Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Fun with Linneaus II

Last year I brewed up a post where I made a bunch of monsters based on cobbled-together scientific names. Now that I'm halfway through The Book of the New Sun the itch has struck again, inspired by Wolfe's love of archaisms and his own Greek and Latin rootwords.

For this installment, I'm expanding beyond creatures and applying it to whatever makes sense for the name.

Acanthomata ("tumor back")

Stoop-backed from the weight of the bulging, pulsing growths that weigh down its spine. Head bowed to the ground, as if in prayer. Yellow eyes burning with the fervor of endurance.

Apulmon ("without lung")

A wizard's homunculus, grown for manual labor in orbit. Paper-thin bones. Shiny black mosaic scutes shield from radiation, solar sails fold against the back when not in use.

Arsenasthenia ("male weakness")

A terribly polite way of saying "vulnerability to being kicked in the dick."

Bidactylocide ("two-finger killing")

A martial art capable of killing a man using only two fingers. Each combination might cause death through a different means - explosion, implosion, liquification, excrutiation, exsanguination, etc.

Electrocrinus ("amber lily")

A rare water flower with petals of fossilized sap. Ancient insects can still be seen inside. Coveted for its conductive properties, used in a variety of folk medicine traditions.

Endodynamodynia ("internal power pain")

A medical condition caused by an inbalance of mana within a practitioner of the thaumaturgical arts. Symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, persistent headaches and light-sensitivity, bright discolorations of yellow, blue, red, and octarine starting at the navel and spreading outwards across the abdomen, excessive flatulence, and agonizing pain in the gut when attempting to cast a spell. The condition is not fatal, though any graduate student who's come down with it will argue otherwise.

Glaucoglott ("blue-grey tongue")

A vast salamander thing, twice as long as a man is tall. It can never completely reel its tongue back into its mouth, and uses the bright and flicking tip as a lure for creatures along the shoreline.

Homohippus ("man-horse")

The body of a horse, the legs of a man. The skull is twinned: a tilt of the head up or down reveals one face, and then the other. One neighs and whinnies, the other screams and stops only when it passes out.

Lacrimognosis ("tear knowledge")

With certain secret alchemical reagents, one might gather and consume the tears of another to gain insight into their lives and loves.

Lactolestes ("milk robber")

Its truest form is a sort of fat lamprey with a dozen stumpy legs. It may lull its prey into believing it to be their infant, thus nursing on stolen goods while the true offspring goes hungry.

Magniporphyrhino ("great purple nose")

An ape with a shaggy grey mane. Its face is flushed red, and the bulbous protruding nose a brilliant violent. Males will inflate this mighty shnozz to attract females during the mating season, an act terrible to behold.

Nocinax ("pain king")


Octodon ("eight-tooth")

The teeth like shovel blades, each on its own mandible and arranged in a circle, fit for burrowing through soil and stone. It is blind and ill-suited to the light and nosie of the surface, but its skin contains many valued anticancerous unguents.

Osteopsy ("inspection of bones")

A divinitory practice, now banned by the new government. In it, one who wishes to have their future read will offer up a bone or bones, from the tip of a finger to an entire leg, to their shaman. The offering will be presented to sacred flesh-stripping beetles, and the cleaned bone will be placed in the fire until it cracks and can be read. If the proper ceremony is made, this prediction will always be accurate. The larger the bone, the more detail can be gleaned.

Spondylscolio ("twisted spine")

Thin and lizardly, coiled up like a spring. Can stick to walls using the gripping pads of its feet and launch itself great distances. Beloved for their cheerful chirps and eating of pest insects.

Striatocetus ("striped whale")

A cachalot named so for its bands of pale grey and deep blue. Known to launch itself out of the water to do battle with its favored prey, the pelagic sky-squids.

Tachystomy ("swift creation of a circular opening")

A finishing move in martial arts: punching a clean hole out of a target with a single blow.

Tritympani ("three eardrums")

Like a three-armed starfish, with a taut membrane between each arms. Arboreal, use vibrations of their membranes for simple humming and buzzing calls, and to attract insect prey.

Umbilicodendron ("umbilical tree")

A tree that is too much like a spine, with leaves too much like teeth. Meat-rope branches dangling down to raw red fetal-curled forms by the yellow-grey roots. They stir. Ride faster.

Xenula ("small foreign thing")

No bigger than a marble, but clearly alien in substance. Flit away from contact. Scrawl signs in the dirt. They may very well think.

Xiphzymy ("fermentation of swords")

Ritual preparation of dueling swords, where the chosen blades are steeped in a mixture of goat's milk, wild honey, and alcohol.


  1. Wolfe's methodology is great fun, I can't wait to use some more of it. Greek and Latin are wizarding languages already.