Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers/artists using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

So typically in a three - dimensional setting we tend to refer to people by their geographical point of origin (eg, Americans, Asians, even Jovians if we want to leave Earth).

My question is, what kind of names could we give people in a four-dimensional context where their time of origin is the distinctive factor?

This could be in terms of simple "future", "present" and "past" locations, or in a more complex fashion, where time periods could then be referred to in a similar way as countries (so the twentieth century itself as an origin, for example, whereas those from the twenty-first century would be referred to by a different term).

share|improve this question
I've seen a list where different generations are named; e.g. Baby Boomers. Besides the well known ones that have entered into cultural use there is a list going back quite a ways. You could have something like that. – JDługosz Jan 23 at 21:49
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The convention in English history is to call them by the name of the Monarch i.e. Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Elizabethan etc.

In America we gots Colonial, Revolutionary, Civil war WWI WWIII... well colonial and a bunch of era's named after wars. We also have antebellum for before the civil war.

"Three Victorians and a Civil War general walk into a Regency bar You would think at leat one of them would have ducked"

sample text, feel free to use it.

Farther back neolithic, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Antediluvian etc in no particular order. Future people could be named after future wars WWXI or leaders Sandersonian , Trumpian, Kasichers etc.
I think historians are going to be your best resource.

share|improve this answer
Having been exposed to British dialects for much of my life, I foresee some preferring 'Trumper' over 'Trumpian'. Joke and derogatory terms add another dimension to the question. – sh1 Jan 23 at 21:48
Trumpitarians, Trumpites, Trumpies, imitatores tuba, Drumpfer if his father did not change his name. – King-Ink Jan 23 at 21:54
¿Cruzedores o cruzeiros? – King-Ink Jan 24 at 0:12
Basically agree, but I don't think Americans generally think of eras in terms of wars. We rarely talk about the "Vietnam Era" and I've never heard someone refer to the "Grenada Era" or the "Iraq War Era". We also almost never refer to eras by the name of the president, except when someone is specifically talking about politics. I've never heard someone say, "I graduated college during the Ford Era and got married in the Clinton Age". So for good or ill, I don't think anyone will took of the "Trump Era". – Jay Jan 24 at 6:59
Yeah, after posting this I did think of eras, largely in an archeological context - for example, calling someone from the Cretaceous Period a Cretacean, or someone from the Triassic a Triassian – Strongo Jan 25 at 9:37

Can't the inhabitants be simply refered to, 'twentieth century', 'fifteeenth century', and so on? This way anyone can take reference for themselves. Like on earth, someone is from New Zeland, you understand that it's either south or north from you. Time periods could be a reference point. But 'past - present - future' is subjective,and wouldn't be used as formal classification.

share|improve this answer
No they can't. Humans hate numbers, they're not computers. Whenever possible, they substitute numbers with descriptive terms. You may be from New York, not from 40°43′N 74°00′W. Or you may be from Beijing, but not from 39°55′N 116°23′E. See King-Inks's answer. – gaazkam Jan 23 at 21:07
In new york they give each other addresses like 123rd And Second, so that's a bad example. – JDługosz Jan 23 at 21:47
It is true that humans here on Earth function with names better than with numbers. But we are talking about a four-dimentional society, which can certainlz be more logically inclined than us. But fair enough, it might be easier to identify eras by their names. I was just thinking that since we use nouns for geographical locations (and there is no reason that that other race wouldn't), using chronical identification for time might be simpler, time travel or no. – L.R. Jan 23 at 21:56
I think it would work similar to this. People don't walk around saying, Hello, I'm John Smith of Utah. In this case, people wouldn't say, Hello, I'm Joe Average born in 2222. It would be something that would come up in conversation and stuff, but not part of their actual name. You would talk about people of a certain time period sometimes, such as people born from 2000-2010. – XandarTheZenon Jan 24 at 0:10

One issue would be that naming conventions of times change as well. Ancient Egyptians would refer to the year as "The third year of the reign of Pharaoh Rameses II", whereas we might say 1277 BC (or 1277 BCE in a scholarly text).

There also needs to be agreement on a start state. The Christian calendar, Islamic calendar and Jewish calendars are all different (2016 AD is 5777 in the Jewish calendar and 1437 AH in the Islamic calendar). So a time traveller introducing themselves as being from "1200" will have very different meanings in just these three calendar systems. One can only imagine what some time traveller from the Mayan civilization would think...

The only "universal" time reference that might be acceptable across cultures would be "Unix Time", where time is measured in seconds and the time is defined as the number of seconds that have elapsed since 00:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Thursday, 1 January 1970. Today as I write it is 1453577340. This is not going to be a handy system, but it will provide exact coordinates for you point of origin.

If you are going to go with seconds, then some sort of shorthand will evolve. For example, you might claim to be from "200 megaseconds ago", or "minus 200 Ms"; remembering a megasecond (Ms) is 1 million seconds, or roughly 11.6 days. There are roughly 31.6 megaseconds in a year.

Bring an hourglass as well....

share|improve this answer
The second idea is even worse than choosing the Christian, Jewish or Islamic calendars. No normal person would know what you were talking about. People would use something easier. – XandarTheZenon Jan 24 at 1:27
So long as everyone followed the same convention, saying "I'm from minus 200 Ms" will be pretty precise (i.e. the speaker is from 200 megaseconds in the past; just under seven years from the present). – Thucydides Jan 24 at 6:23
Why do you suppose that Unix time would be "universal" but the Gregorian, Jewish, Islamic, etc calendars would not? Considering that the start point for Unix time is a date on the Gregorian calendar anyway. – Jay Jan 24 at 6:39
I only suggest that UNIX time has advantages in that it is not so explicitly tied to any cultural event (unless you consider computer science to be a culture (heh), and since the question is asking for a method to identify yourself in time, you need something which can be understood across wildy divergent cultures. You might not understand the birth of a prophet outside your faith, but you should understand how many seconds from the current time. – Thucydides Jan 24 at 14:01

If you want to express locations on the globe in a mathematically useful and language and culture-independent way, you are best to use latitude and longitude rather than place names. That avoids all sorts of confusion and ambiguity. Where is this "Deutschland" you speak of? Oh, you mean Germany. When you say Boston do you mean the city in Britain or in the United States? Etc.

Similarly, for time periods the most mathematically useful and language and culture independent way would be to give a numerical date.

Of course a date is not entirely culturally independent. We have to agree on the lengths of the time units. Do we use years, months, and days? How do we deal with leap years? If we want a system that will work for people on other planets, Earth years are not very meaningful. Etc. What is the starting point of our calendar? The Gregorian calendar uses the birth of Christ (most historians agree it uses an incorrect date for this); the ancient Roman calendar used the date that the city of Rome was founded; etc. I'd say to use the date the universe was created as an objectively independent date that has the side benefit of avoiding negative numbers, but then you get into debates about just when that was. But presumably a time travelling civilization could agree on some standard calendar.

Of course people would probably still talk about "eras", because descriptive words are easier to remember than numbers. Historians routinely talk about the bronze age, the iron age, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Age of Exploration, Industrial Age, Space Age, Computer Age, etc. (Which suddenly reminds me of the middle-aged lady in the 1950s who, when she came to a place on a form that asked "Age", wrote "Atomic".) There's no definitive list of such eras. But a time travelling civilization might well make up a "standard list" of eras with specific start and end dates. If they have to deal with this all the time, it would be reasonable to make up such a list.

I don't time travelers would use past/present/future, as this is totally relative to the person speaking. It would be like asking where someone lives and he says "the north". North of what? With time travelers, if person A tells person B he's from "the future", does he mean person B's future? Future of the time they are in now? Future of some event they have just been discussing? Way too vague for identification.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.