Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's in a Name? (Kai'us Related)

Sci-fi and fantasy writers often have the fun task of naming new things: planets, kingdoms, interstellar engines, non-human characters, alien races, etc. Naming them in a way their audience will be able to pronounce (and keep straight) can sometimes be a challenge.

For instance, I had to change the nick-name of the first Grand Chief to "Taya" because her original name - "Kaya" - was too close to her antagonist's name of Ka-Lan, founder of the Kakiu, who use the kakosh berry to convert people. Oy, lots of K's in there!!

Something that I've been dealing with since...well the beginnings of the "The Kius Planet" has been the spelling of the word "Kius". I came up with the original spelling when I was around 12 years old. The name itself had been locked down two years prior, but I had never needed to actually spell it until an assignment for school inspired my to use Kiuses as my subject matter.

That meant I needed to put letters to the sounds and - not knowing then the "rules" of English word construction, and feeling very empowered by the fact that I could spell this word any way I wanted - I came up with "Ciuss". It's a beautiful letter configuration and I love that spelling to this day. The "C" is much softer looking than a "K". I liked the double "S's", and the fact that there were five letters.

Sadly, no one could pronounce it - they kept trying to give the "C" an "S" sound (since a "C" followed by an "I" in English typically is pronounced as an "S"). This posed a problem but I bucked changing the spelling for 12 years.

The novel had gone through several rewrites by that point and I was getting increasingly serious about publishing it, so I reluctantly changed the spelling to the current "Kius" - which I've never liked. It's too short a word imo and that "K"! That sharp, pointy "K"! Not only do I not like the look of the word, but people still have a hard time pronouncing it! (Though it's not as bad as with the first spelling.)

So recently I've contemplated changing it one more time to "Kai'us". This spelling is much closer in line with how it's pronounced in English and it's back to being five letters long. I'm a little nervous about that damned apostrophe though lest it be too reminiscent of James Cameron's Na'vi, but it's necessary in this case to separate all those vowels. I suppose I could go with "Kai-us" but usually a hyphen denotes the joining of two words - which is not the case here.

Decisions, decisions.


  1. I agree. Kai'us is a lovely looking name, balancing out the harshness of the "K", but I thought the same thing you said; too much like the skinny tall blue people. That apostrophe seems to be the go-to of sci-fi writers these days, I've noticed. The hyphen seems a little too techie. Almost like the apostrophe is organic, while the hyphen is sterile, lifeless.
    Boy, am I glad I'm not the catalyst for this story; It'd be screwed as I'm hung up naming everyone. You'll get it though.

    1. I like your thoughts on hyphens!
      Of course they *will* be necessary for breaking up really long words like Shu-mau-bahal-muokai-nau (yes, that's all one word! It's a very formal Kius greeting; and no, I didn't have to look it up - I have all the greetings memorized) ;)