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    Canonfire :: View topic - Greyhawk Onomastics
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    Greyhawk Onomastics
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    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Nov 14, 2008
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    From: Modena, Italy

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    Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:18 am  
    Greyhawk Onomastics

    Okay, this is the ultimate mid trip so stop here if you DON'T want to waste your time digressing on a purely time-wasting topic :).

    I absolutely understand that you can name your character every way you want, since this is a fantasy game. However Gygax left us with a delicious chapter on Flanaess names and a very broad study of onomastics in our beloved region for us to follow.
    I believe onomastics should get a bit more consideration during game design.

    It seems that Gary himself was the first one to not completely respect what written on the first chapter of the Greyhawk Campaign Setting boxed set.

    Have any of you noticed that almost all of the characters in City of Greyhawk, even low-life commoners, have a proper family name? Take just two famous ones, Nerof Gasgal and Org Nenshen. What do you know about the Gasgal and Nenshen families? I always assumed the two friends had poor upbringings, but what beggar or commoner has a family name? Out of curiosity I checked the wikipedia article on surnames and that confirmed what was suggested by Gygax in the first setting box: surnames are a relatively new custom, and should not be addressed in a medieval fantasy world.
    I have come to think that Gasgal and Nenshen are indeed towns... or old local Oeridian dialect terms that indicate some quality like "quick" or "blonde".
    After reading the saga of Ice and Fire I also noticed how curious it is that in Greyhawk you can't find two characters with the same name. I would assume a city like Greyhawk has at least a dozen individuals named Nerof... Nerof the gravedigger, Nerof the nightwatchman etc.
    Another consideration is that you can abrely tell a person's origin by his name. Just by the sound of a name you can generally, in our world, tell that Mikko is a Finnish name, or Sergey is Russian. But how exactly does an Oeridian or Flan name sound like? Has enyone exploited onomastics in Greyhawk? This could be a very, very interesting article for Caninfire I think.
    I know most names from GH were originally just anagrams, but maybe we can work something out of them.
    Forum Moderator

    Joined: Feb 26, 2004
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    Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:14 am  

    Putting aside the notions as you said this is a very intriguing topic. Your solution that Gasgal and Nenshen are adjective last names is pretty smart. Your assessment of their low upbringing to rulers of the city absolutely reinforces the need to change their names if those are even their real names anyhow! Others like Turin Deathstalker are obviously using a surname to evoke fear/comemorate career exploits/etc, whereas his first name Turin should be a common first name in Oeridian lands.
    This leads me to Tolkien, which I happen to be reading currently. In the Children of Hurin, Hurin is Lord of the house of Hador, named for his father Hador Goldenhead. I am pretty sure Goldenhead only appears in the first sentence of Chapter 1. Otherwise he is known a Hurin Thalion by the Elves or Hurin of the House of Hador. From there on Hurin's son Turin accumulates an array of assumed names through the course of the book mostly derived from episodes in his life:
    Turin Turambar ("Master of Doom")
    Neithan ("The Wronged")
    Gorthol ("Dread-Helm")
    Agarwaen ("the Bloodstained")
    Adanedhel ("Elf-Man")
    Mormegil ("Black Sword")

    So yes I like your solution of derived surnames based on qualities or nicknames. Good stuff!
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: May 12, 2005
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    From: Woonsocket, RI, USA

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    Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:11 pm  

    At the risk of embarassing myself for posting from work without access to my books, I didn't think Gary had written anything about naming conventions in the '83 boxed set. I thought those examples (e.g., "Grimmri Fischer the Jester") had first appeared in From the Ashes.
    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Nov 14, 2008
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    From: Modena, Italy

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    Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:38 pm  

    opps you're right, I was writing from work too.
    I must have been confused with Forgotten Realms (heresy!).
    In any case I think the doubt was legitimate.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:46 am  

    Either way, why wouldn't some poor schmuck without a family name who had risen to prominence(such as "Nerof the Whoremaster") not make up a respectable name for himself?

    "Shall I warm you tea for you Lord Mayor Whoremaster?"

    or...

    "Please be sure that Queen Yolande's envoy is instructed to address me as 'Lord Mayor Whoremaster'."

    Wink
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:06 am  

    Even if you make up your family name for yourself, I gues sit should be somewhat related to "something", whatever it is, and not just a random string of characters... I guess!
    GreySage

    Joined: Oct 06, 2008
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    Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:20 pm  

    In our own history, we have Erik the Red, a famous viking named for his flaming red hair. Shocked

    His son, Leif, was simply known as; Leif, Erik's son. But, in today's history books, it translates into -- Leif Eriksson. Wink

    My own family name actually means; "Son of Heregod." Confused

    (Nope, I have no idea who Heregod was. But, I am trying to find out. Cool)

    I've read several publications on the origins of names. Names came from everywhere and everything. For instance:

    "John Carpenter" -- Forefather was a carpenter.
    "John Miller" -- Forefather was a miller
    "John Ferrier" -- Forefather was a ferrier.

    The Scots and Irish use "Mc" or "Mac" in their surnames, which simply means "Son of." A friend of mine is named McLoughlin = "Son of Laughlin." The Hebrews use "ben," the Arabs use "bar," it's the same thing; "Son of." Wink

    The books give many more examples. In truth, all "family names" were -- in effect -- made up. Then they were "inherited." Surnames became more common as mankind multiplied, so as to distinguish one "John" from another and not to make anyone of them "special." Mad

    I believe that names in the mideval World of Greyhawk would function in much the same way. I don't see why it would be different from the real world development of names. Cool
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:49 pm  

    Yes, names generally have a patriarchal origin or origintat4e from a profession, and also place names as well("Jack of London" becomes "Jack London").

    Now, that isn't to say that some roguish sort wouldn't just make up a last name that they liked the sound of, and that is unique.
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:59 pm  

    Use of a surname could also be based on how much you really need one, but if patterned after our own history, and assuming a European model, probably uses a pretty loose system. If you're a noble or gentleman who might get around quite a bit or be known over a wide geographical area, you would probably want to be distinct from all the other Thrommels or Belvors in Furyondy, so you might attach a geographical locator, e.g., Thrommel of Brancast to distinguish yourself from Thrommel of Heldarn. You also might distinguish yourself by a well-known nickname, e.g. Thrommel Curtmantle. If our boy Thrommel gets famous enough, like Geoffrey V of Anjou, founder of the house of Plantagenet, his descendants might be able to get away with calling themselves the Curtmantles, so his grandson Belvor might be known as Belvor Curtmantle, although he could still have another nickname that he goes by. Likewise they could use a geographic name if it gets identified with the family and be known as the Brancasts. Given the examples in Marklands and other places I think this is the most likely system. Surnames like Jakartai and Tyneman are most likely nicknames that are used either to identify that particular individual or has been adopted by a family. The family of the rulers of the March in Furyondy are known by the family name Derwent, so they are probably originally from a place called Derwent, though it doesn't show up on the map, so it's either very small or Derwent is a nickname of some famous ancestor.

    Now by contrast, take for example Thrommel, the son of Brancast's miller, Gaereth. He's probably never going too far from Brancast so he might be able to get away with just being known as Thrommel. Except Thrommel is probably a popular name, so he needs to distinguish himself from Thrommel the son of Jemian the cooper, and Thrommel the son of Hymend the smith, so he's probably going to be Thrommel Gaereth's son, or just Thrommel the miller's son. When they all grow up and take over from their fathers, he's probably going to want to be known as Thrommel Miller, or Miller Thrommel, just so no one thinks he makes barrels or works iron. A good example of this is Ostler Gundigoot in Hommlet. Ostler is his profession (Ostler= stablemaster or innkeeper) and Gundigoot is probably his given name. His wife likewise is known as Goodwife Gundigoot, goodwife being her title and taking Gundigoot from the name her husband is known by.

    The smelly end of the stick goes to the peasants since they don't really have any profession to inherit or for their father's to distinguish their names with. All the peasant Thrommels in Brancast probably get stuck with names like Thrommel Bennal's son, unless they're lucky (or unlucky) enough to have picked up a nickname in which case they might be something like Big Thrommel, Fat Thrommel, Dim Thrommel, or when he gets old and batty, Foul Ole Thrommel, You Kids Stay Away From His Hovel.
    GreySage

    Joined: Oct 06, 2008
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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:28 am  

    Cebrion wrote:
    ("Jack of London" becomes "Jack London") . . . Now, that isn't to say that some roguish sort wouldn't just make up a last name that they liked the sound of, and that is unique.


    I totally agree, my friend. Happy

    Smillian, gotta' love ya' man. That last bit was just too funny! Laughing Laughing Laughing
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:11 am  

    Thanks, man! I did base Foul Ole Thrommel on Foul Ole Ron from Pratchett's Discworld books, so I only steal from the best. The peasant section put me in mind of one of George RR Martin's "Hedge Knight" novellas, where the main characters were training militia for the local lord and ended up with 3 Wats, 2 of them brothers, from villages that didn't have names. So they named them after their village crops. But since the brothers were from the same village one of them was dubbed Wet Wat, for some reason I can't remember, and the others were Barleycorn Wat, and Melon Wat. There's comedy gold in this for roleplaying situations. Smile
    GreySage

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:15 pm  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    . . . one of them was dubbed Wet Wat . . .


    Man, that's open to all kinds of interpretations! Laughing

    I never finished reading all the "Hedge Knight" novellas -- kept getting side-tracked. I'll have to get back into them and dig for more gold! Happy
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:59 pm  

    MToscan wrote:
    After reading the saga of Ice and Fire I also noticed how curious it is that in Greyhawk you can't find two characters with the same name. I would assume a city like Greyhawk has at least a dozen individuals named Nerof... Nerof the gravedigger, Nerof the ightwatchman etc...


    -Actually, I do re-use names, for just that reason.

    MToscan wrote:
    ...Just by the sound of a name you can generally, in our world, tell that Mikko is a Finnish name, or Sergey is Russian. But how exactly does an Oeridian or Flan name sound like? Has enyone exploited onomastics in Greyhawk? This could be a very, very interesting article for Caninfire I think...


    ...and I re-use names, for the same reason.

    Off the top of my head, I noticed that:

    Keoish names end in "-os";

    Suel names have a lot of "Ls" and "Vowels";

    Bakluni names are mostly pseudo-Arabic (with Persian, Turk, Mongol, Central Asian thrown in).

    BTW, this doesn't directly deal with personal names, but most GHers try to equate the Flan to Celts (because of Geoff), or Indians (the Rovers), or East Africans (their looks), but the obviosly Germanic "Drachsengrab" (Dragon's Grave, or perhaps Dragon's Canyon) is supposed to be a Flan word as is "Eiger" (Ogre).
    GreySage

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:15 pm  

    jamesdglick wrote:
    BTW, this doesn't directly deal with personal names, but most GHers try to equate the Flan to Celts (because of Geoff), or Indians (the Rovers), or East Africans (their looks), but the obviosly Germanic "Drachsengrab" (Dragon's Grave, or perhaps Dragon's Canyon) is supposed to be a Flan word as is "Eiger" (Ogre).


    Well, Geoff (Geoffrey) is a Germanic name. The importance of bards, druids, and standing stones in Flan culture is what makes them Celtic. On the other hand, the Flan of Sulm built pyramids and were probably more similar to Egyptians or Mesopotamians, at least superficially (I think of them as Babylonians, since scorpion-men come from Babylonian mythology).
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:22 pm  

    This is something I've been working on using the EBoN, canon sources and my own ideas. I wrote an article on the onomastics, toponymy and anthroponymy of Irongate (http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=914), and am slowly working on more such items. I have taken to breaking down the names by race, and then exploring the influence they have on each other as the races migrated and mingled. Absolutely surnames are a relatively new construct, and shouldn't be common among the populations of the Flanaess. Most folk should have a given name with a nickname, honorific, "son of...", location or job. Some names should indeed be common, like "John", "Mike", "James", etc. Names should conform to regions, and thus names in Nyrond shouldn't sound like names in Keoland, Ratik or Ket. This is a topic near and dear to me, and is a long project of love for me. Thanks for bringing it up!
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    GreySage

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:58 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    Well, Geoff (Geoffrey) is a Germanic name. The importance of bards, druids, and standing stones in Flan culture is what makes them Celtic.


    Bare in mind that the Celtic tribes once inhabited all of Europe, before the advent of the Germanic tribes. The Greeks -- including Alexander -- had trouble with the Keltoi. The Celts even murdered the Oracle and robbed the Temple at Delphi! Shocked

    Damn heathens! Laughing

    There would undoubtedly have been some level of cultural influence upon the Germanic peoples from this fact. Cool

    Such as the Celts inventing iron weapons. Wink
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    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:58 pm  

    I wonder which race claims the origins for the -igby/-iggby series of names? Wink
    GreySage

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    Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:07 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    I wonder which race claims the origins for the -igby/-iggby series of names? Wink


    Don't have any of my WoG publications handy. What race is Bigby? Oeridian? Confused
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