Tarsan Famlies, Building Cultures, and Naming

My current writing project is Second-Hand Dresses, a Regency romance inspired piece. I say inspired because it follows many of the more modern historical romances in terms of sexuality (e.g., there is sex, but the foreplay on page can get naughty). It is also based on my fantasy world, Fedran, but in a far different part than my previous two novels, Sand and Blood and Sand and Ash.

Writing Second-Hand Dresses challenges a much different part of my writing. There is very little violence, the magic is subtle, and the culture is far more ritualized than any of the Sand books or even Flight of the Scions.


In the country of Tarsanw, I wanted to create a more Victorian culture. A place where magic has been refined into almost uselessness but mechanical devices are still new and remarkable. This is also a world that fits more with what I think about when I read Gail Carriger's novels.

I've written a little about Tarsanp before but this one is about the family names. Inspired by Spanish names, a Tarsan native includes both their mothers and father's name as part of their formal name. Unlike the clans of Kyōti, given names aren't last in the name but first.

This also makes the name more in line with what we expect from American or British names. It also was written in contrast to the desert culture, which is distinctively Japanese-inspired.

The basic name is:

GivenName PrimaryFamilyParent PrimaryFamily SecondaryFamilyParent SecondaryFamily.

This might sound confusing, but let's give the basic example, one of the antagonists of Second-Hand Dresses.

Marigold de Kasin na Maifir

One of the important parts is that Tarsan names start and end with consonants. This does differ from English names, but fits with the Lojban roots of the language. When a name is a translation to an English word, I usually use it which is the only case when a name ends in a vowel (Lily, the protagonist).

Marigold: This is the given name. In informal company, this is used when speaking among friends. Unlike the desert names, nicknames are typically the first to the second consonant of someone's name (“Mar” in this case). Women's names frequently include flowers, crystals, plants, and rivers.

de Kasin: Tarsan has the idea of a “primary” family. This is the family that officiated over the marriage (marriage is very important to these guys). The “de” means “husband's family”. So, this means that her husband was a Kasin and that family is the one that married her (or brought her into the family).

na Maifir: The “na” means “wife's family” which tells everyone that she was originally a member of the Maifir family. This is the secondary family because she married out of that family and into the Kasin.

For those who married into the same family, they use “dea”, such as dea Kasin which means both sides were in the same family. This is also used when there is no marriage, since there is only one family involved.


The other part of the name is the marriageability of an individual. As you might guess, a marriage is considered the cornerstone of society. Not being married means someone is a non-entity. They are nothing and this reflects in the name and language.

This originally was formed like the names, with a particle to indicate one part and a gender-specific element. For example, “be” means bachelor or bachelorette (i.e., debutante) with “sire” meaning a male and “dame” being female.

I figured over the years, and given the frequency, this got combined into one word. So, a bedame is a young woman ready to be married and a besire is a young man also ready for marriage. This is a patriarch, so the besire has become “unmarried man” more than “young”. I don't exactly agree with the idea, but it fits the culture and the larger picture.

There are other prefixes: mo- means child or youngester, ta- indicates a married couple,and ku- for widows, spinsters, and widowers. Second-Hand Dresses focuses on Lily becoming a kudame in this society.

There are some areas of the country that dropped the prefixes entirely (think using “Ms” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs”). In that case, it is just dame or sire as appropriate.

Formal Names

Putting everything together, we can get back to Marigold.

Tadame Marigold de Kasin na Maifir

(I decided to italicize the prefix, but not the “de” or “na” because there are English names that use those types of prefixes already).

For children (modames and mosires), they use “dea” with their parent's family. For example, Nirih is Marigold's daughter and Lily is an unmarried woman, both with parents in the Kasin family.

Modame Nirih dea Kasin

Bedame Lily dea Kasin (she becomes a kudame in the novel)

Like the desert culture, the longer the name, the more respectful. So, when someone is being very polite, they would call Marigold “Tadame Marigold de Kasin na Maifir”. When someone is just being “slightly” polite, they may reduce it down to “Tadame Marigold de Kasin” or even “Marigold de Kasin”. Finally, informal would use “Marigold” or “Mar” with “Mar” only being used behind closed doors and among good friends.

Other Classes

Outside of High Society, a lot of the rules break down. The middle class doesn't care as much about families as the upper classes do. Not to mention, almost every person in a given town is the same family as the town, so they skip the primary name. This means in a middle class conversation, Lily would still be “Lily dea Kasin” but Marigold would be “Marigold na Maifir” (which would offend her, of course).

Likewise, where the culture is dropping the be- and ta- prefixes, the family particles are being dropped. So, in the informal countryside, it is simply “Marigold Kasin”. And that leads into the naming conventions of the surrounding countries.

Other Names

The whole idea of families being the central part of the society continues even for cities and locations. Families, not individuals, own everything from the stores, carriages, and even the forests.

  • tca: Cities, towns, and thorpes. For example, “Soldir tca Kasin” is the city of Soldir which is claimed by the Kasin family.
  • zda: Homes, buildings, and stores. Lily's mother's manor is called the “Rosewood zda Kasin,” Lily's store is “Lily's Blossoms zda Kasin.”


The Tarsan culture is very different from the one I grew up in. Philosophically, I don't agree with it. It objectifies women and treats young girls as basically a barter system to make deals between families. In high society, women are allowed to have jobs and run households, but don't have military careers or more technical jobs.

Why would I create a society like this? Well, there are two reasons.

The first is that I want a canvas to write stories against. If every society was egalitarian, there isn't much opportunity for having people stand out. I can't have someone bucking the trend to save the world or engineers trying to get around their own limitations when there is no reason. I can't have people trying to establish new traditions nor use the old ones as a point of tension. Also, I want to contrast this culture and society against others ones. And the best way to do that is to create a flawed one.

The other reason is romance. I loved reading Regency romances when I was younger. There is something exotic about it that was fun and I want to explore it. I love the idea of sinking into a society that doesn't agree with my world view simply because it doesn't agree with my world view.