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20 June 2015

Where the name (and flag) came from

by Else

embolalia /ˌɛmboʊˈlɑːliːʌ/ n. - automatic speech; verbalization that occurs without conscious effort by the individual, such as repetitions and filler words

People occasionally ask where the name Embolalia came from. Occasionally, someone recognizes the word, defined above. But why did I pick this obscure word as the username I use nearly everywhere?

It goes back to when I was playing a game called NationStates. In the game, you create a country, and play around with its policies. There’s also a World Assembly (which used to be called the United Nations until the real UN sent a cease and desist), in which you propose and vote on international laws. That’s where I spent most of my time in the game, writing (and sometimes passing) legislation on things like offshore drilling, clean water, and conscientious objection. (The last is my favorite. I’d previously submitted it with a title saying it was about conscientious objection, but it was voted down after a really shitty FUD-ful debate. I resubmitted almost exactly the same proposal as the Military Freedom Act, PATRIOT Act-style, and it passed.)

Anyway, Embolalia was the name of my country. I picked it after a few years playing the game, because I wanted a username that worked as a country name but could also be used more generally. I thought “speaking without thinking” seemed somehow apropos to internet commentary. It’s now, I think, six years later, and I haven’t played the game in a few years, but the name stuck.

The flag was one I designed for that country, and I really liked how it came out, so I started using it as an avatar everywhere. The country was a federation of three constituent countries (it’s not a rip-off of the UK, because there’s only three?). In-character, the colors each represented one of the constituent countries, and the star their union. Really, I yanked the green from the World Assembly and the middle blue from the late UN (not the real one), since those were where I spent most of my time in-game. The white-on-blue was a frequent theme in the region I was in, and I picked the star because it’s easy to draw (which is one of the requirements of a good flag), and plain tricolours are boring. The darker blue was picked because I couldn’t find another color that looked better there.

The similarity to the Somali flag was entirely accidental. Liechtenstein and Haiti used to have exactly the same flag, and France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Russia all have red, white, and blue tricolours, though, so it’s not the world’s worst case of accidentally similar flags. But, given that people still assume Willie was named as a double-entendre, which I really promise it wasn’t, I really ought to be more careful about these things…

UPDATE: I’ve since updated the flag to have an unfilled pentagram rather than a filled five-point star. This clears up the similarity to the Somali flag, and also matches the pentagram tattoo I got on my wrist in early 2018. (I may post at some point about why I chose that symbol.) Also, I changed the name of the IRC bot to Sopel specifically because the constant jokes were annoying. I’ve since then stopped working on it altogether though.