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I am on a quest to create a new last name for myself.

I like the idea of "wildcard," particularly in the computing sense: as a placeholder for anything, however I want something that sounds more like a last name than just using "wildcard." (I also don't want my name to be poor translation, like a regrettable tattoo of a Chinese character that actually means "spicy chicken.")

So my question is, does the following capture my intention?

Feracarta or Cartafera?

In the searching I've done, "fera" seems to more commonly refer to wild animals in particular, rather than a more general wild: "ferox," which seems like more of the meaning I'd like to capture (headstrong, courageous, fierce), but "ferox" does not combine together as well into a name, in my opinion.

I haven't been able to find "carta" in a Latin dictionary, but it came up in the the etymology of "card" on Google, so that part could be totally incorrect?

  • Welcome to the site! Would it make sense to reformulate the question as asking for a good Latin translation for the concept of "wildcard"? My point is that the best Latin translation might well be two or more words spelled separately (like carta fera if that is indeed the optimal choice), and it might be more interesting to others in that form. You could then spell the whole thing together to form a name in the end. (This is just an idea; it's your call.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 2 '18 at 21:25
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    The -fer, -ferus, or -fera endings imply 'carrier' or 'bearer'. -fera would be misleading, I think. – Hugh Jan 2 '18 at 22:15
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    Yes, Cartafera would likely be taken as meaning something like "bearing a card". I suspect we need something other than a calque on "wild+card" here, but I have no good suggestions. – varro Jan 2 '18 at 22:36
  • Ne gry is rare Latin for 'not a hint,' 'not a jot.' Gry is a non-committal grunt. How about Grycarta ? – Hugh Jan 3 '18 at 0:01
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    For questions of this type, it's sometimes instructive to look at what the modern descendants of Latin do. In French, 'wildcard' in the context of both cards and computing can be joker; in Italian, it can be jolly (from jolly joker) for cards and carattere jolly for computing; in Spanish, it seems to be comodín (= 'joker') in both contexts; so, to avoid a calque, if that's important, one option would be to use something like joculator (m.)/joculatrix (f.), or scurra. Unfortunately, these don't at all capture what you seem to want for your name (hence this is a comment instead of an answer). – cnread Jan 3 '18 at 8:40
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I am not sure this conveys the connotation you want, but here is my idea:

You search for a placeholder, so just use the placholder-names the Romans used when writing legal formulas: Aulus Agerius for the actor and Numerius Negidius for the defendant (see wiki)

If agere and negare do not fit, you can use the idea of this play on words with other verbs.

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Varius vir, varii viri

There is a board game in (Oxford) Corpus Christi library, Alea Evangelii, with four special pawns which (some think) change mid-game; they're called the multicoloured pawns, or the speckled pawns: varii viri, varios viros. But perhaps that's too far from your original idea. Varia mulier, Varia femina, Varia iuvenis.

Grycarta

Ne gry is rare Latin for 'not a hint,' 'not a jot.' Gry is a non-committal grunt, so the wild idea is preserved. And 'gry' is a word borrowed from Greek, a grunt; with the alternative roots 'gryx, gryz' from the verb. So that's quite sophisticated. How about Grycarta ?

Liber liber

is a free book, meaning a blank book; so perhaps Liberacarta.

Feracarta, suggests wild and slightly out of control. I think it's better than any of my suggestions, all the same.

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    Can you explain "Ne gry is 'rare' Latin"? I've never seen "gry" used as a grunt before, the "ne" seems ungrammatical, and I don't see the connection with hint/jot. – brianpck Jan 3 '18 at 16:59
  • @brianpck, Hugh is shortening it from ne gry quidem (in a way that I'm not sure quite works). The phrase is from somewhere in Plautus and possibly other places. – cnread Jan 4 '18 at 1:28
  • It may only exist in dictionaries. The link gives one of the two entries I've seen. Yet another entry gave Ne gry quidem translating 'Not a whit,' and led to the Greek stems, and mentioned the literal translation, not even an unrecognisable sound, not even a grunt. – Hugh Jan 4 '18 at 1:48
  • @cnread Degrees of awfulness: in your opinion which is worse in citation, Plautus, or Erasmus? – Hugh Jan 4 '18 at 12:35
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As pointed out in a comment by cnread, many languages render "wildcard" as "joker" in one way or another. This happens in both Romance and other languages. Therefore a good translation for the term "wildcard" itself might be something like ioculator, nugator, balatro, or scurra. Pick a Latin dictionary and look up "joker" or "jester" to find more. However, these words will not make a good last name, unless you are fine with silly connotations.

Another point raised in the comments (by Hugh) is that -fer or -fera means a carrier. For example, aurifer(a) carries gold and ensifer(a) carries a sword. Therefore, in a Latin context, the ending -fera will not be easily connected with the adjective fera.

It is possible to combine these two observations. A joker is a "joke-bearer", and that could be rendered in Latin as iocifera (as a feminine version). Instead of iocus, you could also try nugae or ludus. Of these options ludus seems least ridiculous, so how about ludifera? It could be understood as "wildcard", but also as "someone who brings games or spectacles". If this together with a hint of wildness with fera sounds reasonable in your context, this is my suggestion.

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