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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pellatarrum: The Many Names of Dwarves

As has been mentioned before, the dwarven language is one of extreme concision because their culture prizes conceptual refinement over all other concerns. This pattern extends to naming conventions as well, with only the most illustrious dwarves of myth and legend (or gods) having one-word names and therefore being considers exemplars of their type; all other dwarves have additional names which further describe and therefore diminish them.

The Overname describes what a particular dwarf has chosen to do with his or her life: a devotee of the Church of Light, a worker at a forge, a warrior in service to the defense of the great Citadel-Forge of Agnakorem. Other races often perceive the overname as a title or job description, but it so much more than that: the overname declares a dwarf's purpose, and it comes first because a dwarf without purpose is no dwarf at all and might as well be a lump of stone.

A dwarven ranger who guards the underside of Agnakorem gainst aberrant horrors from the opposite side of the disk would have an overname like "Horizon Warden". *
*Horizon being the term for the line bisecting the disc of Pellatarrum lengthwise, separating the land of the Dayspire from the land of the Nightspire, and serving as a border between What Is Pure and What Is Not. You know you have crossed the Horizon when gravity reverses.

Next is the Clan name, because dwarven culture states that the family is more important than the individual, and the clan is more important than family. This is sometimes observed more in the breach than in practice -- it is difficult to place the needs of blood relatives below the desires of a collective of distant kin -- but this format is stressed because it allows for the formation of dwarven city-states. A contemporary cultural approximation would be the way military personnel swear to serve their country and put its needs before all others, including familial separation and/or death.

Since most dwarf clans are created through heroic action that earns a sobriquet. For example, Clan Ironfoot earned its name through the actions of its founder who used an iron-shod boot to crush the skull of a hated orc chieftain in heroic combat. (Technically all dwarf clan names ought to be rendered in dwarven, but for purposes of flavor and style and ease of use by player characters, the English translation is used instead.)

A horizon warden of the Ironfoot clan would be addressed as Horizon Warden Ironfoot, and this is all the name that needs be used during performance of duties or non-social interaction. Example: "Horizon Warden Ironfoot, is this tunnel safe to use?"


The Patriarchal name is used to denote family ties through marriage. The eldest competent male dwarf of the line is the patriarch of the family, and while he has the ability to speak for the entire family this ability is rarely exercised outside of emergencies or times of war. (Dwarves understand the necessity of a single command voice during a crisis, but the patriarch is often too old, too busy, or both to effectively micromanage every aspect of the family.) During normal life the patriarch acts as the voice of wisdom: giving advice to parents, mediating disputes between adults that threaten to split the family, granting official (read: ceremonial) permission for marriages, and the like.

The patriarchal name is the name of the patriarch plus the suffix -dom, meaning "house of".

If you needed to address a ranger of a particular family -- perhaps you are the commander of a patrol unit and need to inform the troops that a relative has died -- you would say "Horizon Warden Ironfoot Tovhendom, please see me at once" to ensure that only the dwarves whose patriarch is Tovhen would report to you.


In contrast to the patriarchal name which indicates marriage, the Matrilineal name indicates blood relation. While dwarves are hardly a promiscuous people, they are also a very practical one, and realize that while the father of a child may be in doubt, the mother is not. (In cases of foundlings or other adoptions, the adoptive mother gives her name to the child. The reasoning is that anyone who raises a child as her own is that child's mother, biology be damned, because love trumps biology every time.)

The matrilineal name is the name of the mother plus the suffix -vord for son and -vorn for daughter. Unless you are on familiar terms with a dwarf, this is the most specific form of address you may use. After all, how many female Horizon Wardens of the Ironfoot clan whose patriarch is Tovhen and whose mother is Kreska can there be?

Again, keep in mind that dwarven culture perceives concision as ideal; the more descriptors you add, the more familiar (and in the case of strangers, the more insulting) you become. If you call her "Horizon Warden Ironfoot Tovhendom Kreskavorn", she will realize that she is being singled out and will likely be wary, if not outright testy, at the specification.


The Personal name is the given name, or what we in the west call the first name. It is a name of incredible familiarity, and to address an unfamiliar dwarf in such a manner is a grave insult (think "little Bobby" or "little Suzie"). While dwarves are not specifically against a tavern-clearing brawl, per se, most of them have the manners and self-control not to engage in such indecorous behavior; rather, they prefer to nurse their grudges and think of ways to thwart, impoverish and harm their opponents over the long term. On the other hand, sometimes a fist is thrown in the heat of the moment, in which case honor demands that aggression is returned with aggression.

However, if a dwarf requests that you address her by her personal name, it is a great honor. Most acquaintances only use the patronym and matronym, but a true friend not only uses the personal name but often uses only the personal name; in deference to dwarven concision, this is a way of saying "You are elevated in my eyes."

For example. Horizon Warden Ironfoot Tovhendom Kreskavorn Taszvya is known as Taszvya only to her blood family and dearest friends ("blood not of blood"). Her extended family refers to her as Kreskavorn Taszvya, and she is known to acquaintances as Tovhendom Kreskavorn. Use of her full name by non-family diminishes and dishonors her, and requires either apology or blood to cure it.


The Love name is the only name not given by family. It is a diminutive of the personal name and is so shockingly intimate that it is rarely spoken outside of the bedroom, and almost never outside of the home. Shortening a name in dwarven culture effectively says "I elevate you above all, even the gods themselves" and while such affection is encouraged and expected in dwarf culture, it is something which simply Is Not Done In Public. In the best case, it is seem as two lovebirds demonstrating extremely inappropriate and vulgar public displays of attention; in the worst case, it's humiliating (like being called "sugar buns" in front of co-workers and superiors). Inappropriate use of a love name can destroy relationships and start wars, but the lovers who are so confident in their love that they can whisper it in public are quietly lauded as the ideal of dwarven romance.

If you call Kreskavorn Taszvya by the name "Taya", you had better be alone and on intimate terms, and preferably engaged to be wed.


Finally, there is the Titular name, which exists outside the spectrum of overname to love name as it is expected to change over time as the dwarf improves her skills and therefore her position within the community. A ranger who has only just finished training would be referred to as "Horizon Warden Recruit", whereas her superior would be "Horizon Warden Sergeant". Similarly, Blacksmith Apprentice is just that, while a Blacksmith would be his mentor. A highly skilled dwarf would be referred to as simply Smith, which denotes mastery of multiple fields.

It is possible for a dwarf to change his overname, but it is rare and always in conjunction with the ascension of titular name. For example, a Horizon Warden Smith (one who is skilled in the crafting of defenses, patrols, traps and asymmetrical warfare) could become elevated to Grand Protector, the dwarf who is in charge of all defense of Agnakorem. In this case the titular name would reset to Grand Protector Novice, indicating a fresh promotion. A Grand Protector Smith is terrifyingly competent, having spent literal centuries in his profession.

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