PDF. 96 pages. Minimalist presentation.
Please read this product description carefully. Look at the preview. It’s probably not what you’d expect it to be based on the title.
Tabletop roleplaying has instilled in me three things: a love of history, a love of words, and a love of lists. While other people gravitated toward Appendix N, what I loved most about the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide were the tables and appendices filled with all manner of vocabulary that was new to me. Forms of government! Royal and noble titles! A person’s interests, collections, and approach to materialism! That stuff sparked me imagination, and sent me off in search of context for those words. That in turn led to the creation of some interesting player characters and oddly specific bits of worldbuilding.
When I came across Names and Their Meaning: A Book for the Curious by Leopold Wagner, I had that same thrill again. It is not, despite the title, a “baby name” sort of book good for naming characters. Not even close. It is, instead, about how all manner of things got their names. I’ve had no luck learning anything about Wagner himself, but his original book was a chaotic thrill ride. There was no organization or order to things. He moved with reckless abandon from writing about malt liquor to diamonds to naval nicknames. His list of London districts was followed not by other entries on that esteemed city, but his thoughts on battles, then festivals, then textiles.
Still, the book was popular enough that there were at least three editions. What you see before you is drawn from the 3rd edition, published in 1893. I’ve taken the liberty of imposing some semblance of order upon it, creating individual chapters for People, Places, Things, and Events. From there, the sections are presented in alphabetical order. The lists themselves, however, retain Wagner’s original haphazard, almost stream-of-consciousness flow.
One section has notably been removed in its entirety. Wagner’s list of Nations and Their Nicknames, while mildly informative in terms of detailing the origins of the terms, came down to a litany of ethnic and racial slurs. If any other content that is offensive to modern sensibilities is found here, know that it was left in for historical perspective and does not reflect the values of myself or Dancing Lights Press.
Please enjoy this book for what it is. Use the names of things as a source of inspiration for your own worldbuilding efforts. If you’re even a little bit like me, you’ll find little details in the lists that will make you want to add more fiddly bits to your own setting.