Take the C-elements for example: C, Ca, Cd, Ce, Cf, Cl, Cm, Cn, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu.

Imagine some newly synthesized element is to be named after the University of Colorado: Coloradium. Its symbol can't be C, Co, Cl, Cr, Ca, Cd, Cu, or Cm, so we're forced to choose Ci.

Then another new element is synthesized, and it is to be named after Celine Dion: Celinium. Its symbol can't be C, Ce, Cl, Ci, Cn, Cu, or Cm. What would they choose for a symbol?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure someone (@Loong?) will give a detailed answer but the short version is that IUPAC oversees the process. Here is a link to "Naming of new elements (IUPAC Recommendations 2002)" which outlines the procedure and ground rules. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Sep 12 '16 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt A new version (IUPAC Recommendations 2016) can be found here. $\endgroup$ – Loong Sep 12 '16 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ Fun fact: the document @Loong linked to does not note anything about atomic symbols except that once proposed they cannot be used again (hence $\ce{Cp}$ is not allowed, because lutetium was formerly referred to as cassiopeium.) $\endgroup$ – Jan Sep 12 '16 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ If they couldn't make up a suitable 2-character symbol from the name then IUPAC wouldn't approve the name. So "Col" will never be the name of an element since neither Co or Cl work work as an atomic symbols. // Now for more hypotheticals, suppose we get to the location of the former planet Krypton and find the element Kryptonite. Do we make up a new atomic symbol or use the atomic symbol that the original Kryptonians used?!? $\endgroup$ – MaxW Sep 12 '16 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ In view of the fact that new elements are rare, and that Y, Tb, Er, and Yb could all be named after the same place Ytterby, the IUPAC Inorganic Chemistry Division will probably be able to find another suitable symbol for a new element that avoids any conflict. (“Plenty of letters left in the alphabet.“ – Picard) $\endgroup$ – Loong Sep 13 '16 at 15:37

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