Residing across the sprawling expanse of the First Unified Imperial Combine of Earth are billions upon billions of people, each of them living out their lives on one of thousands of worlds. While the Empire dictates many of the laws and social directions to which those planets must adhere, many of the colonies have their own cultural idiosyncrasies and societal mores.
The huge range of unusual names found across Imperial space, therefore, should come as no surprise.
In the age of the Imperial Combine the central administration governs over a vast network of star systems, many of them including planets which were originally colonised by the representatives of different cultures, governments, and private enterprises.
Some of the older worlds have a core nucleus of title families who originally hailed from a specific Earth-born society, and it is not uncommon to find that they have clung to the ways of their forebears throughout the centuries. The persistence of old names was therefore inevitable.
An example would be the high families of Bennethium. This planet was colonised by a trio of vessels which were constructed by the City of Japan, and most of the crew and passengers were sourced locally. The high families of Bennethium have historically been very keen to preserve the cultural heritage they left behind — as have the residents who remained in Japan — and this is reflected in their names.
As Flight Operations Assistant Hakuri explained to Euryce Eilentes aboard the MICS Maidesvale in February 3730 ELC, there are various ways in which Japanese family names can be passed on without the need for a direct genetic lineage. While in that specific case he was talking about a name which belonged on Earth, the same practice is also implemented on Bennethium (→TRD).
Another example of name persistence is demonstrated by Nur Rohana binti Ishak, a research doctor encountered by Elm Caden aboard the Imperial Research Vessel Lovelace. Doctor Rohana has her roots in Old Malaysia, a country which essentially no longer exists. The people of that land are now scattered throughout the Imperial Combine, but — as she partly indicated herself — they endeavour to keep the old stories and traditions alive (→FSS).
For many of the people of the Empire, names represent the past and the heritage of the individual in a more practical fashion. Admiral Groath Betombe, for example, has a family surname deriving from the town where his family once lived. Captain Orri Hekekia's surname has survived the centuries and is now a tiny piece of Hawaii, all alone in the great dark. Ragnar Otkellsson's name barely requires any etymological explanation.
During the first decades of the Imperial Combine, human society struggled to cope with the unilateral implementation of a meritocratic society. The old noble houses found the transition to be as ungainly as it was uncomfortable, but they were no longer able to drape themselves with the metaphorical garb of privilege. The surname prefix Bel was the result.
High families and noble houses which considered themselves to be above the scurrying and pawing of the great masses adopted the Bel prefix as a means of indicating to others that they expected to be treated and regarded in a certain fashion. For a time it worked as intended. By the era of the Great War of the Shaeld, however, the title is something of an embarrassment for those who bear it. It is seen by most other citizens as a pretentious label which is almost always unjustified.
On rare occasions, an individual will rise along his or her path through the merit which Imperial society is designed to recognise. A good example might be Invigilator March Bel-Askis, whose insight and wisdom has served the Eyes and Ears intelligence bureau for decades.
There are many names in use throughout the Empire which have clearly evolved from earlier forms:
The List of the Living is replete with similar examples of names which clearly have their roots in centuries long gone.
Loan words have been a phenomenon since the first language split in two. It has always been the case that when two cultures meet, and first learn how to communicate with each other, some words will be borrowed from one culture by the other.
Sometimes this occurs because it is necessary to refer to objects, events, or concepts for which one culture does not have a word. But often it is simply because someone likes the sound or meaning of a particular word, and wishes to use that word to name something.
Historically, children have failed hard at escaping this naming process: