ANSTHRLD - Household Name

Timothy A. McDaniel tmcd at
Wed Feb 7 14:35:50 PST 2001

I should note that it can be somewhat helpful and fun to shoot down
names or question documentation, but even better to show what ARE
period names.  The SCA Herald's list considered the question of inn
names recently.  I copy some messages below, fetched from the SCA
Heralds' archives[1].  I especially commend to you Tangwystyl's
paragraph that begins "One of the delightful things about developing
names from actual period practice ...".

It looks to me like "White Shark" *is* a plausible inn name.  There is
no example given of color+fish in particular (multiple examples would
make the case open-and-shut to me), but there are other examples of
color+animal, and White+animal in particular, and of various types.

While that is sufficient for SCA registration, you might also consider
what actual period organization they're emulating and look at names
appropriate for that purpose.  For example, if they're intending to
run an inn at events, then this is decent documentation to show that
it's authentic for that purpose.  If, however, they are a tourneying
company, then they had naming conventions that were quite different.

My bet is that they are like most SCA households, a group of unrelated
adult people who want to get together not to work together, or pray
together, or fight as a unit, or do holy things for a purpose, but for
no other purpose than to hang out together.  There's no real medieval
model for that, though I think confraternities can come the closest.
I have nothing to hand on them (though "Company of Saint Whoosit" is
probably safe), but I can ask.

    Tim McDaniel is tmcd at; if that fail,
        tmcd at is my work account.
    "To join the Clueless Club, send a followup to this message
    quoting everything up to and including this sig!"
        -- Jukka.Korpela at (Jukka Korpela) 

[1] I sent mail like

to LISTSERV at LISTSERV.AOL.COM.  File types are of the form LOGyymmw,
where "yy" is the two-digit year and "mm" is the two-digit month and
"w" is a letter for the week.  There are 4-5 weeks of messages per
month, identified as "A" thru "E".


    Date:         Tue, 30 Jan 2001 20:06:32 -0800
    From:         Heather Rose Jones <hrjones at socrates.Berkeley.EDU>
    Subject:      Re: House Name: The Twisted Porpoise (was Re: House Name:  House
              Harp               and Hammer)
    In-Reply-To:  <200101302342.MAA06541 at>

>On Wednesday, January 31, 2001, at 12:12 PM, Heather Jones wrote:
>>  "Reasonable for naming an inn" on what basis?  Based on what sorts
>>  of _actual_ _period_ inn names that you are familiar with?  All
>>  too often, people have the impression that "the X and Y" or "the
>>  Xing Y" are common types of period English inn names, when the
>>  data they are forming those impressions from are either 18-19th
>>  century names or names from modern historic literature.
>I am interested in period inn names - as I am am member of a household
>whose sole purpose is to run an Edwardian (that's Edward VI) tavern.
>The tavern is called "The Twisted Porpoise" and is in Dolphin Street
>near the docks of Bristol. How can I find out if this name, which
>sprung from our over-fertile imaginations, is good recreation?

The way to discover this is to look at examples of inn names of that
period, try to abstract what sorts of patterns are found in those
names, and determine whether your name fits one of those patterns.
(Needless to say, it's a lot easier to get a name that fits one of
the patterns if you figure out what the patterns are _first_ and
_then_ come up with the name.)  Various people have done research on
this topic -- the most recent SCA example I know of is Colm's article
in the 1998 symposium proceedings.  By far the most common pattern
found there is a one-word name of a creature or object -- as a
generalization, from the same pool of creatures and objects found as
heraldic charges.  (This is probably not a coincidence.)  Names
consisting of a modifier plus noun most commonly identify a
particular object commonly known by a compound-name and also,
typically, from the same class as heraldic charges: "Cardinal's Hat",
"Katherine Wheel", "Cross-Keys", "Frying Pan", "Half Moon", "Hart's
Head/Horn", "Horse's Head", "King's Head", "Maiden's Head", "Ram's
Head", "Spread Eagle".  The other pattern found with modifiers
involves either a color or number plus a noun (again, the parallel
with heraldry is obvious): "Blue Boar", "Gray Horse", "Red Pail",
"Seven Stars", "Three Cups", "White Bull", "White Hart", "White
Horse", "White Lamb", "White Lion", "White Swan".  The most
linguistically complex name is the "Three Kings of Cologne".  None of
the modifiers indicate verbal action.

In the absence of further data, this suggests that "The Twisted
Porpoise" does not fit the pattern of late-period inn names, although
something like "The Dolphin" or "The <color> Dolphin" might.  (There
aren't any examples in the list with "dolphin", but it is a standard
heraldic charge.)

Heather Rose Jones
hrjones at


    Date:         Wed, 31 Jan 2001 11:48:50 EST
    From:         Madame Aurum <MdmAurum at>
    Subject:      Re: House Name: The Twisted Porpoise (was Re: House Name: House
              Harp and Hammer)


Woo-hoo!  Found my research!  Anyways.....  The difference between
what you are suggesting (The Twisted Dolphin) versus documented
examples is the formation versus the spirit of the name.

Let me explain.  Some of the more common inn names referred to colour
or position.  Examples: The Blue Boar, The Red Dragon, The Spread
Eagle, The Golden Cross, etc.  When the name became more fanciful than
that it was usually an attempt at humour or a creative play on words.
Examples of this are as follows:

The Iron Devil - This is a corrumption of the word "Hirondelle" (the
bird known as the swallow).

The Queer Door - A corruption of "Coeur Dor{e'}" meaning the Golden

The Goat in Golden Boots - A corruption of the Dutch "Goed in der
Gouden Boots" which supposedly means "The god Mercury in his golden

So, where "The Twisted Dolphin" may work out as a possible form of a
period inn name, it is unlikely that it would have actually fallen
into the proper categories.

The initial question I have is: Was "twisted" a period word?  If so,
what was it's meaning in period?  Does it refer to what you were

Madame Ghislaine,
(just slightly twisted) Dolphin Herald - Caid


    Date:         Wed, 31 Jan 2001 10:49:47 -0800
    From:         Heather Rose Jones <hrjones at socrates.Berkeley.EDU>
    Subject:      Re: House Name: The Twisted Porpoise (was Re: House Name: House
              Harp and Hammer)
    In-Reply-To:  <F63g0RnLJm2ZBNCogiw00000b4f at>

>>I only found three examples of participle + noun for tavern signs
>>and all three were medieval heraldic postures: The Spread Eagle
>>(eagle displayed), Cross Keys (keys in saltire), and I forget the
>Well, if the image is a porpoise noyed, or facing over it's
>'shoulder', does that not translate into "twisted" for the
>non-heraldicly-burdened type people? ;)

Depends on whether you're talking about modern people or period
people.  The language of heraldic description (whether French or
English) _was_ the language of ordinary people at that time.
Heraldic language fossilized and ordinary language drifted, but
heraldic description wasn't an arcane jargon when it was first

Nor is there any guarantee that the language that a modern person
would consider the "ordinary description" of a design even existed in
that sense in the medieval period.  For example, according to the
OED, the use of "twisted" in the sense "distorted, turned or bent,
contorted" doesn't begin appearing until the 18th century.  The
pre-1600 uses of the word all focus around the concept of "two or
more strands plied together" (and metaphoric extensions about things
that are inextricably united).

One of the delightful things about developing names from actual
period practice is that it helps us get our minds into a different
space and helps us get more of a gut-level understanding that the
past _is_ a different country -- rather than working from the,
perhaps unconscious, notion that past is essentially identical to our
own time with purely superficial differences.  Developing names by
working from modern inspiration (and then trying to come up with
historic justification) denies this essential difference and
eliminates a wonderful opportunity to try to get into the minds of
the people whose time we're trying to portrary.

Heather Rose Jones
hrjones at
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