Fan Naming Styles in Warrior Cats
|See also:||Warrior Cats|
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Fans of the Warrior Cats series have creates various naming styles for use in fanworks based on the system present in canon. The most commonly used systems are traditional naming and lyrical naming. Naming styles may be used for original characters, altering canon characters or even creating names for their own sake, and appear in various types of fan works such as fanfiction, roleplays, fancomics, name raters and creating stand-alone original characters.
In canon, clan cats are given names composed of a prefix and a suffix.
Prefixes are given at birth and often reflect something about a cat’s appearance, such as fur colour, eye colour, size or physical disability (e.g. a cat with red fur being given the prefix fire-, or a cat with a crooked tail being given the prefix broken-). They are typically based on things in nature (e.g. fire-, crow-, holly-) or on adjectives describing something about the cat’s appearance (e.g. broken-, red-, small-).
Suffixes are changed many times over the course a cat’s life to reflect rank in the clan and are changed with naming ceremonies, which are typically conducted by the clan leader. Kits are given the suffix -kit, apprentices are given the suffix -paw, and leaders are given the suffix -star. Warriors and medicine cats are given various suffixes that may be based on cat anatomy (e.g. -fur, -heart, -foot), nature (e.g. -leaf, -stream, -feather), or other sources. Suffixes may reflect a cat’s personality or history, may correspond to the prefix (e.g. a cat with a black foot being named Blackfoot, a cat with a crooked jaw being named Crookedjaw) or may just be chosen to sound aesthetically pleasing.
In some cases, cats who have sustained injuries causing them to become physically disabled after birth are given new names to reflect their disability. Canon is inconsistent about whether naming cats for a disability is considered demeaning, and the tradition has largely been dropped after the first arc.
There are also other systems used by other groups of cats in canon. Tribe cats are given names that are short, descriptive phrases centred around nature (e.g. Brooke Where Small Fish Swim, Night of No Stars) that are shortened into their first word to form a nickname the cat uses in most situations (e.g. Brooke, Night). Ancient cats are given names that are two word phrases, often an adjective and a noun, also centred around nature (e.g. Fallen Leaves, Clear Sky). Loners may be named anything but are often given single word names centred around nature (e.g. Tree, Boulder), and kittypets are given any sort of name that a human might give their pet (e.g. Rusty, Princess).
Traditionalism attempts to introduce structure and reason to the canon naming system, which many fans feel contributes to more satisfying and nuanced worldbuilding overall.
Prefixes in traditional systems will almost always refer to the dominant colour of a cat’s pelt, although some traditionalists will also accept prefixes that only refer to a cat’s size. Prefixes may refer to a cats’ history or a namesake only if the cat is the right colour for a prefix (e.g. a cat born in a storm could only be given the prefix storm- if they were predominantly grey). Prefixes may also imply other details of a cat’s appearance or colouration when possible (e.g. a cat called weasel- might have a white belly, a cat called tiger- may be a tabby, a cat called ant- might be small), although most traditionalists won’t refer to eye colour, as kittens’ eye colours have not yet developed when they are named. Prefixes must be specific enough to imply a colour, although some ambiguity is allowed and usually inevitable to create a long enough list of workable prefixes (e.g. flower- is too general as flowers can be almost any colour, but daisy- being able to refer to either a white or a golden cat is perfectly acceptable).
Suffixes, where possible, recognise a cat’s skills or positive personality traits. Suffixes are given from a list with fixed, recognised meanings within a setting (e.g. a creator might decide that -foot always refers to a fast runner). Meanings are generally derived from the symbolism and associations of the suffix (e.g. -tail to recognise agility as cats use their tails for balance). Cats may be given neutral suffixes if their skills or personality aren’t described by a suffix on the list (e.g. -fur, -pelt), or else they may be given suffixes that further describe their appearance (e.g. -stripe for a tabby, -face for an attractive cat).
Taken together, a traditional name will give a snapshot of the cat in question (e.g. Nightclaw might suggest a black cat skilled at fighting, Poppycloud might suggest a red cat with a calm demeanour).
Many traditional systems also incorporate renames for cats who have suffered a significant and visible injury. Traditionalists generally agree that these renames should always be done with the intention of honouring the cat - i.e. recognising the strength required to survive and recover from such a debilitating injury - and should always be done with the cat’s full consent. This is the only time that traditional names will correlate (i.e. Deadfoot will suggest a cat with a lame foot, but Redtail will never mean a cat with a red tail).
Traditional naming begun as an attempt by fans to understand and headcanon for the naming conventions in the first arc. As such, strictly traditional names only use suffixes found in the first arc, and will sometimes only use plant or animal prefixes if they can be found in the first arc’s English setting. However, many fans will choose to add additional suffixes they enjoy, or will use different prefixes to reflect their clan or clans being set in a different location.
A list of strictly traditional suffixes often used as the basis for creating a traditional system can be found here.
Traditionalist fanworks using canon characters will often rename cats in order to better reflect their appearance, personality and/or skills, or will sometimes tweak characters to better fit their names.
- The Guidelines. by ailuronymy
- On why some names are untraditional and the history of traditionalism by ailuronymy
- Traditionalism is a spectrum by eloquaint
Lyricism rejects the strict rules of traditionalism and instead prioritises aesthetics and individuality, which many fans find creatively freeing.
Unlike traditionalism, there are no set rules that constitute whether a prefix or a suffix is allowed. Some lyricists will still prefer to support the idea of a prefix suggesting a cat’s appearance, but others will support prefixes that instead allude to cat’s history or simply to a word that the namer likes. Suffixes will sometimes suggest a cat’s skills or personality, but the meaning of a suffix will change on an individual basis, and they will just as often allude to a cat’s history, a namesake, or simply a word that the namer finds pleasing paired with the prefix. A ‘good’ lyrical name is typically defined by its flow, aesthetic value and use of evocative imagery, although judgement of these qualities tends to be subjective.
Some fans differentiate between substyles of lyricism. More ‘naturalist’ or ‘low’ lyricism tends to reject names that the fan finds outlandish or silly, that reference objects that cats wouldn’t know about, or that use words the cats consider sacred, such as ‘star’ and ‘moon’ in a canon setting. More ‘unbridled’ or ‘high’ lyricism tends to allow virtually anything as long as the fan finds them pleasing or pretty, and also encompasses fans who create deliberately silly names for the sake of humour.
Naturalist or low lyricism essentially follows the style used by the Erin Hunter team in canon, especially in the later arcs, where they started prioritising using new and unique combinations of names.
Various other naming styles have been identified by fans. Some may overlap with other styles, and some fans will combine multiple terms to describe their personal style. Styles found somewhere in between traditionalism and lyricism are sometimes referred to as ‘functionalist’.
- Mixing Systems: Many fans prefer a naming style uses some attributes of traditionalism and lyricism. For example, a creator might decide to embrace a system where prefixes always describe appearance and suffixes always describe a skill or personality trait, but decide that the meanings of suffixes are in flux and change between cats.
- Canonical: Prefixes and suffixes in this system are only accepted if they have appeared in canon.
Controversies and Discussion
Traditionalism and lyricism are born from opposing ideologies about how to interpret and develop the canon naming system and as such they have a history of conflict. Some fans struggle to understand how the opposing system to the one they prefer could be fun or satisfying to use. Lyricists will often claim that traditionalism is uncreative, boring, uncanonical and puts its users in a constraining box, while lyricism is freeing, creative, and loyal to canon. Traditionalists will often respond that traditionalism defines choices that are much more meaningful and creates opportunities for building depth into the world and character relationships - for example, a creator might worldbuild the history of how certain suffixes developed, or a character might try to develop the skills to earn a certain suffix so they can be named after someone they admire - while they in turn do not understand how lyricists could use a system that is so undefined and can create such outlandish names.
Due in part to the younger demographic of the fanbase, these conflicts have often not been handled maturely, and many fans can remember being belittled or harassed for their chosen naming system. Many fans can remember conflicts in which both parties would attempt to argue that their system was the one ‘true’ naming system and that the opposing system was lesser.
Debates about which one was canon were common during the first arc, when traditionalists were still trying to understand if the Erin Hunter team had tried to create some sort of structured system of for readers to decode. Contemporary traditionalists generally accept that traditionalism is uncanonical, even in the first arc, but declare that they still prefer traditionalism to the canon system.
Certain worldbuilding trends can be observed between traditionalists and lyricists. Traditionalists are more likely to prefer more accurate genetics and a more grounded depiction of cat behaviour, and will often prefer a limited or absent presence of magic that is similar to the first arc. Lyricists are more likely to embrace blatantly fantastical and supernatural elements, such as supernatural powers, ghosts and wings.