A question is opinion-based when, in a nutshell, the answer is "whatever you want the plot to do". For example, a question where the answer is dependent on the story character's motivations and feelings, meaning that there are an infinite number of equally possible answers depending on the person's mood and backstory.

But there's a pretty big exception that arises when you are asking not about one, but a large quantity of people making a motivated decision. For example, "Why would a firefighter save his pet kitten over his neighbours?" would get closed for opinion-based with the fury of a thousand suns. But "Why would a society value pets over people?" wouldn't - at least not for being opinion-based.

Questions about people in aggregate ask about not individual motivations, but about societal circumstances. And the scope does not have to be an entire culture. It can be limited to an occupation, as here:

The key factor is that when you are asking about many people, the individual's motivations are not assumed to apply - or only in the broadest sense. An individual can decide anything based on their preferences, but the preferences of a group of people are a property of the world; and therefore a part of world-building.

That, that is my understanding of the matter. Please correct me if I am wrong. Since if I understand it, then surely, this question should have been kept open? It asks about what people would name colonies. Sure, an individual can name their colony Mittenstown because they love their cat so much, but colonisers, in aggregate, form an occupation. So what names would be used for colonies, that sounds very much like a question about the rules of a system to me. Therefore, not opinion-based.

But if I made any mistake in this reasoning then I would love to be corrected. I don't care as much about this question as I do about understanding WB.SE's rules; a task that has been challenging me to this day.

  • $\begingroup$ Just a note: The first part of your query is actually covered by the "story based" reason for closure. Same for the decisions and actions of the firefighter. Anything to do with plot or the actions of one (or more!) character in a story can fall under that closure, even though they're also opinion based. The key distinction to be made is one of culture (a fundamental of the fictional world) vs choices and actions of individuals based on a narrative structure (that's story). $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Strictly speaking, individual motivations of human beings are also subject to rules and cannot be 'whatever'. There are always restrictions that will result in a very limited range of possibilities. However, it is very hard to ask and answer questions related to individuals if people are not specialists in psychology: There are simply too many variables. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 2:10

2 Answers 2


First - because leaving this unsaid would bug me - "whatever you want the plot to do" is grounds for closure for being too story-based, rather than primarily opinion-based. An example of the latter would actually be, "What color should the awning of my shopkeeper's store be?" You could argue there are psychological factors to picking a color, but it's probably chosen based on the theme of the store or the proprietor's personal preferences. Those are three distinct and equally valid solutions; there's no way for the community to decide which is the best solution to the problem because it depends on what the asker wants - their opinion.

Now back to your regularly scheduled answer...

The community has a long-standing policy of rejecting questions asking for naming advice for a couple of reasons. First among these is names tend to produce an infinite list. How to name something is similarly going to produce an infinite list; each and every answer could be radically different and they would all be equally valid solutions. The question could provide constraints on what a valid naming system would be, but that would be the same as defining the system!

Like with magic, the Worldbuilding SE does not create names for users. We can help refine a system, but the rules that govern it can only be defined by their creator.

  • $\begingroup$ There's plenty of questions with the names tag that are asking specifically about naming systems and how one would name things. The one about parallel universes is from February of this year, so I would like to ask you to clarify your assertion of the long-standing policy of rejecting questions asking for naming advice. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ I have more understanding for the argument that I could be asking for people to define a system of naming considerations, as invalid as asking for people to define a magic system. But magic is fantasy. Naming is decided by matters of geopolitics, human psychology, aspects of the existing system of the human nature. That's not new either, all reality-check questions are asking about human nature, and whether it would be compatible with their idea. By that approach, my question should have been closed as too broad; not as opinion-based which further muddies that intensely confusing term. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm The universes question is asking for help with refining an existing system; we're not being asked to create its rules. (I'll point out that most of the answers describe the futility of the effort.) $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm "Opinion-based" means all answers are potentially equally valid; there's no way for the community to vote for a "best" solution to the problem. "Too broad" means you're trying to cover too much area with your question; this is typically associated with having multiple, distinct questions per post. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ So I don't think I'll be able to convince anyone within the space of a comment section that it's different to me, but that's that. One other thing though: a comparatively tiny edit would turn the question into a worldbuilding-process question: "How can I come up with names for colonies?" There's many questions of that ilk on the site already. Would that be allowed, and if so, what makes it intrinsically different, since it too is asking people to describe a system? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm It's still the same. The problem is that names and naming things are inherently opinion-based. The method I use for generating names is likely different from the way someone else does, but they are equally valid ways of going about it. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ I really do not understand the issue.This question asks for scientific nomenclature for naming species. This question asks what to name different kinds of countries. This question asks about nicknames. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ This question asks for names for stone age people! All of these accepted and upvoted questions ask for what names make the most sense for entities in a specific bounded context (species, government types, nicknames, paleolithic people). Isn't names for colonies a category like that? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm Three of your examples are from 2016, before the "no-naming" policy was decided on; these would likely be closed if asked today. Your other linked question is about converting a male-centric naming system into a female-centric naming system. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ If that is true, then I think the policy you keep mentioning is far too harsh. Would you argue that for the question about scientific species names, which is one of the strictest naming formats there are, every answer is equally valid? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 13:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm Read through the answers: there's only one; the others are extended commentary on that one. I'm not going to continue this conversation. If you want to bring the policy up for discussion, create a new question here on meta. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:41

So in your opinion, the naming of colonies is a system with rules.

Let's look for example at the names of ancient Greek colonies. This is a very good example, because (1) they established quite a lot of autonomous colonies, and (2) they seldom resorted to the lazy solution of naming them "New Mother City". So then, we have:

  • Colonies with meaningful names:

    • Neapolis, "New City", because the colony was re-established in the 6th century BCE; before that it used to be called Parthenope, "pure eyes" or "virginal face".
    • Zancle, feminine form of zanklon, "sickle" (from the shape of the harbour).
    • Trapezous, "table", "flat surface" (from the shape of the hill on which it stood).
    • Chersonesus, "peninsula" (today called Sevastopol, from pseudo-ancient Greek Sebastopolis, "augustan city").
    • Nicaea "victory" (they were not bashful).
    • Emporium, "market-place" (because it was).
    • Agathe "good" (short for agathe tyche, good fortune).
    • Panormos, "all-port", for the great natural harbor.
    • Naucratis, "mistress of ships", the great international port of Egypt.
    • Ancona, "elbow", from the shape of the promontory protecting the port.
    • At least three Olbias, "bliss".
    • Selinus, "celery".
  • Colonies named after gods:

  • Colonies bearing (a mangled form of) a native (or sometimes, a pre-Greek Phenician) name:

Do you see any "systematic rules" here?

And in modern times, in the Americas we have names derived from classical languages or classical geography, such as Philadelphia "Brotherly Love", Cincinnati "The Curlies", or Memphis; and names derived from (mangled forms of) native names, such as Minneapolis (the best known American Indian and Greek hybrid), Oklahoma, Omaha and Kansas; and many names derived from names of people, such as Denver, Pennsylvania, Charleston, Charlotte and so on; and of course many New things; and quite a few meaningful names, such as Cedar Rapids, Rapid City, Rock Hill, Battle Creek, South Bend, Los Angeles, Veracruz "True Cross", Santa Fe "Holy Faith", Las Vegas "The Meadows", Buenos Aires "Good Breezes", La Plata "The Silver", Rio de Janeiro "River of January".

Systematic rules? What systematic rules?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not expecting literal, systematic rules as much as I am asking for properties, qualities (sometimes called rules). The lack of systematic rules is a property, so your assertion that it's without any system is a valid answer, and more or less the same idea as the answer I ended up accepting. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, you framed this as a reason my question made no sense, but you really just answered my question! Quite well in fact; I would most certainly accept this one if it were on the main question. I asked "what rules are there". And "zero rules" is your answer. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:22

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