, and its handle must always be made of yew-wood - and it must be remade often, for it is the part of Parodontax not blessed with magical resilience. Parodontax's power is that any singular endeavour with it may be resolved in an instant - chopping down a tree, cutting down a foe - but within that instant its wielder suffers any exhaustion and injuries they would have had it resolved normally.
Reminds me of the circuadont... likely an animal species. Sozo apparently means "saved, made whole, restored, healed, delivered, preserved" in Greek. So - a sozodont could be a "saviour tooth", or something along those lines.
The first sozodonts evolved in the middle era of the Age of Mounds, when the moral ecology of that time was really starting to get creative in its perversity. They were rodent-like in dentition, yet entelodont-ish in size. Sozodonts could smell infirmity and senility, and sought out creatures suffering from these conditions to bite off their heads with incisors that slid like guillotine-blades. These heads would be preserved and rejuvenated in the anagathic baths of the sozodont's stomach - an act rewarded with calories by some distant decree of the Authority, but little appreciated by the heads who could only enjoy their newfound lucidity and health in the dark and dank confines of the beast's belly.
Only a single species of sozodont survived the mass extinction that followed the transition of moral ecology to regular ecology - a species with an underdeveloped digestive tract that could hardly continue its way of life as a conventional predator. And so it adapted. Slowly and painfully, it adapted.
The modern sozodont little resembles its ancestor - it's a bit bigger than a squirrel, with hand-like paws and teeth like needles. Its lifestyle is somewhat like a cleaner wrasse's: the sozodont will seek out wounded animals, or wounded animals will seek it out, following distinctive and short-lived scent-marks (would be bad for business if predators learned a spot was popular with wounded prey), and nibble away the dead flesh around wounds before sewing them shut with its teeth and sticky saliva. Its patient will then reward the sozodont with a gift of pre-digested vomit.
Sozodonts have been wiped out in human lands due to over-hunting for their saliva and the life-extending traces of their ancestors' fluids in their guts.
A genus of moth, also called Declana, and according to Google Translate a Cebuano word meaning "use for shooting". Use for shooting...
The ipana is a creature much like a moth, or a butterfly, but it is neither. While some moth caterpillars are amphibious or even fully aquatic, only the ipana is as an adult able to swim as well as it flies. Several adaptions contribute to this: the semi-flexible membranes of its wings are able to switch from flapping to paddling in a rippling motion, its scales have an oily, hydrophobic texture that prevent it from being caught by water's surface tension, and cut down on drag, and they are able to breath underwater without gills through their pores so long as they remain in motion, or lie still in moving water.
Ipanas are native to the land of Pibaw, where zaratans come ashore to lek and make their nests, bringing tsunamis in their wake and liquefying the soil with their thunderous footsteps. Beavers teem in Pibaw, having grown cunning in their use of the zaratan-floods. They share a strange symbiosis with the ipanas.
The beavers harvest the scales of the tinderwing ipana, which when dried and powdered make a fine incendiary, and pack the hollowed logs of ironwood trees with the stuff, and also with rocks, teeth, and metal scrap. With these cannons they defend their dam-villages.
The decadent underwater court of the beaver-king has long enjoyed indulging in the bite of the stinging ipana. In the wild, the caterpillar of the stinging ipana consumes poisonous plants, concentrating their poisons in its tissues as it does. When it metamorphoses into an adult, it becomes able to inject these poisons through its proboscis, which it will do to defend its fellows - the stinging ipana is the most sociable of its kind. If instead the caterpillar is fed on more pleasant plants - poppies, for instance - then it concentrates their substances instead, and the adult ipana becomes a living drug syringe.
Perhaps the beavers' most wonderful use of ipanas is with the window ipanas - so named because they are able to change their colours to mimic whatever it is they rest on, seemingly becoming transparent. The beaver art of [Combination of Hooting and Tooth-Clacking] involves placing a number of window ipanas within a device like a mirrored camera obscura. This device is then used to project an observed image for the contained window ipanas to copy, before they're all plunged into darkness (the creatures will not change their colours in darkness) and quickly pinned in place. If all goes well, the ipanas will have created a true-to-life copy of whatever scene the artist wanted to capture. These ipana-images have exploded in popularity in lands both around Pibaw and much further down trade routes.
"The springs" in Norwegian, according to Google Translate. Google Translate has a translation for everything. Kjadak - it thinks this means "just' in Malay - Malaysians, pop off in the comments if this is bullshit.
Sprinjene... Spring Jean... Jean of the springs... Jean of Spring...
It's got a fey sound to it. Let's not lock it in just yet though.
Sprin (according to wikitionary) is an Indonesian acronym, representing surat perintah - a warrant, a writ, literally a compound of "document" and "order".
Jene is Friulian for Hyena. In German and Upper Sorbian, it's "one" or "that one". Stick a little accent aigu on the second e and you've got jené - Javanese for yellow, in adjective and noun forms.
Okay, I should have locked it in. Brain's flapping like a flag in a breeze.
You remember these things? "Salt cellars", or "cootie catchers" - fold the paper right, and it's got faces hidden within faces. Bureaucracy has its own realities, worlds of conflicting reports. Everyone's brown-nosing the people above them and shitting on the people beneath.
There once was an empire made of paper. Its power was in its maps, its accounts, its investigations, its forms and rules. This empire didn't conquer so much as it absorbed, slowly and surely, people flocking to its predictability over the whims of their own warlords. Unfortunately for the empire and its people, it grew within as much as it grew without - mounting complexities (an increasing sum self-made), administrations, budgets for the administration and those who could navigate through it.
This top-weighting overhead was finally tipped over by what would normally be a minor, local case - a naiad named Sprinjene. Procedure should've been to set up a shrine, assess her output of blessed water or whatever else, and move on. Problem after problem piled up. Sprinjene's spring was an intersection of various land claims. The Hierodules' Guild and the Order of Celestial Waters and the Azure Circle all butted heads over who'd manage Sprinjene. From this one stress point fractures were made, and existing fractures were made apparent. The empire shredded itself apart.
As the epicenter of this collapse, Sprinjene was crushed under the contradictions. Who she was, what she was, all this was lost in the shuffle of papers. On some days she is an eater of drowned corpses. For some she's a healer, others a prophet of floods or drought. Sometimes she dredges up the empire's ghosts from dried riverbeds. Underneath all these artificial yet ineluctable identities, Sprinjene's a naiad who's sick and tired and just wants to be left alone.
This one's obvious - the zen metal.
Zendium is a metal that exists entirely within the present, with no past, and no future. Wounds dealt by zendium-forged weapons disappear practically as soon as they leave a body, making it a favourite of surgeons and torturers. Zendium never tarnishes - not because it physically can't, but because tarnishing is a process which occurs over time.
It's said that a master's blade becomes an extension of their body. Zendium weapons are a shortcut to this level. Their wielder's mind merges into the metal, granting them a kinesthetic awareness of it, even prehensile control over flexible weapons - a zendium urumi is unrivaled on the battlefield. However, should you die with zendium in your hand, your mind will be trapped within it.
A zendium-backed mirror reflects the true nature of things. Few can bear to look into one.
Zendium ore is in everything, non-local, unformed - to forge it is something like blasphemy.
All of these things might be true about zendium, or none of them might be. If you ask a zendium-smith, they'll probably just slap you instead of giving a straight answer.
This is what the machine spat out when I gave it the prompt: "the Garfield pipe strip but Garfield has stolen Jon's toothpaste instead of his pipe". Far inferior to my version of course, but Arerielda Pope is a pretty good name. Another good one is Brixton Braxton - that one came to me in a dream.
* Special thanks to the ever-brilliant Ènziramire for reminding me of this word - without his reminder this post would likely have burned up in the flame of frustration.