The SCA newcomer finds himself having to learn geography all over again. Newcomers to our fair shore discover that they are not living in the southeastern United States but in the Kingdom of Meridies, not on the Mississippi Gulf Coast but in the Barony of Seleone. Learning a new set of place names for an area you are already familiar with is usually not to difficult but then someone makes a casual reference to the Shire of An Dun Theine or the Kingdom of Atlantia the novice has no idea where the good gentle is talking about.
The derivation of group names, like the origin of persona names can be quite interesting. When an SCA group was getting started in Rochester New York, one of the members wrote a computer program that printed out all possible combinations of the letters in the name Rochester. From this list the members chose Thescorr as the name for the new shire.
Another group received its name when the population was attending their first SCA event; a coronation. The coronation included a precedence march and when it came time for the members of the new group to process into the Hall the herald said to them, "I'm sorry, but I don't know the name of your group."
As the new group had not adopted a name yet the seneschal replied, "Neither do we."
The herald dutifully announced the population of the Shire of Neitherdowee. The members of the group decided they liked the name and adopted it.
When Isolde and I were trying to come up with a name for the canton we were staring on the Mississippi gulf coast we wanted to choose a name that reflected something of the area. Having recently discovered the delicious nature of crawlfish we thought some medieval name having to do with crawlfish might be appropriate. The nearest thing I could come up with was the zytiron.
The zytiron is a fantastical beast with the tail of a fish and the body of an armored knight; and is believed to be a garbled description of a lobster. Unfortunately, I could not remember where I had read of the beast and we eventually dropped the idea in favor of another fantastical marine beast, the lyon poissant. We chose the sea lion despite the fact that sea lions are not native to the shores of south Mississippi.
Even for the learned in SCA geography there are pitfalls, as when established groups change their names. For instance the Shire of Arenal (Pensacola, Florida) started out as the Shire of Sirenia and the Shire of Hammerhold (Oxford, Mississippi) started out as the Shire of the Blackhole. One of the early events held at Hammerhold was the Star Mangled Spanner Tournament, the name derived from a terrible pun about a wrench that was warped by the gravity field of a black hole.
Early in the history of the Kingdom of Meridies there was a move for regionalization and the proposed western region, made up of the States of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas was to have the name Aphar. The ideal of regionalization was abandoned at that time but later western Tennessee was added to the original area of Aphar and it was reincarnated as the region of Gleann Abhann.
Some name changes are occasioned by a group going defunct and being replaced by a new group. At Trollfen Defender VIII, I happened to make the acquaintance of a young couple who had just moved into the kingdom. When I asked where they had moved form they told me the name of a town is Ohio. (I'm afraid I have long since forgotten the name of the town). "Oh, you're Midrealmers," I said.
"Actually we consider ourselves Eastrealmers," the Lady replied,” We joined the Society when we were attending college in Eastrealm and we always camp with Eastrealm at Pennsic."
Since Isolde and I had started in the Society in the Kingdom of the East I enquired where in Eastrealm they were from. "The Shire of the Misty Highlands," the Lady replied, "Which is Morgantown West Virginia."
"Realy?" I said, "Isolde and I started in Morgantown when it was the Shire of Morgana. I was sorry to hear that it went defunct a few years after we moved to Meridies. So now it's the Shire of the Misty Highlands?"
"Actually," the Lord said, "It was the Shire of Morgana, which went defunct, then the Shire of the Chared Lands which went defunct, and now the Shire of the Misty Highlands."
I guess some places just have a hard time hosting an SCA group.