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Stumped! I need a vaguely Germanic name for a city and country

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I can't believe I'm soliciting help for this here, because I am usually good at this sort of thing!! But for some reason I am just brain dead on names this time. My next book was inspired by the 1927 German film Metropolis and by actual Weimar Berlin. As such, the setting has kind of a 1920s Berlin feel to it. I've gotten through pretty much the whole thing just by referring to it as "the city", but in this final round of revisions we're expanding on a few things and I want to give the city a name. I see it as kind of a city-state so that can also serve as the country name. I also want a name for the neighboring country which they had a war with.

Since it is, first and foremost, a fantasy novel in an alternate world, I've tried to keep the names in the book so they don't SCREAM Germany. The love interest is named Frederick, for example, and not Friedrich or something. So it doesn't have to sound terrifically German, but I just don't want it to sound like it comes from a magical English fantasy land (which seems to be where my mind keeps going).

The city is a modern place, like Weimar Berlin: revolutionaries, streetcars, cabarets, bohemian types, etc. etc., and I keep feeling like it should have a simple "great city" kind of name like Berlin, Paris, London, etc.
The other country is more of a forested, magical land that still has a king so could sound a little more fanciful.

I'm still thinking on it myself, of course, and it's kind of a weird request, so I don't know if anyone else wants to ponder semi-Germanic fantasy land names either, but I thought it was worth a shot.
#1 - March 07, 2013, 01:34 PM
Author of the Magic Under Glass duology
& Between the Sea and Sky
Dark Metropolis, 6/14
http://jaclyndolamore.blogspot.com

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For your forested land, have you done a search of German castle names yet? I just did a quick Wikipedia search and there are so many lovely names that evoke kings and thick, snowy woods. Maybe they could provide some inspiration or a jumping off point for another name...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_castles_in_Germany
#2 - March 07, 2013, 02:02 PM

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This may be more than you need, but whenever I'm trying to think up a vaguely German-sounding place name (uh...can we just admit that we are all word geeks here?), I think of some kind of word that you might find to describe a place, and add a typical place-name ending to it. For example, a real-life town (more than one of these in Germany, actually) is Birkenau. Birken = birches and au = river bank. There are some great place name suffixes listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_toponymy and a bit more here: http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa051099.htm. Then usually I finish it off by google-mapping my place name to see how many real places have that--and maybe changing it just a bit.

And if that's too much, I'll just slink away into geeky oblivion...
#3 - March 07, 2013, 03:10 PM

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Hmmm. Well, when I visited Germany as a kid I noticed that a lot of cities seemed to end in "stadt" or "burg" or "dorf" or "gen" or something similar. Like olmue said, theres a lot of place names that are combined words describing the place.

Here's some more Wiki for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_and_towns_in_Germany

Vowel sounds which are common are "ah" "ih" "er" and "uh". (I probably will give a linguist a heart attack with my oh-so-technical terms there).

I used to live in Pennsylvania Dutch country and it was very similar there, although with the added mix of English and Native American languages (I can't remember which tribes).

#4 - March 07, 2013, 03:53 PM
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 03:55 PM by Andrea B »
www.andreabrame.com  |  Twitter: http://twitter.com/Andrea_Brame  |  Instagram: @andreabrame

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Maybe try a non-traditional name that could sound like a city name that is vaguely germanic like Alois or Aloisia (which are german/czech). There are lots at http://www.behindthename.com/names/usage/german. Maybe something will strike your fancy or inspire you :)
#5 - March 07, 2013, 05:10 PM

Thanks, these are some very helpful suggestions. I've got a name for the forested land now thanks to some of these suggestions...and that's enough brain power spent on that for tonight. ;)

(Funny enough, I almost live in Pennsylvania Dutch country myself...I'm in Maryland about 10 minutes from the PA border and my town is surrounded by Mennonite farms. Which has made me feel even moreso like I should be able to come up with a German name easily...but in some ways I think it's only muddled me, trying to avoid making it sound like I was inspired by something nearby for when the neighbors inevitably read it!)
#6 - March 07, 2013, 08:11 PM
Author of the Magic Under Glass duology
& Between the Sea and Sky
Dark Metropolis, 6/14
http://jaclyndolamore.blogspot.com

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Glad we could help!

I'm struggling in a similar way to re-name my fantasy book's country. I based their culture and geography on Renaissance Italy so most of my names/cities/etc. are vaguely Italian sounding, but I didn't want to directly copy them letter for letter.

Good luck!
#7 - March 07, 2013, 08:23 PM
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Actually, Jackie, some of my German ancestors settled the area right where you live. If you take a wander through the churchyards, you're likely to find yourself surrounded. :)
#8 - March 08, 2013, 06:14 AM

When I was writing my book, I looked up some some obscure towns to swipe names for my cities (Looked on a map and saw some names I liked). What was funny was this last summer, we actually drove though one of those towns. I did a double take and was like "HA!".  My husband was confused at first until I explained to him what was going on in my head.

#9 - March 14, 2013, 06:45 AM
Kristal Shaff, Fantasy Author
The Emissary, coming Sept 2014 from Month9Books

My website: www.kristalshaff.com]

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Looks like you've gotten the answers already but since I live in german speaking austria, I'll just throw out the idea as mentioned that berg is mountain and burg is castle and bad is bath and dorf is town and stadt is city and "land" is countryside, neu is new and basically all german verbs ends in the letters 'en', and so you can totally build place names. This by the way is the goto place for word by word translation: http://dict.leo.org/ende/index_de.html type in any english word and you'll get german equivalents.
#10 - March 21, 2013, 01:18 PM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

Thanks, Keith! I should have come here before I even got started...would've saved myself some trouble giving names to towns and such...
#11 - March 21, 2013, 02:09 PM
Author of the Magic Under Glass duology
& Between the Sea and Sky
Dark Metropolis, 6/14
http://jaclyndolamore.blogspot.com

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