Friday, October 7, 2011

The Name of the Blog

Another thing I noticed in the search logs was that someone actually did a search on "nagamakironin" - which is the distinctive part of the URL for this blog, but probably incomprehensible to anyone without a background as... odd... as mine. So, since some of you might be curious, I think I'll take a moment to explain.

When I first started this blog, I didn't really have a clear idea of what I was going to do with it.[1] So I was casting around for possible names, but several of my first ideas were already taken.[2] So I decided to try something obscure enough that there was essentially no chance that anybody else was already using it. "Nagamakironin" was what I came up with, and I was right: nobody else was using it.

It's actually two words. "Ronin" is a masterless Samurai, as some of you doubtless knew already. Their masterless status puts them oddly outside of the accepted feudal structure, and you can find them characterized as noble and independent heroes, base and untrustworthy villains, or anything between - depending mostly on who's telling the story. (Well, and on how corrupt the local Samurai were thought to be.)

The first word, "nagamaki," translates roughly as "long wrap." It's a kind of weapon. Years ago, I saw a picture of a bunch of Samurai sitting together in full armor. Most of them had swords, but not all. I think one had a spear ("yari"), but the one that really caught my eye was holding a... well, it looked like a katana, except that the hilt was almost exactly the same length as the blade. It took me years to find out what that was called, but it's a nagamaki:
The name - "long wrap" - can arguably refer to either the fact that the handle is wrapped like a katana, or to one of the primary motions you use with the weapon. (I've never found anyone who's really sure which is correct, or whether it's a bit of both, but as you can see in the picture the hilt is not always wrapped. Sometimes it's lacquered, more like a polearm would be.) It's an odd sort of in-between weapon, either a long-handled saber or a short-hafted polearm, and apparently it was used historically both by front-line troops and on horseback. It passed out of general use somewhere in the 1200s, if I recall correctly.

Anyway, taken together the title in the URL - Nagamaki Ronin - is a nod to the main character of my Great Unpublished Pulp Fantasy Novel (world building | further notes). Cat is an outsider and a bit of a loner, studying at a martial school, and the navic (essentially a nagamaki) is his preferred weapon. And, yes, I need to get back to working on the second draft of that...

And so but anyway, that's why I have the URL that I do.

Incidentally, the nagamaki isn't the only weapon to have that half blade/half handle set of proportions. There's an equivalent in the Chinese martial arts, which is usually marketed as a "pudao", though "huyadao" would be more historically accurate. There seem to be some European equivalents also, including some with straight, double-edge blades, but it's even harder to find reliable information about them; they don't seem to have been very common.

[1] I was thinking, if I remember correctly, "What the hell, maybe it'll help me build what the Publishing industry refers to as a 'platform', and garner some readers in case I ever get published."

[2] "Militant Agnostic" is the one I particularly remember. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't name the blog that. It would have been oddly off-key for what this blog has actually become.


  1. I first named my blog "Down With Decorum," but changed it when I saw that so many people's link lists were alphabetized, so I first thought about "Aardvark Atheist," but I ended up with what I have now.

    I thought your URL might have been something snake related. I got "ronin," but I knew "naga" might mean snake. I guess in this case it means "wrap."

  2. Heh. Now I have a vision of a new comic book character, "Samurai Snake," whose swordplay is all the more impressive because he doesn't have any arms!

  3. ...And, now that I think of it, the Aardvark Atheist could be his sidekick.

    Sadly, my complete lack of artistic ability ensures that I will never draw that story.

  4. Hah, that was probably my search, when I wanted to check for updates from another computer.
    Thanks for the explanation; I had also guessed at the "ronin" part, but I had always wondered what the rest of it was.

  5. Well, hey! Now you know. And it gave me something to write about, so thanks!


Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!