The thread itself is a nice demonstration of a large group of people investigating their own underlying patterns and practices. Reading the thread made me think about how interesting just the naming practices of players in virtual worlds are, in and of themselves.
The discussion is quick to bring up and highlight some expected rules and patterns underlying naming: the heavy use of popular culture, especially fantasy, names; the use of names that reference World of Warcraft's game mechanics or lore; the use of leetspeak or other cybercultural conventions and phrasings. These are aspects of naming practice that have received a lot of attention from scholars, as have the ways that gender, race, names and identity overlap. David Jacobsen wrote back in 1996 about the "pragmatics of naming" in text-based virtual worlds, and the subject continues to be interesting, particularly given the usefulness of tools like the Armory in looking loosely for patterns.
Early on in the WoW thread, one person notes with surprise how often everyday material objects and commodities are used as names. I thought that was a really interesting observation, so I ran some searches of my own in the Armory along the same lines. After a while, I was almost more fascinated by the few cases of everyday objects which did not produce more than 40 characters of the same name. Looking around my office, every single object I could see produced 45+ names, often more 75+ names. "Postcard", "Ballpoint", and "Exam" were about the only words to check in under that threshold.
Looking out my window, "Tree", "Grass", "Leaf", "Garden", "Sidewalk", and most other things I could see were over 45. "Parking" and "Administration" (only one name!) and "Library" were the only things to come in under the threshold.
Granted, against the size of the overall World of Warcraft player population, almost any word is going to produce a few hits. (There's also an upper bound: no single unique word can have more hits than the number of servers.)
This started to be a fun game in its own right. I tried a semi-random handful of social and critical theorists.
Then I tried some conceptual vocabulary.
Like I said, an amusing thing to do. Informally, however, you end up with an interesting implicit map of what players are thinking about, what they know, and some interesting questions about how whimsy, meaning and the look and sound of words intersect. Particularly in terms of material culture, the names alone are almost an accidental map of the environment around players, a kind of radar image of the objects and things around them or things whose presence in the everyday world comes readily to mind.
As long as I'm on the subject, the sound of words is another domain where I think names in virtual worlds are an interesting thing to investigate. Many of us have had the experience of being asked how we pronounce a character name due to the now-prevalent use of voice chat in many games. Sometimes that's obvious because the name is a real word or a real name known to us. Other times, we've given some thought to how a neologism or random name sounds. But other times, the question itself is a bit of a surprise, and we suddenly realize that something which was entirely textual up to that point is now also oral. It's really interesting to see how people negotiate that moment of invention, where they have to decide just how to say the character's name, or decide that they don't really care how it's said and will respond to any recognizable variant pronounciation.