Scifi Pet Peeve #6,748: Names that don’t make sense.

Emphasizing strangeness without knowing why something is strange is a quick and easy way to weaken your writing.


G’Kar. Na’Toth. T’Les. T’Pring. Chu’lak.

The problem arises, however, when the speakers– because this happens almost exclusively in TV shows due to the nature of the problem– simply pronounce the apostrophe as if it’s another syllable.

Juhkar. Natoth. Tuhles. Tuhpring. Chulak.

The problem with creating alien names becomes obvious fairly quickly. Your average watcher shouldn’t be able to pronounce them. But that kind of… sucks. If your alien character has a name nobody can pronounce, it makes the show really difficult to get into. So the compromise is made: have a name that sounds alien, maybe add an apostrophe, and call it a day.

It makes sense on the level of writers. But it annoys me because I am irrational. These pet peeves are all things where, I understand why they happen. But they still annoy me so much. For this one, at least, there’s an easy way around it, but I haven’t seen anyone apply it. There are several ways how to do it and not annoy me, using the name, uh, T’Pring as an example:

  1. Have the implication be that T’Pring is simply the easiest way to render the name into pronounceable English, and you’re just hearing a translation of her name. (You can even just have the aliens pronounce the name differently than the humans do, which indirectly implies this without lots of exposition.)
  2. Put some kind of glottal stop or huffing sound or a whistle or something in where the apostrophe is, making it pronounceable but still maintaining that the apostrophe is there for a reason. (Making it Tuh-whistle-Pring, or something slightly easier for your actors to manage, or something.)
  3. Make it clear that T’Pring is a shortening or a contraction, AKA the most common reason for using an apostrophe in a word in American English. Her full name is Tucholanequolphepring. Everyone calls her T’Pring.
  4. SOMETHING ELSE. BE CREATIVE. IT’S YOUR SHOW.
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