Almost Umami

The Common Places of Siliconía
4 min readNov 27, 2022

0. Why are Star Wars names so…. MSG. They are MSG names. They’re Almost-Umami. You can taste what they’re getting at, but it’s just not the same as mackerel or mushrooms or the three step process to actually make miso soup. They taste like instant bonito soup names.

“JAKRO LADORN. THIS IS SO FOREIGN!!!!”

“Um. says here JAKRO LADORN was made in Jackson, Mississippi.”

“SO FOREIGN!!!!”

Stass Allie, Cassian Andor, Bix Caleen, Count Dooku, Jango Fett, Saw Gerrera, Nate Gunray, Crix Madine… anyway, you get the idea. It’s like they want to create a naming convention, but have no fucking idea how to actually do it. So instead of Transformers, we get Broken Go-Bots. It’s an older allusion, but it checks out. The only place where I can see something somewhat emerging is in the pilots from A New Hope: Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter. But it’s data set of two. Why has the Star Wars Universe put into our universe such a fucking bad naming convention when it’s pretty obvious they’re kind of just calling out things in the room? Person. Man. Woman. Camera. TV.

Star Wars: A Broken Naming Convention.

1. The grandaddy (literally) of Constructed Language names is Tolkien. Which we all know. But most folks don’t know that JRR Tolkien was the reason they had to read Beowulf in high school. He put Beowulf in the English Lit Canon. That alone would have ensured him a place at the Flying Saucer Trivia Night in Fort Worth, Texas. Once you scratch the surface of Tolkien’s Elven Geat-gold, you find that a fair amount of his naming is just revamped Norse languages with some Finnish here and there. Given that you have to learn about six-eight languages to pull that off, it IS an impressive intellectual feat and sets a high bar. But it’s an extrapolation from actual Natural Indo-European Languages (Minus One) which means there’s a predictability to it. If you know what to look for, you can see how Tolkien is making both the sauce and the sausage in it.

2. Then we get Klingon. Which was pretty much invented on the fly in the Second or Third Star Trek feature film. They literally just grunted and yelled. It’s entirely possible Christopher Lloyd was drunk on set at the time. By the time ST:TNG rolls around, they had to bring in some linguists to build something that didn’t fuck up the actor’s voices after all the retakes. Well, actually they had to build something that could be re-shot in the first place. Re-Shot means Repeat and improvised gargling does not a Saussurean sign system make. (Full disclosure — this is off the top of my head and a summation of multiple articles over the years. I might be wrong, but you get the gist.)

3. By the First Quarter of the New Millennium, Hollywood needs fake languages all over the place. You got the Dune naming conventions, the Dothraki, whatever else and there’s usually some thought put into the languages and the naming conventions. But not Star Wars. Oh fuck no. They are Anglophonic Gibberish Languages through and through. Listen with linguistically tuned ears and what you hear when you listen to Huttese or whatever other stupid fucking languages there are on Tattoine, you hear English syllables. You don’t hear the -tl from Nahuatl, the myriad trills in any of the Romance languages, none of the bong-water throat consonants from Arabic, no retroflex consonsants (And considering that Mandarin and Hindi combined have about 2 billion speakers, not having a retroflex consonant in the Star Wars fake languages is not particularly representative of the diversity of the Earth let alone the Galaxy. Or whatever stupid HR-speak we use to pretend to be inclusive in Late Stage Capitalism.) The rhythms of Huttese are English rhythms. Any normal English speaker could write out phonetically what Jabba said to Luke. If I were to have a Mandarin Speaker speak the lines from the Mandarin version of the Jabba’s palace scene, they wouldn’t know where one thing begins and another ends. Huttese is foreign, but it’s not incomprehensible. Which is fine. But why do the production companies around one of the most lucrative storytelling franchises in history spend almost no damn money on their languages?

4. Now, because Disney is flooding our Solar System with Star Wars productions, they are also going to flood the system with their shitty naming conventions. These systems are all-post facto. Darth Vader just means “Dark Father”. Nothing. Fucking. Else.There’s no great Sith Rule of Two, Planet Exegol, the Dark Cave on Dagobah. None of that. All Post-Facto to sell more movies and merch. All ret-conned. We’ve taken a Jungian fantasy that Lucas wrote as a lark and turned it into a colossal waste of time. You, Reader, you’re almost thirty. Have you ever kissed a girl?

Disney knows the names sucked, they do suck, and they will continue to suck. And they do not care. Why should they? The Mouse understands that the Almost-Umami naming convention is now the standard. And they have probably got some dude who came up with an NLP Star Wars Name Generator and she just churns out Star Wars Content Word Dross 8 hours a day.

5. Stay tuned, For my next piece, I’ll tell you about the time I was a subcontractor for a subcontractor for a global infrastructure install project for The Mouse. Odd fucking people to work for.

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