The name: When you come across Melania or any correspondence in the humongous 17-year-old Yahoo group archive, you will find a funny word, Otago. Sounds like some kind of fruit, doesn´t it? Some cousin to the mango, or that funny American fruit called the pawpaw which only grows in the East Coast of the USA. You would wonder why so many of the messages concern themselves with frugivorous matters... and you would be wrong.
Otago is, in fact, a place on two planets: The fantasy world known to every Vexillian reader of such tomes as "Earf", where a part of its more poetic southern reaches has been named so, after a Southern Maori word meaning "place of red earth", and the (former) name of a place on Vexillium, namely the southern Melanian floodplain ranging down from the eastern flank of the Afrazurean Massif down to the Welfenian Sea. This floodplain has been inhabited in post-Plague times by a motley assortment of Vexillian ethnicities, one of which, the St.Kiltan, chose to name it after another place on a completely different island, on a completely different planet, which wasn't even the island inhabited by the culture after which St.Kilta was modeled on!
Get it? I didn't, but when I got into ImagiNations and Vexillium, everyone apparently did. LOL! Admittedly, we had a wholly different planetary landscape back then, and such plainly Earf-inspired names as Lamb's Cove, Thistland, even St.Kilta itself - written St. Kilda after yet another place on another fantasy island - were commonplace.
After a series of funny shenanigans known as the Otago Incident, St. Kilta and its player appeared to lose rights to this "Otago" and simultaneously a lot of interest in the game, which I find a bit unsportsmanlike on his part (he tried to shaft everyone and didn't succeed, so he should have taken his lumps and carried on)... but, anyway, I was offered this chunk of land as one of the alternatives to create my nation (I lost these E-mails in a stupid hard drive accident in 2006, damn Seagate to all the hells) and I took it because it offered a lot of good chances to make my little experiment succeed; said experiment was the total privatization of government functions.
One of the first issues that arose when I thought about this was: what will I call my "nation"? The private entity that was to manage everything was a doozy, and thus was TDC born; and in my mind, just as there is a Trump Tower, a World Trade Center and a Transamerica Pyramid, there would be a TDC Territory, the place where TDC is located and where it does business. And so I began sending E-mails to the list and mounting a website that referred to the newly-privatized TDC Territory.
The rest of the Vex called us Otago.
I didn't know about Maori words and the Scottish underpinnings of St. Kilda and all that in early 1999, and I somehow suspected that Otago meant "steaming pile of large animal droppings" in some as-yet-unknown dialect. To put this into context, we had an entire Empire straddling Old and New Vexillium whose constituent parts were named after diverse human internal parasites (oh, Lendosa, 'tis of thee!) and I myself had played fast and loose with Spanish double entendres in naming TDC Territory's cities and towns, so my suspicion had a reason. I was slightly unamused by the fondness my fellow players had for the former, "colonial" name, but I thought "it will go away in time, it's not as if the company´s called something 148 letters long in German".
That was 1999.
I sent an e-mail in 2015 to the group making fun of the fact that the whole Vex + dog STILL called us Otago, 17 years later. In the meantime, we have fought wars (every time I appear again, there's a war within the month), established good relationships with the strongest states (Burovia and Zartania), created a Vexwide presence, DOUBLED our territory under management thanks to a tantrum and a sly treaty with the Westrians... and everyone still calls us what Phillip in one of his less-inspired moments decided to call his new colony on Melania (Ras Lanarch, the other St. Kiltan colony, at least has a Right Reverend Scots brogue to it, as would befit a colony of the island that gave birth to all Vexillian Scotspeople). There are no Maori equivalents on the Vex (yet, although I am nakedly and unashamedly appropriating the haka for my own purposes >=) ). I finally resigned myself to accept this "Gemüsenation" (vegetable nation) moniker, when help came from an unexpected quarter: the Westrian one!
Max Suchy, imperialist supreme and former Assistant Planetmaster, has a barely suppressed hatred for "Earf" - inspired names on the Vex. He couldn't do much about it when we were a screaming gaggle of 30 or so pecking and squabbling geese, but he has had rather more success in the last years, as the number of active players has steadily gone down. In the course of what he called "Rebranding the Realm" - giving a new image to each of his far-reaching holdings - he came across Oost-Otago, a little place of fond memory for both, for it was this land deal that started the convulsions that would end up with Westria owning half the planet (and TDC profiting from it) and would also provide us with endless hours of entertainment as we recall the huffing and puffing and angry e-mails and avian-like posturing involved. Since I had researched the whole thing just months earlier, our northern neighbor's name fell under his righteous wrath and emerged as Itiagu, pleasantly funny and tropical-sounding, and he ingratiated himself even more by renaming the capital Ixihuepetl, which had a nice Nahuatl ring to it (TDCorp cultural heritage is partly based on Mexica/Nahuatl influences, reflecting my Mexico City birth and experience)
Shortly afterwards, the question of getting rid of yet another name from that unspeakable imaginary rock came up, and Max proposed to mutate Philip's unoriginal offering into Otéagu, tying it into the Itiagu rebranding and transforming it into a sort of "Little Place"/"Big Place" relationship which we could retcon into the flexible Mixtuptecan language (a mixture of Nahuatl and Maya dreamed up by one of our star players, Conn Nugent of San Patricio).
I agreed wholeheartedly, since I knew that 17 years later, the hoped-for transformation into "TDC territory" or "TDCland" was just. not. going. to. happen. So, at least, I would be free of "Otago", which we transformed into the drunken St. Kiltan mispronounciation of the original. (Not hard to believe at all, given our former colonial masters' proclivity for a drop of the pure).
So, when you, new player, come across an Otago (or, hopefully, Otéagu) reference, you will know it is the abode of the capitalist porkers that is meant, not the works of the fiction authors that populate the Vex; you, old player who reads this, will know why all e-mails I send always contain the words "TDCorp Territory" as a little point of pride to set us apart from the whole I-make-my-own-maps-to-grab-territory fiasco (17 years later, who gives a flying F, right? Well, a trading company that was faced, as the first thing in its inbox, with defusing Vexwide commercial sanctions imposed on us thanks to our drunken, double-dealing colonial masters does give a F, in fact ^_~) and (I hope) players old and new will find this long article a reason to have a laugh and not an aid to sleep on a rough night.
Greets and see you on the Yahoo list!