The Unpronounceable
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“Strygalldwir is my name. Conjure with it and I will eat your heart and liver.”
“Conjure with it? I can't even pronounce it,” I said, “and my cirrhosis would give you indigestion. Go away.”
- Excerpt From: The Guns of Avalon, Book 2 of the Amber series by Roger Zelazny

Basic Information

Some names are just hard to pronounce. Cthulhu, Mxyzptlk, or Nahasapeemapetilon, for example. Such names may be used for comedic effect, or to drive home just how alien a character is.

See Also


2. Gary Gygax's Extraordinary Book Of Names has some good advice in regards to this. Not to mention over 100,000 names organized into dozens of cultures and eras.

Game and Story Use

  • What works great in print, is not the same as what works great around the table.
    • Any character that's going to be mentioned often probably needs a name that can be pronounced easily, even if to do so it must be pronounced incorrectly.
    • If a name is too hard or awkward to pronounce, the players will just find some clever shortcut or nickname. Don't go too far.
      • This might make it hard to take a character seriously. If the players are glibbly mouthing off about Gnarly Ho-Tep, and having a hard time staying in character because of it, your Cosmic Horror game has probably just been ruined.
        • Unless, of course, Mr Hotep shows up and humbles them. Their next characters might take him more seriously after that.
    • You could also head the players off at the pass, by having an NPC suggest a nickname that's pronounceable and not disruptive.
    • This could also be a schtick for the grizzled veterans at The Agency - "…and that may give you some idea of what our enemy looks like. Far as we can tell - and you all know how reliable our sources are - it's real name sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball. We call it The Horde …"
  • Giving someone who is supposed to be awe-inspiring and mysterious a shortened and silly nickname is also a way of humanizing them.
    • In other words, if your campaign envisions Gnarly Ho-Tep as the friendly hipster soul of the Outer Gods, then the PCs calling him such a nickname isn't the problem it would be in a more traditional Call of Cthulhu campaign.
      • Also, in a more conventional campaign, plot opportunities in cleaning up after people who made that mistake.
    • In the kind of game where names have power, a different name might reflect a different aspect of the same being. Gnarly Ho-Tep and Nyarlathotep are both the Black Pharaoh, but Gnarly is the one who behaves vaguely human… including human vices and human cruelties.
      • Also helps to prevent your true name being whored about if no-one can pronounce it.
  • Avoid any name that can only be reproduced using a prop. It will not end well.
  • As a fun bit of smart-assery Robert E. Howard's Tome of Eldritch Lore Unaussprechlichen Kulten translates from the German less as the "unspeakable cults" that it was probably meant to be, and more like "unpronounceable cults" … somewhere a idiom may have been misplaced.
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