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Historical Context

In the medieval world, names were not controlled by the heralds. In the SCA, name registration started simply as a way to file the devices as they were registered.

Twentieth first century Americans and Canadians don't need someone to tell them how to make 21st century American and Canadian names, because they are embedded in the 21st century culture of the US and Canada. However, people in the SCA don't automatically have an understanding of medieval naming practices of particular times and places. Often what people think is medieval is actually heavily and unconsciously influenced by modern fantasy novels, or novels set in medieval times whose authors have no greater understanding of medieval naming practices than most of their audience. So, as time went on, the heralds found themselves judging "THIS name is medieval" and "THAT name is not medieval" and rejecting names that fell into the latter category.

Once heralds started to judge names for "medievalness", they started to educate themselves so they would have a better idea of how to judge the "medievalness" of submitted names. That educational process has been going on for over 30 years, and will continue to go on. Over that time, our understanding of what a good medieval name looks like has evolved and changed, just like our understanding of what constitutes good garb has evolved and changed, and our understanding of what good medieval armor is has evolved and changed. Like them, our understanding will continue to evolved and change with time and further study.

However, people change their garb much more often than they do their names, so you will meet people whose names were believed to medieval enough in style to register whose names might not be registerable now. But people don't update their names, or put them in the closet like they do old garb. They wear them as part of their identity for the rest of their time in the SCA, unless they chose to change their name.

When someone submits their SCA name for registration, to some degree they naturally feel that they are submitting part of their identity, so if an SCA name is rejected, the submitter tends to feel hurt in a personal way. Less than 20 percent of names submitted for registration to the College of Arms are returned for more work, but since people take those returns personally, if you talk to an average member of the populace, you might get the impression that more names are returned for more work than are registered.

What is your best chance of choosing an SCA name that is registerable? First, talk to a knowledgable name herald. A good name herald will help you, or try to find for you someone else more expert in the culture and time you want to be from.

Next, try to pick a name as authentic as you can stand it. The more authentic your name is to start with, the better. If you pick a name barely authentic to the current standards, you may or may not be able to register it 5 or 10 years down the line. If you pick a VERY authentic name, it is probably going to be still authentic enough to register 5 or 10 years down the line. Of course, you can pick a name now and submit it for registration immediately, or pick a name and never register it, but nonetheless the more authentic your name is to start, the longer you will be satisfied with it.





More Information

There are two major resources for SCA names on line.

It is helpful to know what the Rules for Submission say:

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