When You’re Wrong

Hi. My SCA name is Ouyang Yingzhao, pronounced OH-yawng YING-chow. OH like so, not OO like root.

Last summer, there was one of those “tell us about yourself” SCA memes bouncing around Facebook. This one included how to pronounce your name.

I filled it out and posted it, using the pronunciation that I had been using since about 2016, while the name was still in the process of being registered.

The thing is, I had been pronouncing it incorrectly, and by doing so, had perpetuated others in pronouncing it incorrectly. I was wrong, and because I didn’t know, other people who looked to me as an example were also wrong.

This post has been a long time coming – believe me, I know. Every time someone has said my name, either in greeting or introducing me, in the past year and change, I have cringed a little on the inside knowing it was incorrect, but also felt like it wasn’t the right time to correct them, due to some context or another.1 Since I was first corrected, I have wanted to do a longer “I was wrong” post, but I also wanted to tie it into a larger conversation about being wrong. But it kept getting put off, then forgotten, then remembered whenever someone said my name. And then I’d feel guilty about not having done it yet.2

That changes today. Hi. My SCA name is Ouyang Yingzhao, pronounced OH-yawng YING-chow. OH like so, not OO like root.

I should have written this sooner – not over a year after being corrected – and I’m sorry. It’s not the fault of the herald that helped me – they told me how to pronounce it correctly when we decided on the name. I can’t say for sure how the pronunciation got messed up in my head, but it did, and I am very, very sorry for making and perpetuating this mistake, and thereby not doing right by the Chinese language, its people, and their history.

Why is this such a big deal? It’s just a name, right? Names are words – words that are attached to people. And words are powerful. Names are powerful. And this name, this proper noun, is also from a language that I do not speak and a culture that I do not personal identify with. So getting it right matters a lot, and getting it wrong is bad.

All I can do now is acknowledge the mistake and point it out when my name is mispronounced. I am sorry for not doing this sooner. I will, as always, strive to do better.


  1. I’ve tried to retrain my own voice to say it the correct way, and I’m doing better. 4 years of saying a word one way takes a conscious effort to correct.
  2. That happens a lot. It’s weird, and stupid, but it’s my brain. I’m working on it.

dear reference desk how does one go about officially registering their name with the sca? do you have to provide documentation no matter the name or only if it’s “uncommon”? how do you define an uncommon name?

Dear Anonymous,

Officially registering a name is super awesome, so first of all – rock on you for doing it.

To register a name, you will go through your Kingdom’s College of Heralds. You can usually find it on your kingdom’s website, or by searching “<kingdom name> heralds” in Google. There is a form you fill out with basic information, the name you want, and your documentation.

So yes. Yes you have to have documentation. Even if your name is John or Katherine.

A lot of documentation for “common” names can be found on the SCA College of Arms website.

Heraldry/name registration isn’t really a magical, lost art form that requires animal sacrifice and perfectly drawn chalk diagrams. It’s just rule-following, forms, and documentation.

Happy registering! <3

How strictly enforced is the Rule of Tincture and/or can you give me advice on whether my idea for personal arms is acceptable?

In the SCA? Very.

[EDIT: Herald buddy says – “there ARE corollaries to the rules so we need to judge items on a case by case basis to take all of them into account.”]

I can certainly look at your idea and give you some advice. I can also reach out to the SCA Heraldry Chat Facebook group and get thoughts/input from them.

Let me know what you’d like to do. I’m happy to lend a hand.

Your Friendly Neighborhood SCA Reference Librarian
(Who isn’t a herald but knows some pretty awesome ones)

Hi, do you have any references for Japanese names? I’m looking at doing a Japanese persona from around the Heian time period. Also, do you know any references for garb for that time period? I’m looking at a lower noble/ high-ish merchant class. Thank you for your time. This helps a lot!

My mother used to say “I don’t know the answer to that, but I know where to find it!”

(She was a librarian.)

So, no, I don’t have any references for Japanese names – but I know where to find them! 😀

The lovely heralds over on Facebook’s SCA Heraldry Chat group reccommend the following:

Name Construction in Medieval Japan

From the vendor: Written by “Solveig Throndardottir” (aka Dr. Barbara Nostrand), a large compilation of historical Japanese names – forenames, surnames, nicknames, their meanings, and the appropriate Japanese ideographs.


I also found some web resources which might be helpful.

”Japanese Names” on An Online Japanese Miscellany, by Nihon Zatsuroku


A list of pre-1600 Japanese name resources
by Issendai (who appears to be a SCAdian…)

A Long History of Japanese Names, Part II: [Link]

For clothing….

The Costume Museum (Kyoto) – Heian Period: [Link]

History of the Kimono, Part II, Nara and Heian: [Link]

Chinese Onomastics

What are the go to documentation sources for Chinese names?


One thing to consider when doing research regarding China in an SCA context is that you’re one of a relatively small number.

I wasn’t able to find any traditional “books” for Chinese onomastics (fancy word for first names), but I did find some relevant resources.

Introduction to Pre-16th Century Chinese Onomastics
by Ii Katsumori
SCA Heraldry Website [Link]

The Onomastics of Medieval South China: Patterned Naming in the Lang-Yeh and T’ai-Yüan Wang
by Dennis Grafflin
Journal of the American Oriental Society [JSTOR Link]

What IS a Name? Reflections on Onomastics
by William Bright, University of Colorado 
Language and Linguistics [Link]

What’s in an early Chinese name, again? [In German]by Wolfgang Behr

Academia.edu [Link]

Hope this helps!

Update for Maria Marschall

From my Heraldry Buddy, for @sca-nerd

Some Early Middle High German Bynames
with Emphasis on Names from the Bavarian Dialect Area


MARSCHALC: ‘a farrier, a groom’, later a high official; NHG Marschall.

Wernherus probus Marschalcus 1233
Heythenricus qui dicitur Marescalcus 1172 (MARSCHALL)

Medieval German Given Names from Silesia: Women’s Names [Link]

Marie   1   1346

(Guys, you know I’m not a herald right? I’m just a librarian. <3)

OKAY! So, I have tried to do some research on my own for a name so that I wouldn’t be obnoxious to Heralds when I was ready, but I am hoping that you can give me some other assistance. I am going for 13th Century German and the name would be Marie Marschall of Seareach (because I’m original like that). I found documentation for Marschall, but I’m not sure it is one the Heralds will accept. Do you have any resources or direction for me?

I consulted with a Herald Buddy about Marschall (because everything else should be fine – Maria is well documented and SCA groups as locative bynames are cool) and found some things.

First of all “Marschall” has been registered before, so we have that documentation from the Online System of Commentary and Response:

<Marschall> – R&W, p. 300, lists a <John Marschal> in 1296 and a <Rainald le mareschal> in 1140. “Surnames in 15th Century York”, URL:http://heraldry.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names/york15/surnames-alphabetical.htm, lists Mareshall and Marshall. “An Index to the 1296 Lay Subsidy Rolls for Rutland, England”, under the Bynames section, URL:http://heraldry.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names/Rutland/bynamesalphabetically.htm, lists Mareschall. Based on these examples, we believe <Marschall> to be a reasonable spelling variant. 

Unfortunately, this documents the name to Germany, not England, and German and English aren’t compatible languages.

Truth is, Maria Marschall of Seareach is totally documentable for England. I can find some Marschalls in Germany via FamilySearch, but they’re all super late period. Like, born-in-1599-late-period.

Recommendation from Herald-Buddy? register it as English and play German. 😉

(Herald Buddy blogs over here: [Link] You should go read it. <3)

Hello! I was wondering if you might be able to help with some name documentation. I’m an Anglo-Saxon from the Kingdom of Mercia in 910 AD, and the name I want to go with is Hardwin Godricsson. Thank you in advance!!

Hi, @spunky-punk-raven​!

Hardwin was the harder of these (har har) to find, at least within 100 years of your 910 AD date.

There wasn’t an entry for it in St. Gabriel, which is my go-to source for name stuff, but they do point to this nifty resource for Anglo Saxon names: the PASE Database, part of the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.

A database of individuals mentioned in pre-Conquest English documents. Alphabetized by modern standard form; the “recorded forms” heading gives original spellings. The database is also indexed by status, possessions, occupations, relationships, and more. This database replaces an olderlist of Anglo-Saxon people recorded in selected reference works.

When searching PASE for Hardwin using PASE – 1066 seems to be the earliest, though there are some alternative spellings in the Domesday source.

PASE resource’s results for Godirc: earliest here is 970.

Hardwin has been registered before, [Link], but I can’t see the documentation to know what they used.

I can’t find Godricsson (with two s’s), but I did find Godricson, registered relatively recently (it passed in 2012): [Link]
I’m not a herald, so I totally recommend reaching out to the SCA Heraldry Chat Facebook Group with this (or ask your local herald to do so), because they’re way better at this than I am. But I would say that this is possible, if you aren’t super tied-down to the 910 date and need exact documentation for that year.

Good luck! 😀

EDIT: Apparently my PASE links didn’t work, because PASE is weird. But under Database > Persons > Name, you can sort by letter and then name to see all the entries. Thank you to SCA Heraldry Chat for pointing out my error! [Permalink to that FB thread. <3]