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Here is a piece from the video game series The Elder Scrolls, from a book called Remanada:

And for four more hundreds of years did the seat of Reman stay sundered, with only the machinations of a group of loyal knights keeping all its borders from throwing wide.

These loyal knights did go by no name then, but were known by their eastern swords and painted eyes, and it was whispered that they were descended from the bodyguard of old Reman. One of their number, called the Chevalier Renald, discovered the prowess of Cuhlecain and then supported him towards the throne.

Could you paraphrase the part in bold? Does it mean that no one knew the knights' names, or that they had no names, or something else?

I feel the whole sentence is trying to show some kind of contrast between the importance of their names and swords/eyes, as if it were saying, They were known not by their names but swords and painted eyes, though I might be wrong.

  • I would say this is literary usage. The meaning is the same as "didn't go by any name at that time". – user3169 Jan 29 '17 at 18:40
  • I agree, it's probably a deliberate inversion of the normal word order to sound more archaic and epic. – Andrew Jan 29 '17 at 19:07
  • @Andrew I noticed the inversion, but I'd like to know the meaning of the whole phrase. – athlonusm Jan 29 '17 at 19:12
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    It means that they didn't call themselves anything (like the Knights Templar) at that time. – Mick Jan 29 '17 at 19:14
  • @Mick Oh, so it's about the name of the group, not about the knights' names, is it? – athlonusm Jan 29 '17 at 19:19
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I agree with the commenters about this being literary usage and a deliberate inversion. But to me there is a bit more to it than that.

Those loyal knights did go by no name then ...

With the emphasis on the affirmative, it spins the meaning to a pro-active choice and an act of humility. With no king (assuming that is what the "seat of Reman" is), who were they to be anybody?

Does it mean that no one knew the knights' names, or that they had no names, or something else?

I believe the author is referring to the knights as a group, not as individuals. It is the plurality of knights as a whole, beginning even in the first paragraph. It is not until the final sentence that a single knight is referred to in any way. Also, note the agreement in "loyal knights did go by no name ...". The word knights is plural while name is singular.

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