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Punctuation Shaker
"Note to would-be adventure authors: When making up names, note that the apostrophe is not some sort of universal stand-in for vowels. Stop doing that."
Shamus Young, Chainmail Bikini #1

One of the easiest ways to give an exotic or alien spin to words intended to have originated from an exotic language is to sprinkle it liberally with unexpected punctuation marks. Most often, this is done with apostrophes, perhaps because it appears in such a wide variety of purposes in various real languages that one might figure something would have to fit in a pinch.

This trope may not apply when punctuation or tongue-clicks are a natural part of the language the story is written in; linguistics may even treat them as unique letters in their own right. Most commonly, though, no actual purpose for these marks ever crystallizes; they serve merely as a form of visual seasoning that may not ever be acknowledged in actual pronunciation. Since most readers have English as their first language, they simply do not care. In other languages, an apostrophe usually means a glottal stop (we mean glo'al) or an aspirated consonant, such as in Chinese names Latinized in Wade-Giles, and do differ in pronunciation from unapostrophized text.

After the apostrophe, the second most common punctuation mark is the diaeresis/umlaut (two different diacritics but both indicated by ẗwö döẗs övër ä lëẗẗër). In real life, the umlaut is used to indicate a difference in pronunciation (for example in German: fallen "to fall," fällen "to fell"), and a diaeresis is used to indicate that two vowels are pronounced separately rather than forming a diphthong (for example naïve). Its use in fantasy was probably popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien (like MANY fantasy devices), who used it a lot. (He used acute and circumflex accents even more.) However, Tolkien was a linguistics professor, and these came from actual grammatical and orthographic rules within his over half a dozen complete invented languages, and so served a real purpose. Often cropping up when foreign words were translated from their original script in Westron.

See also Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut and Law of Alien Names.


Ex'ämples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • The Riofaldian language in Cannon God Exaxxion is like this, probably to disguise the fact that many Riofaldian characters & machines are inexplicably named after various Earth things. Scieżka (Polish for Path) becomes Shes'Ka, Anvil becomes An'Viru, Kaiser becomes Kas'Ar, & so on.
    • "Anviru" is how "Anvil" is spelled in (phonetic) Japanese.
  • Xam'd. OK, so this isn't a pronoun, but the name of a whole species of... big-armed, pointy-headed ''things''.
    • There are alternate spellings without the apostrophe... lots of them!

    Comic Books 
  • In the DC universe, the names of Martian characters and locales: J'onn J'onzz, Ma'alefa'ak, K'ymm, H'ronmeer, L'Zoril', Zo'ok, Ma'aleca'andra.
    • That last one looks like an apostrophised tribute to Malacandra, the name of Mars in C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy.
      • Tamaraneans are also prone to this: examples include Koriand'r (Starfire) and her evil sister Komand'r (Blackfire).
  • Wonder Woman used to have a supporting character named Nubia, who was the only Black Amazon. Her name has since been changed to Nu'bia, which is so much better.
  • A one-shot race of pre-human Neglectful Precursors in the post-crisis Superman comic were called the H'v'lr'ni.
  • Parodied in The Sensational Spider-Man with an ancient beast known as the Che-k'n Kau.
  • Judge Dredd: The real name of Dredd's arch-enemy, Judge Death, is apparently Sidney D'Eath.note 
  • There's a minor Flash villain known as the Kilg%re (an alien technovirus). Nominally, the percent sign should be pronounced as a burst of static.
  • Sugar Shock has a character named L'lihdra.
  • Marvel Comics has the Shi'ar Empire. The Shi'ar named the M'Kraan Crystal, which is generally accepted to be 'EM-kron', with few exceptions; Marvel Ultimate Alliance has it pronounced "Muh-KRAAN".
    • The Shi'ar like to invoke their gods Sharra and K'ythri and used to be ruled by the crazed Majestor D'ken. And they got very angry when the Dark Phoenix destroyed the D'bari system.
    • Another of Marvel's recurring alien races also likes apostrophes in their names, e. g. former empress R'klll and K'lrt, better known as the Super-Skrull. Marvel also has another alien race called the Z'nox and a race of demons called the N'garai.
    • On Marvel Earth, apostrophes abound in African settings, e. g. the Black Panther is T'challa, son of T'chaka, while his enemy the White Gorilla is M'baku. Storm's Kenyan mother was called N'daré.
    • Iron Fist is from the Shangri La-like Himalayan country of K'un-Lun.
  • Played with in Astérix, where the Vikings' language is represented by French (English in the English translation) with a "Scandinavized" orthography - "a" becomes "å" and "o" an "ø". Asterix tries to communicate with them by peppering his dialogue with the Scandinavian diacritical signs, but they can't understand him because he puts them on the wrong letters.
  • Zits has Pierce's girlfriend, D'ijon. Her real name is Dionne, but she changed it in the seventh grade. After she told this to Pierce, he thought it was cool and suggested that she start calling him "P'ierce". Her answer: "N'o."

    Fan Fic 
  • My Immortal has a few, including Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way and B'loody Mary Smith, who's supposed to be Hermione (!)
  • Similarly, in Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami, Dark Yagami becomes Du'Arq (or Da'urq, Du'raq, or so forth, depending on how the author is spelling it at the moment). And later, there's his sister Sayu becoming "Sa~Yu" as Queen of the Shinigami.
  • In Cat Tales, a DEMON recruit named Greg Brady is granted a "prestigious second apostrophe," changing his name to Gr'oriBr'di. (Those less favored by Ra's al Ghul only get one.)
  • Averted in With Strings Attached, as only a few names have apostrophes, and these indicate that two letters should be pronounced separately. For example, Arda'is is pronounced “ahr-DAY-iss” rather than “AHR-daze,” Fi'ar is “fee-AHR” rather than “Fire,” C'hou is “cuh-HOW” instead of anything else, Ta'akan is “tah-AK-an” rather than “Takan,” and As'taris is “azz-TAH-riss rather than “ast-AH-riss.”
  • Parodied in Whom the Princesses Would Destroy... with "Ykzlpxlt!k, The Disemvoweled One."

    Film 
  • Averted in Na'vi, from Avatar - the apostrophes represent glottal stops.
    • Similarly, the letter 'x' does not indicate a tongue-swallowing consonantal cluster, but that the preceding stop is an ejective, not an egressive.
    • likewise, the Na'vi language has the letter Ä as separate from a regular A, pronounced differently. (Rather than just a fancy way to spell a word with an A in it)
    • However, the words found in the Activist's Survival Guide throw this (and most of the other rules of Na'vi word structure) out the window entirely, with superfluous and/or illegal apostrophes and letters sprinkled everywhere.

    Gamebooks 
  • J. H. Brennan, of GrailQuest fame, also wrote a series of gamebooks starring a barbarian named Fire*Wolf.

    Literature 
  • The Banned and the Banished series is made of this trope. Every name of a race or magic thingy is the standard English with an apostrophe randomly dropped him. (For instance, the first book is called "Wit'ch Fire")
  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen has names like: T'lan Imass, K'Chain Che'Malle, Onos T'oolan...
    • May be justified in the case of the Imass by T'lan being a corruption / abbreviation of Tellann. As for the rest of them, though...
    • The series states that the T' bit means 'broken', so mortal Imass are Tlan, which their undead counterparts are T'lan. Similarly, Onos Toolan and Onos T'oolan
    • Also of note are the related types of demons, the Kenryll'ah, and the Ken'yllrah. Apparently one of these is the nobility of their race, while the other are the peasants. Or something like that.
  • In the Dark Hunter's series by Sherrilyn Kenyon Dream Hunters are assigned an honorific depending on their role. These honorifics take the form of "M'" for enforcers and judges, "V'" for those who protect humans, and "D'" for those which protect gods and immortals. The honorific is placed at the front of the name. Most characters don't know this however, so will simply treat it as a normal name (M'Adoc pronounced Madoc for example). The name need not start with a vowel (as seen with D'Ravyk) and the honorific may be ignored entirely (Leta, Delphine)
  • In Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders Of Pern series of novels, dragon-riders' names are apostrophized, as an honorific, when they become bonded with a dragon. Since dragon-rider is usually a hereditary post, their parents give them names meant to be apostrophized easily — Fallarnon and Famanoran, for example, becoming F'lar and F'nor.
    • In one instance, a boy named Jaxom is accidentally bonded to a dragon hatchling; he's exempted from the custom, partly because nobody can figure out where to put the apostrophe and leave something pronounceable.
    • Also, the dragonrider L'tol changes his name back to Lytol when his dragon is killed.
    • Random trivia: The intent of the tradition is to make the name easy to remember/pronounce when shouted.
    • Strangely enough, female riders' names are left as they are. It could be that eliding the already-short female names would be redundant (Moreta, Leri, Mirrim, Lessa, etc), or simply because most females don't have such a constant need to be marked as "special."
      • Or that since the gold riders (female riders of green dragons having fallen out of use fairly early on) are not primarily fighting dragons, either filling a secondary/support role in combat or not fighting at all, the abbreviation of their names for combat usage wasn't considered necessary.
      • Or that the preservation of the names in their full form was considered a mark of respect, since female riders only bonded to queen dragons. It is mentioned that dragons only remember the names of humans they particularly respect.
      • Or the women aren't allowed to use the honorific. It is a patriarchy, after all.
  • Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle uses apostrophes and umlauts: Ra'zac, Gil'ead, Uru'baen, Zar'roc, Alagaësia, amongst others. Usually randomly peppered throughout names with no rhyme or reason.
    • In "Alagaësia" it could be there legitimately to show that it is "Alaga-ehsia" instead of "Alagaysia." However, the pronunciation guide lists it as "Alagaysia."
    • The pronunciation guide says that the apostrophes are added to words that would mean more or less the same thing without them; they're pronounced as an elongation of an adjacent syllable, and are added as a mark of respect or significance.
    • One elf is named Blödhgarm, the pronounciation of which ("BLAWD-garm") doesn't seem very different from if it had just been spelled Blodhgarm.
    • The "ancient language" in those books is badly mangled Old Norse, which does/did use æ, ø, œ, þ, and ð as unique letters. Paolini actually REMOVES these, usually replacing them with ae, o, oe, th, and dh respectively. It doesn't have a glottal stop, contractions, or any reason whatsoever to use an apostrophe.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, essentially a parodic list of fantasy clichés, explains that, since the typical Rules of Magic say you gain power over someone from knowing his or her True Name, replacing half your name with apostrophes is a wise precaution.
    • She also mocks this trope pretty comprehensively in Dark Lord of Derkholm (which itself parodies a lot of fantasy clichés).
  • R. A. Salvatore regrets doing this so often in his early Forgotten Realms books. Now he tends to conveniently leave them out when he can. This isn't possible with the main character of the series, as this would make his last name "Dourden."
    • Except he could just write it as "Do Urden", which is how it ends being pronounced by most readers anyway.
  • In the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, every word in the Old Tongue has at least one apostrophe. A notable example is the Big Bad, Shai'tan (obviously Satan with an apostrophe).
    • Shaitan is the Muslim/Arabic term for Satan (well it's one transliteration of شيطان; spellings like Shaytan are also valid).
      • And the t used is not the one usually transliterated as t. Yes, Arabic has 2 t's, along with 2 s's, 2 d's, and 3 th's. This one, pronounced with the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, is usually transliterated with a dot under the t. Since most keyboards can't easily form that, people tend to replace the dot with a preceding apostrophe.
  • R'lyeh and other things related to the Great Old Ones in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Star Wars Expanded Universe had a full name of "Mitth'raw'nuruodo". Other Chiss have similarly long, punctuated names, and similarly they tend to shorten them, making it easier for humans.
    • Timothy Zahn, Thrawn's creator, absolutely loves this, both in his Star Wars Expanded Universe books (Jorus C'baoth, Jorj Car'das, Borsk Fey'lya, Shada D'ukal, plenty of others) and his original works.
      • The audiobooks are a little strange. Sometimes, they treat the apostrophes as stops. Other times, they don't. For example, "Car'das" is pronounced "Cardas" in the audiobook, while any Chiss name has clear stops in appropriate places. Additionally, the name "C'baoth" is pronounced as "SA-bay-oth". Word of God is that this is what Zahn has intended. According to him, if he knew how hard it would be for people to figure out, he would've changed the spelling.
    • Apostrophes are common in the names of Twi'lek characters in the expanded universe. Bib Fortuna, for instance, used to be Bibfort'una, Una being his clan name, later stripped from him. Wedge Antilles, upon arrival on their homeworld, finds himself called Wedgean'tilles, which meant "slayer of stars", because as Wedge'antilles his name meant something like "so foul a rancor would be sick".
    • Mando'a uses it as an interlexemic glue not unlike the English hyphen:
      • dar (no longer) + jetii (Jedi) = dar'jetii (Sith, lit. ex-Jedi)
      • jetii + kad (sword) = jetii'kad (lightsaber)
      • vorer (accept) + entye (debt) = vor'e (thank you, or more accurately, I accept your debt)
      • vod (sibling) + /ika (diminutive) = vod'ika (younger sibling)
  • The Discworld novel The Colour of Magic features dragonriders with exclamation marks in the middle of their names, in a sequence parodying McCaffrey. Justified (eventually) when the narration finally tells us it represents the same sort of sound it does in African languages.
    • Also played with in Guards! Guards!, when one character is shown avoiding swearing: "'D* mn!', Carrot said, a difficult linguistic feat."
  • In Appendix E to The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien explains that, while the acute and circumflex marks that litter some of his names are there for sound linguistic reasons and have standard meanings, which one he used depended (mostly) on how "alien" he wanted the names to look: Elvish languages get to use the acute accent (é) but everyone else has to use the circumflex accent (ê). He used the letter K to similar effect, since in most of his languages it's redundant because C is always hard.
    • Tolkien uses "k" for the languages of Dwarves, Orcs and some humans - in particular Westron and its ancestor Adûnaic. Because of the translation convention of Modern English for Westron and Old English for the language of the Rohirrim, humans get to use "c" as well, though.
    • In names like Eärendil from The Silmarillion, this is justified, to show English-speakers that the E and A are separate vowels. The dots were left away in the German translation, however, since in german, ä would be pronounced differently. In the Swedish translation, the dots were left in, even though they changed pronounciation and weren't necessary since a Swedish reader would read the wowels as separate in any case. It's possible that after the controversy caused by the Swedish translator of LotR (Åke Ohlmarks) changing the text far more than necessary, the publisher and the new translator wanted to avoid changing anything, including diacritics, in the text of The Silmarillion.
  • In the second Young Wizards book, Deep Wizardry, a number of the characters are whales and as such have names meant to mimic the cadences of whalesong. When Kit and Nita transform into whales, their names are given similar treatment, and are referred to as K!t and H'Neeeet.
  • Averted with Emperor 'Zakath in The Belgariad. In The Malloreon it's revealed that the apostrophe indicates Kal (king and god) but he avoided outright styling himself Kal Zakath until the Physical God Kal Torak was dead. In the end after Character Development reduces his ego he becomes simply Zakath.
    • Played strait with Ce'Nedra and her mother Ce'Vanne however.
  • In the non-canon Star Trek novel series Star Trek: New Frontier, The Captain's given name was M'k'n'zy of Calhoun. He changed it to Mackenzie Calhoun because no one at Starfleet Academy could pronounce it right. His family includes a Dn'dai and a Gr'zy as well.
  • In Star Trek: Titan, we have the character of K'chak'!'op. The "!" represents a click created (in humans, anyway) by smacking the tongue against the roof of the mouth, as in several real languages. The entire name is an approximation anyway, of the clicks and pops that K'chak'!'op's people use to communicate. Her real name is basically "click/puff of air'click/tongue to roof of mouth click/pop". No wonder the human characters tend to use the nickname "Chaka".
  • Many of the Star Trek books written by Keith R. A. DeCandido feature characters from a species (as yet unnamed) who include apostrophes between every letter of their names. An example: T'r'w'o'l'h'o'r.
  • Gene Roddenberry's novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture gives us the Vulcan word T'hy'la. The first apostrophe is to indicate that the 't' and 'h' do not combine into the 'th' phoneme. The meaning of the second is debateable.
  • One character in Borgel by Daniel Pinkwater spells his name with an asterisk, in an overlap with The Unpronounceable.
    "I am Pak Nfbnm* ," the little man said.
    "* ?"
    "Exactly."
    • A similar gag is used in Chess With A Dragon:
    "They're called Rh/attes."
    "Rats?"
  • The Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin J Anderson makes use of apostrophes in the names of its principal alien race, the Ildirans. In this case, though, it is at least partly justified in that the parts of the name after the apostrophe denote the individual's rank in the species' caste system. It does make some of these names extremely difficult to pronounce, though (Zan'nh, Bron'n)...
  • Averted in Larry Niven's Ringworld, in which a city's name is normally written down as "Zignamuclickclick".
  • Also averted in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye, where the alien assigned to study a particular human is designed Fyunch(click).
  • Played straight with the Kzinti language in the Known Space 'verse. That their alphabet also looks like a bunch of dots and commas is actually unrelated.
  • Used heavily by Mercedes Lackey in her Heralds of Valdemar books. Several peoples, including the Kaled'a'in (and the related Shin'a'in) have languages full of apostrophes as glottal stops.
  • Jaqen H'gar in A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • All the Sithi in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.
  • In a tale truncated in The Film of the Book of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Vl'hurg and G'gugvant races were provoked into ages of ruinous war by an off-hand remark drifting from light-years away, which ended in a peaceful joint enterprise into the tragic maw of a small dog. Because the sequence was cut down and inserted into the closing credits, the world may never know how these ancient civilizations were pronounced.
    • The names were said in the radio series though, and were pronounced "Vla-hurg" and "Ga-gug-vant."
  • Tamora Pierce, in her Circle of Magic books, has the Fantasy Counterpart Culture, the Traders, who are the Tsaw'ha in their language.
    • (Arguably justified since it's not gratuitous or mysterious — you need the apostrophe to separate the W and H into two distinct sounds instead of the "hw" sound you'd get in English. Also, it's the only time she does it.)
  • Snow Crash has a character named Da5id. The name is probably pronounced the same as "David", since in Roman numerals a V is equivalent to a 5.
  • David Brin's Uplift universe includes alien species with names like "J'8lek", "Mrgh'4luargi", and "Le'4-2vo". Possibly justified, as while it is probably mostly there for flavor, and actual pronunciations are not always given, there are a LOT of sounds in the various galactic languages that are hard to transliterate.
  • The second printing of one Vernor Vinge short story begins with an author's note explaining that it was written immediately after taking a linguistics course, and that the @ and % symbols in the aliens' names correspond to phonemes humans can almost produce. Vinge apologizes for this.
  • James Robertson hangs a lampshade on this in The Testament of Gideon Mack. One of the characters is complaining about the cod Scots dialect in an old book:
    "Look at the language he puts in Ephie's mouth. All derived from some ghastly genteel concept of what the guid Scots tongue should look like on the printed page. Those apostrophes all over the place, as if someone's slammed the book shut on a plague of corn lice."
  • In the Legacy of the Aldenata, the Posleen that get Character Development use apostrophes in their names. The language of the species is loaded with them, as well.
  • In the Otherland series, one of the main characters is named !Xabbu. The ! represents a postalveolar click, which isn't uncommon in African languages.
  • Into the Looking Glass uses both the ! for a tongue-click, and the @ for something humans can't even pronounce. The usual problems with this trope are avoided by writing the words as each character pronounces them and having most characters mispronounce them. (For instance, the species named N!t!ch is usually mispronounced as, and consequently written as, "Nitch.")
  • Lampshaded in the Star Trek novel Doctor's Orders, by Diane Duane. The first Federation survey team sent to a certain planet reported that one of the three sentient species there was called the ;At, but forgot to explain how the semicolon should be pronounced. At the beginning of the book, the Enterprise crew generally pronounce it as a click; later on, Uhura says that it's probably more of a glottal stop.
  • In Piers Anthony's Xanth books, any given demon's name is the name of the world/planet which is their territory, with some mathematical notation mixed in - for example, X(A/N)^TH. Precisely what notation is used appears to be some kind of indicator of status.
  • Shows up sometimes in the Dragaera series, generally for ancient names that are unpronounceable by most in-series. For example, there's a healer named Hwdfr'jaanci in Orca, Sethra Lavode's servant Dri'Chazik a Tukknaro Dzur (generally known as Chaz or Tukko), and an evil god called Tri'nagore. In the last case, and possibly the others, the apostrophe seems to function as it would in a contraction, as the god's full name is Tristangrascalaticrunagore.
  • The Stormlight Archive has a character named Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor, or Rock for short. His name seems to resemble very long Hawaiian wordsnote , so the apostrophe probably represents a glottal stop.
  • Joe Haldeman wrote "A !Tangled Web", a short story involving a race called the !Tang.
  • The Flouwen of Rocheworld communicate using a complicated form of sonar, and have names like Warm@Amber@Resonance or Sour#Sapphire#Coo. Each gets a different puncutation mark.
  • Deconstructed in Reamde. The MMORPG T'Rain described in the book originally had apostrophes all over the place. When the dev team brings an actual linguist on board (clearly based on Tolkien), he eliminates as many as possible, in a great renaming known as the Apostropocalypse. (The apostrophe in "T'Rain" is there to distinguish the name of the world from the terrain generator used to create it in the first place.)
  • In Doctor Who novels:
    • The People have several exclamation-marked letters in their language, such as !X and !C.
    • Every vowel in the Metatraxi language has a corresponding punctuation mark that must be added after it. This gives us such names as skSki%ro+tho+ha=ve>n and qQqa=mo+rna=t.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Dragons are fond of the traditional apostrophe (see: Things like "G'ravity" and "G'lant"). Ix go for the exotic and rarely-seen ː, in things like Ixːrisor and Premːix.
    • A lot of things in Fire World have colons in them, to a vast extent. To name a few, theres the world itself, Co:pern:ica, with machinery known as Com:puters, and they can send E:coms with them. Harlan teaches Phy:sics, and has a Tech:nician, Benard.
  • In Tales of the City, there is D'orothea, whose real name is just Dorothy. She changed it in order to seem more "exotic" and thus get more modeling work.
  • Fántásy names have so many pointless diacritics in general that an aversion/subversion is already notable. Two German examples for that: The é in Phantasién actually marks that the "ie" is not the common German ie diphthong, but a syllable break i-e, and fulfils a purpose. The á in "Spákona" ("seer", from Krappweis "Mara" trilogy) is genuine Old Icelandic spelling.

    Live Action TV 
  • Why so many Jaffa in Stargate SG-1 have apostrophized names is a bit of a mystery: Would it really affect the pronunciation to transliterate their names as "Tealk" and "Braytak"?
    • It's possible that the apostrophe in Jaffa names denotes the break between given name and family name. For example, the son of Teal'c is Rya'c.
    • Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies is alleged to have used SG-1's "monopoly" on apostrophe names as a reason for vetoing one on his own show.
    • The main antagonist race (for the first six or seven seasons) were called Goa'uld. How this was pronounced varied, usually depending on who was talking. A few common versions were [ˈgoʊ̭.uːld], [ˈguːə.uːld] and for a few human characters: [guːld].
    • Plain old regular humans from Earth get this treatment too — aliens call us the Tau'ri.
    • There's also the zat'nik'tel Stun Guns, pronounced "zat-nick-a-tell" with the second apostrophe representing an entire syllable. Fortunately, they're usually just abbreviated to "zat-guns" or "zats".
      • Averted with the one-off devices called tacluchnatagamuntoron, which even the proper Teal'c calls "tacs" (he never refers to zat'nik'tels as "zats").
    • There is also the Tok'ra, but in their case, the apostrophe actually denotes the point at which two words have been joined together to form one: "tok," meaning "against," and "Ra," the name of the Supreme System Lord.
  • The Taelons from Earth: Final Conflict used apostrophes in every name for everything (Da'an, Ma'el, Zo'or). The show did some real-world Lampshade Hanging, by naming their official website's online shop "The Sto'or".
    • Justified in that their names aren't pronounced Daan, Mael or Zoor. They actually have a glottal stop were the apostrophe is when pronounced.
  • In Farscape, Crichton writes up the name T'raltixx for the benefit of his shipmates, despite the fact that (a) no one else on the ship reads English, and (b) no one this side of the Galactic Core would write it like that. Of course, his mind was being affected at the time.
    Crichton: A brand new car! No! It's T'raltixx. Tee apostrophe arr aye ell, tee eye, double-x! T'raltixx.
    • A Season 1 episode features guest aliens named M'Lee (pronounced "Em'ly", like a slurred "Emily"), and Br'Nee (pronounced "Bernie").
  • Babylon 5 is not immune to this.
    • Aside from the species named Pak'ma'ra and the Shadow home world of Z'ha'dum, especially the Narn seem to like apostrophes: G'Kar, G'Quan, Ta'Lon, Kha'Ri, et al.
    • In the case of the Narns, the apostrophe seems to represent the joining of a compound word - for example, Na'Toth's father's name is Shak'Toth. Also, the Pak'ma'ra homeworld is called Pak'ma, which suggests a similar function.
      • It also helps the pronunciation - Ta'Lon's name has the emphasis on the last syllable, whereas the english world talon does not. Similarly it stops Na'Toth becoming something like "Nate-oth" or "Nate-oath".
    • Word of God states that Z'ha'dum is a Minbari compound word meaning something like "death of future."
      • It's actually pronounced "Za-ha-doom"
  • Several names in both Klingon and Vulcan in Star Trek: T'Pol, K'Ehleyr, etc. These are justified for Klingons, as the apostrophe actually represents a letter of their alphabet and is pronounced as a glottal stop.
    • Explained (although not quite justified) for Vulcans in non-canon books: the "T'" prefix is used for "bonded" (marriage bond) females.
    • However, that doesn't excuse the completely unnecessary apostrophes in "Ba'ku" and "Son'a" in Star Trek 9.
      • The Ba'ku example may be justified to keep people from mispronouncing it as "Bay-ku".
    • Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced apostrophized names for male Vulcans as well, including V'Las and Chu'lak.
      • Note that the latter name without the apostrophe would be Chulak, which is a planet in Stargate SG-1.
    • Not to mention M'Ress from the Animated Adaptation.
    • B'Elanna from Voyager isn't pronounced with the stop, unless everyone's just saying it wrong.
      • Neither are the stops in "B'Etor" or "K'Ehlyr", in fact. Perhaps it's a rule of Klingon language, that the glottal stop is silent when a word begins with consonant-apostrophe-E?
      • No. It's just that the transliterations used for the series don't always conform to the rules laid down by the inventors (for one, a Klingon syllable can't start with two consonants).
    • The Vulcan Language appears to use apostrophes and hyphens to attach prefixes and suffixes to root words, and to make compound words. The "T'" prefix to mean "bonded" would be consistant with the word T'hy'la, but that would expand the definition outside of marriage bonds. The discrepancy can possibly be explained by T'hy'la being an archaic word.
    • What about V'Ger?
      • That's different — the apostrophe actually does stand for missing letters. It's short for Voyager.
      • Averted in Alan Dean Foster's Novelization, which spells it "Vejur".
  • Parodied in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the researching Scoobies identify the monster of the week as a M'Fashnik demon but are unsure of the correct pronunciation.
  • While interviewing JJ Abrams about Star Trek, Stephen Colbert is visited by his Romulan counterpart, S't'e'fan Kh'lber't, who takes the time to clarify that he spells his name with a "kh" and five apostrophes.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie had a character named Derek Nippl-e. "Nippl-e" is pronounced as the sound of a pencil eraser being dropped onto a desktop from a height of a few inches.
  • D'Anna Biers is the only character in Battlestar Galactica with an apostrophe name. The apostrophe indicates a glottal stop but it is somewhat subtle , causing some viewers to hear her name as Diana or Deanna.

    Radio Drama 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who stories feature a villain named "the Kro'ka", in whose name the apostrophe seems to represent a subtle glottal stop. There's also an alien companion whose nayme is C'rizz. It's pronounced like "Carys", a legitimate Welsh name it's sometimes (understandably) misspelled as. He's also got a deceased girlfriend named L'da, in whose name the apostrophe represents the bit where there's sort of a pause or maybe a schwa to make up for the effects of her species' tragic vowel deficiency.note 

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Literary/roleplaying example: Drizzt Do'Urden (full name Drizzt Daermon N'a'shezbaernon) from the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting.
    • Ever consider that Drizzt's name sounds like a bug hitting a bug-zapper?
      • R.A. Salvatore, his creator, apparently pronounces it "Drits" (yes, with the "t" sound before the "s" sound)
    • From the Dungeons & Dragons core setting, we have the Demon Prince Graz'zt.
      • And in the Dark Sun setting, thri'kreen, an insectoid race, tend to have names like Myk'tyl'klk and the like, though this is justified in that they're sentient insects and their entire language sounds like that. Bugs have no need for puny vowels.
      • It's suggested that the apostrophes are often clicks and other insectoid sounds that would be absurd to write in. Nezumi in Oriental Adventures also have apostrophed names, and the apostrophes mark chitters, chirps, and clicks.
    • The 1st Dungeons and Dragons edition Oriental Adventures uses Wade-Giles romanization for faux Chinese (Shou Lung and T'u Lung) countries.
  • The Tau in Warhammer 40,000 use apostrophe-compounds. The first word in every Tau name consists of their caste and their rank, separated by an apostrophe; for example, a Tau whose name begins with Shas'la is a low-ranking member of the Fire (warrior) caste, while a Tau whose name begins with Aun'vre is a mid-ranking member of the Ethereal (ruling) caste. Other Tau words containing apostrophes also seem to be compound words (e.g. mont'yr and mont'ka, both of which relate to the battlefield).
    • Also, the Tau come from the planet T'au. Almost all their planets have an apostrophe in there somewhere.
      • Unless it's a Kroot world, since Kroot famously don't care for a lot of the Tau empire's eccentricities and formalities.
  • In Tribe 8, you're not going to find many Z'bri names without apostrophes.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay sourcebook Tome of Corruption goes into details about Daemonic Names. Essentially they are a string of randomly generated letter groups, which the DM is then encouraged to split up with apostrophes to make it look more daemonic.
  • In a truly bizarre example: Rifts has a race of aliens in its Three Galaxies setting called the K!ozn. The book explains that it's pronounced kot-zin. This may or may not have been meant as a parody.
  • Averted in Pathfinder, where due to the trope's overprevelance in fantasy, the editors allow writers only one name with an apostrophe in their career.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy XI, everything related to the Zilart race has an apostrophe somewhere in there: Tu'Lia, The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah, Al'Taieu, etc. And let's not get started on places like Pso'Xja. Moreover, the world itself is "Vana'diel", pronounced with a noticable break.
    • The Miqo'te race of its successor Final Fantasy XIV make extensive use of apostrophes in their names; somewhat unusually, they actually follow a well-established set of rules concerning tribal and parental relation.
  • Blizzard make use of this a lot, something commented on by lead story dev, Chris Metzen. The Warcraft series tends to give them to evil characters such as Gul'dan, Ner'zhul, and Kel'thuzad. And Starcraft has the Xel'Naga.
  • Bungie Software has several cases of this. There are such examples as the W'rkncacnter in Pathways into Darkness, S'pht'kr (from Lh'owon) in Marathon, and Sangheili names like "Thel 'Vadam" and "Ripa 'Moramee" in Halo. In the latter, the apostrophe signifies a glottal stop for the Sangheili, whose mouths are very different than humans.
  • City of Heroes:
    • The Mu descendant NPCs that work for Arachnos that have names all have "Mu'-" as the prefix. Also done with the Rikti, a lot of whom have apostrophes in their names.
    • Parodied at one point. The Positron Task Force includes a quest for "The Book of T'Jer'imikanu". Positron refers to it as "the Book of T'Gerima... T'Geruni... the magic book".
  • Dragon names in Bioware games (Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights) often have these, and/or ones that are just really hard to say. Ohhhh yes. N'am'es w'ith apo'st'ro'p'hes ev'er'y sec'on'd le'tt'er. For example, there are Ma'fel'no'sei'kedeh'naar aka "Guardian White Dragon" in Chapter 3 and Vix'thra in Hordes of the Underdark.
  • Mass Effect
    • The asari occasionally have a shaker, such as Liara T'Soni, Sha'ira and Aria T'Loak. The batarians present this more prominently, and at least one turian, Lorik Qui'in, has it too.
    • The Quarians use apostrophes to run their given and clan names together: Tali'Zorah nar Rayya is explained to be Tali of Clan Zorah, born of the Starship Rayya. 'vas' is also used in their naming system to indicate the ship which they are the crew of, as such, at the beginning of ME2, Tali's full name is Tali'Zorah vas Neema nar Rayya.
  • Assassin's Creed III has a case that's grounded in reality. The protagonist, a Native American, is named Ratonhnhaké:ton. This is a name based on the Kanien'kéha aka Mohawk language, and the punctuation shaker comes as a result of transcription methods doing this to a lot of First Nation languages. In the story, he's given the name Connor by his mentor Achilles both because of the issues between colonials and natives, and so others can refer to him easily without needing to figure out another language.
  • Two of the four ancients in Eternal Darkness have 'em: Xel'lotath and Chattur'gha. Also, the city of Ehn'gha.
  • In Escape Velocity Nova, the Polaris have an apostrophe laden name scheme, which transfers to a whole set of worlds. This can be a problem for players when it comes to locating specific worlds.
  • Incubation's enemy monsters are the mutated Scay'Ger, with names like Ray'Ther, Ee'Ther, Dec'Ther, Squee'Coo, Tr'Yn, and Al'Coo.
  • In the English version of Dragon Quest IX, one of the bosses is called "Master of Nu'un". There is no such thing as "Nu'un" in the game's plot, but the name makes a nice and punny contrast with the one of their counterpart Jack of Alltrades. Jack-of-All-Trades, but Master of None.
  • Many names of Kilrathi characters in the Wing Commander universe will make use of apostrophes, although just as many names won't use them at all.
  • Male Khajiit in The Elder Scrolls series typically have a prefix separated from their name by an apostrophe, which indicates their status or a broad profession. Some are also said to use two titles, the prefix and a suffix separated by a hyphen, which is considered rather arrogant.
  • Most of the demons in Runescape have an apostrophe in their names.
  • League of Legends
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, this seems to be the naming rule for characters from Chon'sin. Apart from the country itself, some of the characters' names include Lon'qu, Say'ri, and Yen'fay.
  • Hidden Duality gives us M'kavlar's Fort. It was one of the few made-up names amongst names like Historia Temple, Tungsten Excavation Site and Sleet Stone Cavern, but Dark Flamewolf averted this trope in Lost Isle.
  • In Xenoblade, a few members of the High Entia race use apostrophes in their names, such as the NPCs Ma'crish and Vol'aren, but most of them don't. Crossing this with Name From Another Species, Ma'crish has a reluctant Nopon companion that she named Nopo'rikh.

    Webcomics 
  • Played with in Supernormal Step when a character named Akela T'nadne claims her last name is a contraction.
  • 8-Bit Theater parodies Dungeons & Dragons' love of apostrophes with its character Dark Elf Prince Drizz'l (a sendup of Drizzt Do'Urden) and the evil Doom Cultists, who have feminine names generously sprinkled with odd punctuation: Mrr'grt (Margret), L'zlhe (Leslie), Lv'rn (Laverne), etc. The Cthulu-esque god they worship is not immune either - her name is Jnf'ur (Jennifer).
    • Don't forget the elven clans Khee'bler and Sahn'ta.
    • Fo' Drizzle!
  • From Chainmail Bikini:
    Josh(Re: Kr'thyndt): You need to get in touch with Pat Sajak. Get the man to hook you up with some vowels.
  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance, where the demon K'Z'K The Vowelless is constantly annoyed when human characters pronounce its name "Kizke".
    • Pronouncing it "K'Z'K" is actually quite possible. Instead of the English velar 'K' sound, try a uvular 'Q' sound as used in Arabic. Then pronounce a 'Z' in the front of the mouth. Then another 'Q'. This sounds very insect-like, and is the true name of a horrible demon!
      • Actually, it is also possible with a velar /k/. Use glottal stops in place of the apostrophes to avoid pronouncing vowels.
      • The latest storyline reveals that the removal of wovels was a deliberate plot to limit the demon's power, and its name was previously pronounced as "Kozoaku".
  • Parodied in Schlock Mercenary, when the footnotes explain the random apostrophes. This is a running gag with the Gatekeepers, whose phrases are always considered to be contractions of something decidedly longer and less cool-sounding. For instance, the name of their superweapon, the T'okjith, is a contraction of an 18-word phrase which translates to "The design is clever, but this <expletive> thing could sterilize a sizeable <expletive> chunk of the <expletive> galaxy if you're not <expletive> careful with it."
    • Bu'uthandi, their word for a contiguous Dyson sphere, is a contraction of "this was expensive to build."
    • Also, Ambassador Ch'vorthq is pronounced like the Ch in China, not in Chevrolet, followed by the noise an expensive piece of china makes when struck by a chevrolet, a plain "vor", soft Th and the Q in Quetzalcoatl.note 
      • It's probably an homage to the way Larry Niven describes alien languages, e.g. Kzin arguments sound like a major feline war and Puppeteer names sound like a car crashing into an orchestra. Tayler is an avowed Niven fan.
  • Almost everyone's name's in Drowtales has at least two apostrophes, being inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons Drow. Just ask Mel'anarch Val'sarghress. There are exceptions, such as Ariel, Syphile, Liriel and some others. The apostrophe after "Val" does serve a legitimate purpose: the actual house name is merely Sarghress, and Val is an honorific attached to indicate noble standing. But aside from that, though, it really does fit this trope to a T.
  • Ah'Arl'Bah'l, the god of Apostrophes
  • Inverloch has Da'kor. Elven names often follow this trope, as well, such as Kayn'dar.
    • As an interesting aversion, the author's other webcomic, The Phoenix Requiem has Dakor (without the apostrophe), which looks similar, but is completely different.
  • Every single tekk name from Prophecy Of The Circle has an apostrophe separating given name from caste name (ex. Shan'rekk), though the second part is dropped in casual conversations.
  • The Order of the Stick has a dark elf character named Zz'dtri.
  • Lampshaded in Planescape Survival Guide with "Fred" the dragon, his full name is Frd'gl'fn'd'pq'zter, his mother named him after her great-grand-uncle. His father thought her great-great-grandparents forgot that apostrophes aren't vowels.
  • In Rusty and Co., the illithid mobsters: T'oni, R'occo, D'an, S'al, S'ammy, V'innie, B'enny, J'immy...

    Web Original 
  • One particularly egregious example comes from the web-original sci-fi setting Orion's Arm. OA has the To'ul'h, which speak the To'ul'ho'lo'ss language and follow the calendar known as `Ha'ts'ul. Their primary beast of burden is called the Shur'rooss'hur, and several famous politicians are To'ul'h, such as Ho'th'hss'lho, To'h'hshls'ho, Ho'h'h'l'l'h, H'to'hs'hssl'o, and H't'lo'h'ss'so'h. This is implied as being due to their alien language, which is unpronounceable to humans; likewise, humans cannot pronounce To'ul'ho'lo'ss. It is not explained what, exactly, the apostrophes are for.
  • When Strong Bad gets an email from someone named Talon Jendro, he speculates that it's a made-up name concocted by George Lucas and rewrites it with a bunch of superfluous apostrophes: Ta'lon J'en-dr'o, from the computery generated planet of Des' Moi-nes'ia.
  • Justified in the Peacock King, apostrophes etc. are used to incorporate information about family, status and citizenship into the names. For example, Ebrelle becomes Ebrellin-i upon coronation, h'Akribastes marks the head of the Akribastes family, o'Radia is the king of Radia. Pronounciation is still a nightmare, for a lot of reasons.
  • The Centaurian language in The Pentagon War, when transcribed by us humans, uses apostrophes to indicate that the speaker is switching from one of its 4 mouths to another in mid-vowel (e.g. Go'orla is the name of their home planet). More common than apostrophes, though, are parentheses, which indicate that another mouth is making a different sound at the same time (e.g. Goor(l)a, the word for a clan's bookkeeping expert — the double o means two mouths are saying "o" simultaneously, and the r(l) means that one mouth is saying "r" while another is saying "l").
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, Ktk's full name is "Ktkt'tkkt'kktt'tkkk'tktk'ttkt'tkkk'kktt'kktk'tk." Pronounce that.

    Western Animation 

    Other 
  • The science museum COSI in Columbus, Ohio used to have an exhibit set on a fictitious Micronesian island ruled by the four "Spirits of Knowledge," named P'lunk, B'ra-Zoa, L'lala, and T'em-Poa. L'lala was the only one of the four whose apostrophe seemed to affect the pronunciation in any way.

    Real Life 
  • The Wade-Giles romanization system of Chinese. A certain Chinese city would be Ch'ing-tao with that system. An apostrophe is used to denote a voiced consonant, with consonant without apostrophe is unvoiced. Naturally, English speakers ignore those rules and pronounce everything alike.
    • Averted in Pinyin, where p, t and k refer to aspirated consonants (the ones Wade-Giles marked with apostrophes) and b, d and g unaspirated. Wade-Giles ch' (aspirated ch) becomes q in Pinyin and ts' (aspirated ts) becomes c, while unaspirated ts becomes z. Hence Qingdao pro Ch'ing-tao and Mao Zedong pro Mao Tse-tung.
      • Although Pinyin sometimes still make use of the apostrophe to remind people where a syllable ends if there is ambiguity (e.g. Tian'anmen).
  • American businessman Timothy Dexter reputedly viewed the English language as a punctuation shaker. To this end, he wrote his autobiography, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones, with no punctuation whatsoever. When people complained, he wrote a second edition with an entire page of punctuation marks, asking the readers to "peper and solt it as they plese".
  • When asked about the meaning and pronunciation of the dot (bullet) in his last name, Mark Rein·Hagen once reportedly replied, "It's unpronounceable, and symbolizes how meaningless are the labels that we attach to ourselves." This has led to discussions about the right place to put the bullet in Mark Rein·Hagen.
  • Many Breton surnames start with Ker- (Kerouac, Kermarrec), which was often replaced with a striked K (the lower right part of the K being striked out). With typography came the inability to reproduce the striked K, which led to it being written K/ or K' (turning Kerouac into K'ouac or K/ouac). Still today, mainly in oversea territories, some French people have names such as K/Jean, K'madec, K/ily (and frequently run into trouble with bureaucracy).
    • In older works, you'll occasionally see the "Mc" or "Mac" in Scottish/Irish names replaced with "M'" — one prominent example being "M'Turk" from Kipling's Stalky & Co.
  • Badly configurated computer systems can result in this, with more or less horrid results depending in the target language. For example, in Spain cash-machines and computerized punchclocks, it is far too common for a name like "Begoña" (tilde n) to crop up like "BEGO A", "Begoña" or "BEGO./ A". English is just fine, and Spanish at least intelligible, but any language which uses other letters than Basic Latin Alphabet (like some of the above examples) is a complete Wall of... ''Something-that-is-not-text'
    • "Smart" quotes, apostrophes, tilde letters, and such tend to be rendered as impossible-to-read strings of random symbols when viewed in a non-smart code set. Unicode was intended to relieve some of this confusion, but not everybody sets their browsers and email clients to Unicode, and automatic code set detection is unreliable.
  • Some German translations of works with dialects or colloquial speech (Huckleberry Finn comes to mind) try to imitate those by using egregious amounts of apostrophes.
  • The !Kung people of Africa. Their language uses the tongue-clicks mentioned earlier. It's pronounced (tongue-click) Kung.
    • Most languages with distinct click consonants go into this very much into Up to Eleven levels. (Largely because languages with click consonants are possibly even less suited for transcription in Roman alphabets than some First Nations and Caucasian languages that have consonants and vowels never dreamt of in Europe.) And there are MULTIPLE types of click consonants; !Kung actually has one of the larger inventories of distinct click consonants in a language.
  • Romanized transliterations of Semitic words and names will usually put in an apostrophe for one of a glottal stop, a pharyngealized sound (sometimes the apostrophe is an upturned ‘ instead of ’ for this), or a schwa sound that doesn't merit a real vowel. e.g. The Hebrew newspaper Ha'aretz (glottal stop), the letter ‘ayin (pharyngeal), or the word b'nai (meaning "children of", featuring a schwa).
    • Fairly common to see apostrophes proper used as a sign for a glottal stop in First Nations languages as well, as well as Caucasian languages.
  • In Turkish, an apostrophe will often be used to separate proper nouns from affixed morphemes, e.g. "William'la" ("with William") or "İstanbul'da" ("in Istanbul"; cf. a common noun like "depoda" — "in the store")
  • Romanizations of Russian usually substitute the punctuation shaker for the letters Ъ (hard sign) and Ь (soft sign). These letters are silent, and basically are there to tell you that the part of the word after them is supposed to be pronounced like a separate word, with a short pause and full yots in the yoted vowels. The soft sign is different from the hard sign in that it also denotes palatalization of the preceding consonant.
    • This is done by default in Ukrainian. The soft sign is still there and used for the same purpose. However, the hard sign has been replaced by an apostrophe.
    • The hard sign was originally used at the end of any word that ended on a hard consonant. This was eventually dropped, and it's now understood that any word that ends on a consonant without a soft sign is hard.
    • An example is the convention formed naturally on this site (there are no official translations) for Romanizing names from Nick Perumov's works like Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword. The name of the empire and world Mel'in is read as "Mel Yin", with "Mel"'s ending "l" pronounced a la French.
  • Inverted in English, as accents are generally universally dropped, except for a handful of loanwords and even then only occasionally (résumé, fiancé/fiancée (which is doubly bad as it's generally not gender declinated either)), even when they actually matter. "learned," the past tense of the verb learn, is different from learnéd, which is an adjective meaning "knowledgeable."
    • For the pedants, ALT + 0233 to type é.
    • In British English, the past tense is generally "learnt."
  • As noted above (in the VGM example for Assassin's Creed III) a lot of Roman transcription systems for First Nations languages tend to descend into this (largely because a lot of First Nations languages plain don't have sounds or distinctions in sounds that lend well to Roman letters). Mohawk is among the less problematic languages (with JUST having diacritics for nasal vowels, retroflex consonants, glottal stops and vowel length and tone); Nuxalk and other Salishan languages can turn this Up to Eleven (then again, these languages also have some of the higher numbers of consonants documented in a language).
  • Sometimes used in transliteration of ancient Egyptian (most likely for readability instead of more accurate but obscure symbols), like in "Ma'at" (which is also commonly just spelled "maat"). Possibly also because Ancient Egyptian originally had the standard Afro-Asiatic sound-palette, which contains several sounds that are difficult for Westerners (and, indeed, most living Jews and Arabs, whose languages have mostly shifted toward more typical Eurasian sounds) to pronounce. The reconstructed pronunciation of "ma'at", for example, is something like "maʔʕat"—the first funny letter being the glottal stop, the second being the voiced pharyngeal approximant.

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