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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#51 Copy

WeiryWriter

Is there an important reason why Lukel is the only character of Aonic descent in Elantris whose name is not based around an Aon? (Since "u" does not feature in any Aon.)

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but it's more social than magical. Like when I ran across someone in Korea named Moses, and it was so interesting linguistically compared to other more traditional names.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#52 Copy

jamiedgreen

In chapter 37 [of Oathbringer], as Rock is looking for his family after the Voidbringer attack, he notes an arrow fletched with goose feathers.

Was this intentional? Should it be chicken?

Peter Ahlstrom

Horneater language has a word for goose, and they have them in the Peaks. I'm pretty sure geese used to be mentioned another time by Rock in an earlier draft, but that might have been cut.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

Jasnah's name. What was the origin for it?

Brandon Sanderson

Jasnah's name predates most of the language work that I did. It comes from ancient, kind of Semitic languages-- playing around with those. And then her name became one of the ones that I built the language around. Because after I had named her, and written the whole book, I had named her and Dalinar. Kaladin's name changed once I had rebuilt the linguistics. Shallan's name changed once I rebuilt the linguistics. But Dalinar and Jasnah kind of became the origins. But it's ancient-- you know, a blend of Arabic and Hebrew. It's kind of-- yeah.

Questioner

Because I have an interesting tidbit--

Brandon Sanderson

Uh-huh

Questioner

"Jasna" in Polish actually means "bright."

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I've been told that! Just-- I went to Poland, like, last-- like a couple of months ago, and they're like, "Did you know this?" I had no idea.

YouTube Live Fan Mail Opening 1 ()
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Allura Williams

I love the symmetrical Alethi names like Shallan and Navani. How do you come up with such good names.

Brandon Sanderson

It is part instinct, part design. And trying things out and seeing how people respond to them and changing it if they just don't feel right over time. I like having a linguistic quirk, such as symmetry or repeated consonant sounds. Those sort of things are very fun for me. I like real world inspirations. Famously, Silence came from looking at names of actual... Puritans, came from an actual Puritan name that I ran across in sort of a family history context, and I'm like. "Ooh, someone named their child Silence? That I've gotta use." Real world inspirations are fun. Ran across another one of those, you may see pop up if I do some more Threnody things. I ran across a person whose name was Thomas Thomas and I just love the name Thomas Thomas.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

A question about Jasnah and your relation to Jasnah. She's a Veristitalian... Is that a part of Jasnah that is you, or is that a part of Jasnah that's somebody else?

Brandon Sanderson

The fascination with history and trying to use it to change the present is me. And that is the part of Jasnah that I-- Also, by nature, I'm kind of a Slytherin. And so would Jasnah. That part of me is there. The "do-gooder Slytherin," if that's not an oxymoron.

Questioner

And does the word Veristitalian come from "veritas"?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So, in their language, it would not actually be Veristitalian. What I do is, my books, I pretend they're in translation. So when Wit makes a pun, or when you see something that echoes Latin or Greek, the idea is that they are echoing in-world ancient languages that we have chosen, instead of transliterating, to actually translate so it gives the right feeling in English.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

For the Saint in Skyward, I just love the funny prophet character. What was your inspiration for that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the Saint in Skyward. Not giving any spoilers. When I was working on this character, I was really looking for something-- I look for linguistic cues. Because if you can have linguistic cues to who's talking and what the character's like, and something that'll characterize them through their language, that makes it so much better in storytelling, because you don't have to put that in narrative, you can put it in the flow of a conversation. And you'll notice, at least I've noticed, that a lot of the great screenwriters look for these sorts of things, so they can tag who is speaking, even if it's offscreen, by the way that they are talking, and I just love to do this. And a lot of these things come out of me taking a scene and working with it and casting different people in the roles and trying their voices until I hit on one that I say, "That's interesting, let's dig into this further", and that's what happened there.

Holiday signing ()
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Questioner

Did Kaladin’s name come from anywhere in particular?

Brandon Sanderson

No. I'm sure the word paladin was in the back of my head, but it's not like he shares much with like an actual paladin. His name was Merin in the initial version and it was-- it didn't work, he wasn't a Merin and all the fans-- all the readers were like "this name just doesn't work" so I spent years hunting for the right name for him, and that's the one I ended up with. It's really based-- it's Kalak, which is the Storm-- not really the Stormfather but people y'know. Most of the names you'll find are based off one of the Heralds in some way. So he's KALA + DIN, Kalak and din is a suffix.

Isaac Stewart

We do have a meaning for it though. Can I tell them the meaning?

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhh, have we canonized it?

Isaac Stewart

We have canonized it, and we have told people before.

Brandon Sanderson

Then yeah.

Isaac Stewart

It means "Born unto Eternity".

Brandon Sanderson

...I mean, it means that in the same way that names mean something, like my name means-- But when they're naming him that they aren't thinking that. What they are doing is picking one of the Heralds and making a name out of it. But my name technically means "Dweller by the Beacon", but really what it means is "He was the son of Alexander".

General Reddit 2017 ()
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namer98

I just finished the audiobook this morning, and in the setting are rules about how to not provoke shades of the dead. The rules are in order of least to most severe:

  • Don't run
  • Don't kindle a flame
  • Don't draw blood

The post script talks about how these rules were based on shabbos as presented in the Torah. It was just interesting to see a non-Jewish author (In this case, Mormon) base something off of Judaism.

Brandon Sanderson

:) Thanks for the thread.

The Double Eye from the Stormlight books (inside front cover illustration of the magic in the hardcover of book one) has some roots in the Tree of Life also, and if you look at Alethi, you'll find some Hebrew poking through now and then.

namer98

I read all of your books as audio books because they are all so well narrated, especially the Wax and Wayne series.

I will have to keep a better ear out for the Alethi.

Brandon Sanderson

It can be easy to miss, as I play with it a little first, fitting it to Alethi. But Moash came from Moshe, for example.

MuslinBagger

Is that a hint of things to come? Is Moash like Moses or something? He is, isn't he?

Brandon Sanderson

Sorry. It doesn't mean anything other than "My editor is named Moshe, and I've always liked how the name sounds."

PM_ME_LEGAL_PAPERS

Speaking of which, there's a Lighteyes named Yonatan (a very Jewish name) that Wit insults in...I think it was Way of Kings. Is that based off of someone you know as well?

Brandon Sanderson

That is indeed. (Look again at what he's wearing.)

That's based off of my editor's nephew, who was included as a wedding gift.

Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

In Alethkar, a lot of the consonant sounds are “C” sounds or “K’s”, like Kaladin. [Can’t hear the rest of the question here very well]

Brandon Sanderson

It’s just based on the rules I came up for it when I was designing it. They’re mostly semitic origins or middle eastern origins. Kholin is actually [pronounces it], but I don’t expect the audiobook narrators to do “chuh” every time they see a “kh”. The “k” is a “c” sound. That and the “j” are the only weird ones, for Alethi. In Tashikk, I can’t even do the Arabic glottal. The double “q” or the double “k” in the Azish often is that, but I can’t do it. Peter can.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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John-Bastard-Snow

What is a lait?

Used in Stormlight Archive "was in a lait"?

Brandon Sanderson

It's not an Earth loan-word. Like crem, it's transliterated, not translated. It roughly means, "A place where the storms are blocked." Generally, it means some kind of depression or location in the shadow of a larger rock formation.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#61 Copy

Pagerunner

The Drominad name. Where does that come from, for the system?

Brandon Sanderson

Where did we come up with that? I came up with that.

Isaac Stewart

I think you just named it.

Brandon Sanderson

I think I just named it. It's a name. I mean it references--

Pagerunner

Because it doesn't fit with the First of the Sun culture.

Brandon Sanderson

I know. That's intentional, because--

Pagerunner

Is it Latin?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it's not named after-- It's not named after-- It is intentionally-- The name comes form somewhere else. It's not meant, Latin, don't read too much into Latin.

Pagerunner

It's not a Yolish name?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it's not a Yolish name. Once in a while, I'll make them very, very Roman if I want you to make that connection.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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Bradtholomew

What is the origin of the name Kaladin?

My wife and I recently had our first child and that's what we named him. Just curious if there's any story behind the name.

Brandon Sanderson

I use Arabic in some of the creation of Alethi names, and Kaled (or Khaled) was the root I started playing with to come up with a new name for Kaladin, as I didn't like the one I'd used in 2002. I'd already designed Kalak after this, the Herald, and wanted a common name version of this.

When I arrived at Kaladin, it sounded right to me--likely because of the similarity to Paladin, as others noted below.

Dragonsandman

So if Kaladin's name is derived from Khaled, is it fair to assume that the Alethi language sounds similar to Arabic?

Brandon Sanderson

Alethi has some Hebrew to it too. I used Semitic language roots for the Dawnchant, which had a huge influence on Rosharan languages. While there are a few oddballs rules, and some linguistics that stand on their own, both major language groups on Roshar (the Azish family and the Vorin family) would probably sound very Arabic to you.

For example, the Alethi Kh is a voiceless velar fricative. The Azish kk or q sound is a voiceless uvular, sometimes stop, sometimes an affricate. Sometimes a uvular ejective.

No, I can't make those sounds on demand. Peter can, though. It's helpful to have a linguist on my team.

Shin is its own language, as is Iriali.

BeskarKomrk

What can't Peter do? He seems to be an expert on everything!

Brandon Sanderson

He is amazing. But, in this case, he was a linguistics major in college. So there's a little extra amazingness from him in these areas.

/r/Fantasy_Bookclub Alloy of Law Q&A ()
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Questioner

I think you may have answered this one before, but where do you come up with your names for all your characters?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on the series. For Mistborn, I build a 'feel for certain regions and develop names using the linguistic rules of that region. The Central Dominance (and Elendel in this book) had a slightly French feel to the linguistics, and many of the names came from that paradigm.

However, unique to the Mistborn world was the need to give people simple nicknames in a thieving crew sort of way. Wax, Clubs, Breeze, Mr. Suit, all of these are along those lines.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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argel1200

Regarding Ashraven... Would it be correct to say that memories are part of the mind/CR aspect? Assuming so, was Shai forging a new CR aspect to in-effect reconnect Ashraven's Soul (SR) with his body (PR)? I was thinking this could explain how she got his mannerisms correct -- i.e. that those are timeless SR aspects, so she didn't really get those right but instead, the SR connection was re-established?

Brandon Sanderson

Regarding Ashrovan: The problem here is that I don't want to get too deep into these sorts of things, for reasons that I want aspects of the magic to remain subject to discussion for a while yet. Suffice it to say that when we talk about Returned and lifeless in Warbreaker sequels, you'll have more ammunition for understanding what happened in Emperor's Soul.

Faera

Ashraven, Ashrovan...it's Ashravan damnit. He didn't step up to become emperor just so you could get his name wrong. Gaotona is ashamed of you all DX

Brandon Sanderson

In the original language, the a/o is very similar. I always get them mixed up in the English, like when I try to write aㅂsound from Korean in English.

Either that, or I just couldn't decide which one I wanted when writing the book, giving Peter a headache as he had to go back and standardize them all. :)

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#67 Copy

Yata

A little curiosity over the word "Shin", is it a deformation/twisting of their origin ? like "Ashyn person" --> "A Shyn person" ---> "A Shin person" ? (I assume this is a quite safe question to response without going into the rabbit hole)

Brandon Sanderson

Shin/Ashyn do have a relationship, but I didn't specifically intend "A Shin" to be Ashyn.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#68 Copy

signspace13

I think wines in Stormlight are more similar to fermented juice than alcoholic beverages, the word wine is just the closest thing in English to whatever they are saying in Alethi.

nucleomancer

I guess you're right. With all the storms, I don't think they can grow grapevines.

Just like the word 'chicken' seems to be used where we would use 'bird'. :)

Brandon Sanderson

This is correct; these are both several examples of linguistic broadening and semantic change in Vorin languages.

When and Alethi says "wine" they generally mean "alcohol." Though some of them are fermented juices, much of what they drink wouldn't seem like wine to you at all. Several that the Alethi lighteyes are fond of are akin to a harder liquor with an infusion. In others, the colorings are added for the same reason we add coloring to a cola--for convenience, feel, and tradition more than taste. A character in Book Three finds themselves in possession of some distilled Horneater liquor, and it's colorless.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part One

Naming in This Book

The names in this novel, particularly in Hallandren and Idris, follow the concept of repeated consonant sounds.

I wanted to try something a little more distinctive in this book than the names were in Mistborn. In that book, I intentionally backed away from the insane craziness of the names in Elantris. I've written entire essays on how I devised the languages in that book. The names were appropriate for the novel, since the language was so important to the story. However, I know that the number and oddity of many of the names in Elantris was off-putting.

So, instead, in Mistborn I chose names that were much easier to say, and gave everyone a simple nickname. When it came time for Warbreaker, I wanted to try something else, to take a step back toward distinctiveness in the language, but not go as far as I had in Elantris.

I've long toyed with using double consonants as a naming structure. I played with a lot of different ways of writing these. I could either use the letters doubled up, with no break (Ttelir). I could slip a vowel in the middle and hope people pronounced it as a schwa sound (Tetelir). Or I could use the fantasy standard of an apostrophe (T'telir).

In the end, I decided to go with all three. I felt that writing all the names after one of the ways would look repetitive and annoying. By using all three, I could have variety, yet also have a theme. So, you have doubles in names like Llarimar. You have inserted vowels like in Vivenna. And you have apostrophes like in T'Telir.

I think it turned out well. Some members of my writing group complained about fantasy novels and their overuse of apostrophes in names. My answer: Tough. Just because English doesn't like to do it doesn't mean we have to eschew it in other languages. I like the way T'Telir looks with an apostrophe, and the way people will say it. So it stays.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#70 Copy

Questioner

Do the Heralds know about AonDor?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say, conceptually, a few of them do, but not in specific detail.

Questioner

'Cause Ash's name is a combination of Transformation, Beauty, and Light. I didn't know if that was a coincidence, or--

Brandon Sanderson

There are some non-coincidences in the linguistics that people have started to pick up on, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the people who have those names know about the origins of their names.

Firefight Houston signing ()
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Questioner

From context and usage, it's fairly clear, sort of, what the word "slontz" means, but what exactly does it mean? Where does it come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Where does the word "slontz" come from? Alright, alright. Um-- *long pause* Boy, can I even dredge up where that came from? I like to use, particularly in certain worlds where it seems like it fits, I like the made-up swear words. And the made up names, just because I think slang evolves, and slang being individual to the world feels much-- And I know some people find them goofy, but it feels more realistic to me than them using our curse words. It just doesn't seem right. Now there are worlds where it was right, like in Mistborn I used our curse words because I was like, "These are a bunch of thieves living on the street," I wanted it to feel a little harder. Though, you know, it's me, so it's never gonna be that hard. But "slontz," I think I was like, "I wanna come up with some fake Yiddish word that sounds cool," honestly. I like the Yiddish. I hang out with my editor and my agent in New York, and they're both Jewish, and they use all these words that are so much fun. I'm like, "I want a word that sounds like that." I didn't spend too much time on the linguistics of that one, I'll be honest, it was just a fun word that I came up with.

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
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Argent

In English, "N" is articulated the same way "T" and "D" are - on the alveolar ridge (as all three are nasal alveolar). It seems like in the women's script "N" belongs to a different family from "T" and "D". The former is a "left facing arrow" while the latter two are "right facing arrows", to use some very basic description of the symbol shapes. Why is that?

Isaac Stewart

Peter might have a better explanation for this, but because of the three sizes, we had to group things in ways that didn't always make sense. The N was a fourth letter in a set (TDL), so looking back, maybe we should've grouped N with TD instead of the L, but then that has a cascading effect, so this was the best we could do in the time we had. But we don't know exactly how the Alethi speak. There's always a chance that the Alethi Z sounds more like "dz," and the Alethi "S" sounds more like "ts" (like the German Z), in which case the SZN grouping makes a lot more sense. But that's just conjecture.

Peter Ahlstrom

The symbol sets are all based on historical place of articulation (and articulating tongue part), and there have been some sound changes over the centuries so they don't currently all line up exactly. The t/d/r/th/l group (historically alveolar) is articulated with the tip of the tongue, and the s/z/n/sh/h group (historically postalveolar) is/was articulated with the blade of the tongue.

The modern h sound (like h in English) used to appear only in the palindromic locations, and was written only with the diacritic. This diacritic is mirrored on the top and bottom of the character. Some writers may use only the top or bottom because lazy. Also, sometimes the diacritic can be left out entirely and people just know to pronounce it as h because it's a very common word or name.

The h character used to stand for a weakly-voiced postalveolar non-sibilant fricative. This later shifted backward to a velar fricative (first weakly-voiced, later voiceless) as in Kholin. In modern times the h character is usually for the same h sound that we have in English. Sometimes kh is written using a combination of the k and h characters, and sometimes it's written just as h for historical reasons. Different regional dialects also shift the pronunciation one way or another.

The L sound has also shifted. It used to be a voiced alveolar lateral fricative, and this is still seen in names like Lhan. It's now a regular L sound.

The final group, k/g/y/ch/j, used to have dual articulation, similar to velarized postalveolar. Now the articulation has separated, with some velar and some postalveolar.

Currently y and j are pronounced the same or differently based on class and regional dialect. So, a darkeyes name like Jost or Jest will be pronounced with a regular j sound, while with the upper class it has merged with y so that Jasnah and Jezerezeh are pronounced with a y sound. Historically they were always separate sounds.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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Sebastian_R

Mr Sanderson, I'm really interested in the languages of SA, especially Unkalaki (Polysynthetic?). Have you actually created full conlangs for these or are they just for naming. You obviously know what you're doing.

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not done yet, but for a few of them, I'm fairly far along. Yes, Unkalaki is polysynthetic, and is the same language family as Parshendi.

k4l4d1n

how do you create your languages, do you find a language from the real world and base the structure off of that? or do you create it from scratch?

Brandon Sanderson

A little of both. It's hard to create something that doesn't have some roots in something you've seen before, however. (Even if you think that you are.)

Manchester signing ()
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Questioner

..One of things I had difficulty with was coming up with names for the characters and seeing how your names are more than just random collections of letters, a lot of them actually have meanings behind them. I was wondering how you were able to do that.

Brandon Sanderson

That's actually a very good question and number one you should keep writing, even if you feel like what you are writing is a rip-off, it is better to finish that first book and be acknowledging your influences because you want to be practicing. And sometimes it is very useful to lean on something else while you do it. In fact this is how Great Masters did artwork, you can find-- I don't know if you guys know this-- various different versions of the Mona Lisa, we saw one in Spain, my wife and I, that was done by DaVinci's student while DaVinci was painting the Mona Lisa. "Here's what I painted now you do it too"  That was the means by which the Great Masters would train their students, so leaning on someone is just fine. You just can't publish it like that, but it can teach you a whole lot. Don't feel bad about that.

Names, I use two general methods, and this is not going to give it the justice it deserves, I'm giving you the five minute version. One version is I look for the linguistic attribute that is interesting to me that will visually distinguish these people on the page. So when you are coming across them and you see that name, I want you to say "I bet that they're from this country". That is really tough because that means they all have to feel similar but you can't let everyone get confused over who's who and that's the real challenge, it's the getting confused. For instance in Warbreaker I tried using some different things like we don't in our world. In Warbreaker I used repeated consonant sounds, so you get someone like Vivenna, when you see that double v, you are like she must be-- Llarimar, there's a double L, you pronounce them both out. T'telir. And when you get double repeated consonants you are like "Oh they are from this region, that makes sense to me even though they start with different letter there is something to them" The same sort of thing is supposed to happen in The Way of Kings, you see names that are mostly symmetrical. When you see something like Shallan and her name is a derivation of Shalash, who was one of the Heralds and its a symmetrical name. When you see something that reads almost, or does read, forward and backward the same way you are like "They must be either Alethi or they must be-- They've got to be Vorin because that is the Vorin religion influencing this". And hopefully it will give you some subconscious cue when you run across those names and you'll get it.

Now a way to do this that is easier is than doing all of that is going to take a lot of work linguistically is to go get yourself a nice atlas and say everyone from this country is going to have names that are analogous to this region in our world and I am then going to take this atlas and look for these names and use baby names from that culture... I did this in Emperor's Soul, I just picked ancient Persia, I picked people who lived there in this era and what they named their cities there and I'm going to take those words and I'm going to screw with them until it is not actually a word but it feels like it might be one. That way everyone from this region is going to feel like they've got a similar name. Or I can just-- For that book it was much easier because the linguistics were not as big a deal.  I could basically just crib off the bat. And that works very well also.

Sometimes I do it intentionally, Mistborn was supposed to evoke a sense of 1820's Paris, or London, that was what I was shooting for with the grime and the dirt, the ash falling. So I used French names and Germanic names and Spanish names and things like this, so when you run into Vin, Vin is just wine in French and Kelsier [Kelsi-ay] is how they would say-- you can say Kelsier [Kelsi-er] if you want-- and they have Kelsier and Demoux so you can go "Oh this is a French sounding region" so when you get some like Elend and Straff you are like "They are from a different region. They sound like the eat meat and potatoes and they try to conquer Europe periodically, those guys" *laughter* That helps you distinguish the regions very easily.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#75 Copy

Questioner

Why is it called a Nahel bond?

Brandon Sanderson

That is a word in Rosharan. I'm not sure what it meant in 2002, but it basically just means "the bond to divinity." I'm not sure what the 2002 version of the linguistics played out as. I actually just called it Nahel in the original draft. I added "bond" in as I prepared this [Way of Kings Prime excerpt] for reading so it would make more sense to people.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

What is the most fully-developed you've made any of the languages in the books? Or do you just come up with the sounds and just sort of stop?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on which ones. Like, the further we go in the books, the more developed they become. Peter is a linguist, was a linguistics major, so I lean on him heavily for some of these things. Korean gets used all the time. Because I speak Korean and did my mission in Korea...

Stuttgart signing ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

How do you name your characters?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It depends on how much work I've done on the linguistics. Some planets I haven't done a lot of work on that. On Roshar I've built out the linguistics a lot, so I build names out of that.

On Scadrial, however, I went more with real world inspirations or stuff I liked, like "Wax and Wayne", which is a pun they can't really understand. Names like Elend or Straff are Germanic in origin, Vin, Demoux or Kelsier are French.

Paleo (paraphrased)

Is Wax's name pronounced French in Scadrian?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, it is. I can't even pronounce it. [Various people pronounce "Waxillium" with a French accent]