What’s in a name?

Probably the most frequent question I get is “What’s ‘Esty’ short for?” I have even gotten this question from people at conventions when all they know about me is my name badge.

Uh, well, actually it’s short for “Estelendur” (that is, this blog’s URL and my general screenname).

“So what’s ‘Estelendur’?”

Before I answer: keep in mind that when this story starts, I wasn’t even twelve yet.

It’s Elvish, as in Tolkien. Fellowship of the Ring came out when I was a little pre-teen, and the books had previously been read to me. My father wanted us to experience the books before the movies, you see. To make a long story short, I was completely in love with Middle Earth — and after the first movie came out I was completely in love with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn. Piece #1.

At some point I went and read the Appendices behind Return of the King. When he was growing up in Rivendell, Aragorn wasn’t called by his name, because Elrond wanted to spare him the weight of being Isildur’s heir during his youth. Instead he was called Estel, which means ‘hope’ in Quenya. Piece #2.

At another point I got my hands on Ruth Noel’s “Languages of Middle Earth.” I was a little linguistics dork already, and I was positively gleeful. One feature of this book is a dictionary of many Elvish words and word-parts (I don’t recall if they are separated into Quenya and Sindarin or not). Piece #3.

There were these two suffixes. I provide here the much more nuanced definitions from the Quenya-English glossary available on Helge Fauskanger’s Ardalambion site, because it’s on my computer and the book is upstairs:

-ndil (also -dil), ending occurring in many names, like Amandil, Eärendil; it implies devotion or disinterested love and may be translated “friend” (SA:(noun)dil); this ending is “describing the attitude of one to a person, thing, course or occupation to which one is devoted for its own sake” (Letters:386). Compare -ndur. [….]

-ndur (also -dur), ending in some names, like Eärendur; as noted by Christopher Tolkien in the Silmarillion Appendix it has much the same meaning as -ndil “friend”; yet -ndur properly means “servant of” (SA:(noun)dil), “as one serves a legitimate master: cf. Q. arandil king’s friend, royalist, beside arandur ‘king’s servant, minister’. But these often coincide: e.g. Sam’s relation to Frodo can be viewed either as in status -ndur, in spirit -ndil.” (Letters:286)

If I remember correctly, Noel glosses both of these as more or less “lover of __” in a way that I did not perceive as having sexual connotations.

By now you might see where this is going. “Estel” + “-ndur” + an epenthetic ‘e’ to make it sounds good = “Estelendur” = “Aragorn fangirl.” Yes. This was the name by which I chose to represent myself online at approximately the age of 12. At the time, it was completely appropriate.

It happened that I joined an online community full of kind, intelligent, amusing people around this time. Eventually people addressed me enough that they started shortening my name, usually to “Este”. Some sense of aesthetics popped up and informed me that I didn’t like that, that “Esty” was much better, so I settled into that nickname online. Around the beginning of 8th grade, I realized that “Esty” felt much more my name than the name my parents had given me. It just fit me better, somehow, and felt more correct. Thus it happened that when I started high school, I also changed names.

My conception of the meaning of the name changed as well, over time. Eventually I noticed that according to the more nuanced definitions of -dur and -dil, I should really have chosen -dil when I made my screenname. I did not mean to call myself, after all, a servant of Aragorn. But a servant of hope? I am a determined optimist, sometimes putting forth great effort to avoid becoming jaded or cynical (and sometimes failing). So perhaps a servant of hope is a thing I could be. Since that realization, I have been doing my best to live up to it. It’s nice to have something intangible to strive for, and I am only a little embarrassed by my name’s origin story.

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