Thursday, March 3, 2011

Excerpt: Nomenclature of Greyhawk

Anyone who has followed Greyhawk over the editions has noticed that the names for people, places and things often varies. Many times this is intentional, a natural linguistic evolution in the timeline, but many other times its just shoddy writing with goofed editorial oversight. One of my favorite, and probably most overlooked products is 2nd edition's Greyhawk Player's Guide by Anne Brown. In it she tries to consoldate all these errors with a smart in-campaign explanation that to this day is a fascinating piece to read. Check out several excerpts (with my commentary):

"The careful reader may notice that a single entity in the GREYHAWK campaign - be it a person, place or thing - may have several similar sounding names in different products. Folk common and learned, great and small tend to disregard linguistic precision in everyday speech. Some of the many variations in nomenclature used across the Flanaess follow. Variations like these may be used in game play by players to give more flavor to the campaign."

What other game world has this kind of linguistic depth? Surely none in D&D. I can only guess that Middle Earth RPG could rightly claim enough source material to top this.

"Some changes are minor, The Merchants' and Traders' Union of Greyhawk is also called the Union (or Guild) of Merchants and Traders. The Union of Moneychangers and Pawnbrokers is sometimes called the Union of Moneylenders and Pawnbrokers, as this union makes loans to guilds and individuals. The Knights of Holy Shielding are also called the Knights of the Shield or the Knights of the Holy Shielding. The Spindrift Isles are lately called the Lendore Isles, though Lendore Isle is actually inly the largest island of the cluster."

How about the Union of Loansharks and Pawnshops? Too shady? Lendore Isles? Yup, that's like naming Hawaii for it's biggest isle. I still prefer the Spindrift Isles if I ever use that area at all.

"The problem is worse when talking about states and peoples in singular, plural and possessive forms. Persons frm the Kingdom of Nyrond are Nyrondese, Nyrondel, Nyrondal, Nyronders, Nyrondians or Nyrondish. Persons from Onnwal (also spelled Onwal, Onwall or Onnwall) are Onnwalers, Onnwalers, Onnwalans or Onnwalish. People of the Kingdom of Sunndi are Sunnd, Sunndi, or Sunndians; those of Sterich are Sterish or Sterichers. The Oeridian tribe that founded the Kingdom of Aerdy was the Aerdi or Aerdy. Persons from Greyhawk are Greyhawkers or Greyhawk folk; those from the Duchy of Tenh are Tenha, Tenhas or Tennese. Elves from the Spindrifts are sometimes called Lendorian or Lendorese."

I've often struggled with this issue when writing about Ull. The people are most often referred to as Uli, but Ulli, Ullish, Ullian, etc. could work too. The town of Kester has been particularly tricky for me. I can't decide between Kesterian, Kesterite, Kesterese, Kesterish and so on. Any thoughts?

"The names of the human races are subject to many cariant spellings The Flan are also the Flannae or Flannish; the Suloise are also the Suel or Suelites; the Oeridians are also the Oerids. A few racial names change little in any form (an example: 'A Rhennee wearing Rhennee armor joined those other Rhennee and left on that Rhennee barge')."

That Rhennee line cracks me up. As for my own preferences, I like to use Flannae, but Flan seems easier to write in a pinch. Suloise likewise is a fantastical word but Suel ends up the easiest choice and won't confuse anyone. It's then no surprise that Oeridian ends up playing second fiddle to Oerid because it has fewer syllables. Also: I hope i'm not the only one who gets completely dyslexic when I try to read or write the subrace, Touv/Tuov.

"Certain enhancements, such as adding 'Town' after the name of a village or city (for example, Hardby Town), are not uncommon. Terms for communities (hamlet, village, town, city) are casually applied even in formal speech and writing. Safeton, Hardby and Elmshire might be called villages by those who hold them in low esteem, or cities by those who think them important. They are in fact towns."

This part I think anyone can familiarize with. I live in a 'ville' but we're considered a city, but I'm sure the larger city next door would call us a town by comparison.

"Some 'creative spelling' is inevitable in such a massive setting as the Flanaess - or 'Flaness,' as some write it. Keoland becomes 'Keoghland', Urnst becomes 'Ernst', and so forth. Personal names are subject to some creative spelling as well. Sevvord Redbeard, the grim Master of Stonehold, is 'Seuvord' in some sources. Lord Baron Lexnol of Ratik is 'Archbaron Lexol' to some. Ewerd Destron, the szek of Onnwal before the Greyhawk Wars, became 'Elverd'; Duke Karll of Urnst became 'Karl'; and mysterious Mage of the Vale, Jaran Krimeeah became 'Jason Krimeah' in several sources."

Ah yes, the classic Jason Krimeah goof. *shakes head* I've personally used Ernst and Keoghland before. Those of course are Gygaxian homage/pun names of real people. For more on that.

"Misspellings can be repeated unknowingly in later works causing careful scholars to pull out their hair. The actual name of the Lord Mayor of the City of Greyhawk, for isntance, is Nerof Gasgol, but when his last name is pronounced the 'o' sounds like an 'a' (Gasgal), and that is what everyone thinks his name is when they write it out. He has long ago given up trying to correct the error, so it remains Gasgal herein."

That mistake is understandable. Spelling Greyhawk, 'Grayhawk' however, that would truly be heinous...


Anonymous said...

Mort, you're just too much . . . sometimes. But only sometimes. ; )

I was unaware of these explanations found in 2nd edition's Greyhawk Player's Guide by Anne Brown. I know, I know, shame on me. Still, I'm glad you brought it to my attention. I'll have to go about searching them out now.

I find Archbaron Lexol appropriate, given that Ratik is an independent Palatinate state.

I prefer Jaran to Jason Krimeah, myself. Ulli works best for me, I think. And I like Kesterite best, but that's because I'm influenced by Nazirite for those from Nazareth, though Nazarene was used as well.

The people here in Anahuac, TX think of the place as a town, even a small city, though with a population of about 2,000 I think of it as something less. Hahahahaha!

To each his own.

Good stuff, Mort. Love your blog. Keep it coming.

Mystic Scholar

Valkaun_Dain said...

I always preferred to spell the Lord Mayor's name "Corrupt Twit".

Anonymous said...

Valkaun, I think that's what he really is, actually. Hehehehe.

Mystic Scholar

Anonymous said...

Oh Great Ullmaster! Part Four is in the hopper over at CF. You finally make your "grand entrance." ;)

Mystic Scholar

Icarus said...

You know, Mort ... interesting that you bring up nomenclature. I still use the name "Kara-tur" in addition to the proper names of the nations like the Celestial Imperium of Shaofeng. I look at it as something it was called by the earlier explorers. Kind of like in our own world when mapmakers would put descriptors on maps that weren't precisely names. "Terra Orientalis", for example. Literally is just means "Eastern Lands". Once more exploration was done, proper names were found. Also, fantasy labels like "Here There Be Dragons" or "Land where Orcs Rule" end up in place names like Dragon's Island or Orcreich.

So, have you ever heard of "Kara-Tur" having any kind of meaning? ... Is it just the general name for "that far away place"?

Icarus said...

Oh ... an it totally should be "Kester-onian". :D Or "Kester-esque", your choice.

Darrin said...

Very cool read.

When I was active @ the Cartographer's Guild, someone wrote a pretty convincing post on the "evolution" of place names, etc. Of course, I forget the exact details, but you reminded me of it.

I find it interesting that it is "Flannae" and "Flanaess" One might think it should be "Flanae" or "Flannaess" so they both match. ^_^

Personal preference, but I'd call someone from "Kester" a "Kestrian" Mayhap it started out as "Kesterian", but overtime, that extra 'e' would have been chopped out.

As far as clerical oversight, none of that is bad as the "Patriots of Ulek" adventure I ran for a group a while back (It dealt with the dwarven Principality of Ulek). While reading through the flavor text, I was shocked to discover that one of the dwarves we rescued was from Irongate, heading south from his domain "somewhere in the Lortmils" to heed his prince's call to arms.

If you know anything about WoG, you know that Irongate and PoUlek are seperated by roughly 2000 miles, and a relatively vast sea.

Yeah, I lol'd.

mortellan said...

Yikes! No I've never read PoU and now I'm glad!

As for Kara-Tur, I'm sure it has an english translation in some obscure FR book somewhere...