Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Names of the Orc


(Adrian Smith)
Dwarfs go by the name Glimmer Goldenshield or some shit but that's their name in 'the common tongue.' It just sounds like "ThingThing ThingThing." Some dwarfs eschew this convention and are only known by their dwarf names: Udridge Brimgrid, Iduk Ulvex, Morminonk Giswarg. In dwarf, a name will let you know many things about that dwarf: what mine they were conceived in, what shaft they were born in (meaning if they were born or conceived far from home a dwarf may have multiple additional names), what Old Clan they would have belonged to, their direct parentage on their father's side, and their greatest and most esteemed ancestor ascending on their mother's side. Like many dwarf things they are rigid, they are about firm lines and spaces, and they convey much about one of the more important aspects of dwarf kind: geography, not distinguished from geology in the dwarf tradition (in this way genealogy is mostly an academic distinction). It is all about triangulating who you are by where you are. If you are a dwarf who has climbed to a place of higher esteem than the ancestor who shares part of your name, or traveled very far from where you were seeded or forged, or whatever, that means something specific. If you basically live in the same mine, same shaft, never improving your station but diligently fulfilling your lot in life, that means something to. More than a few dwarfs adopt naming in the common-tongue tradition because for whatever reason they don't want an aspect of their dwarf name known. To be a dwarf means to be a different dwarf to all other dwarfs depending on where you are.


Elf names are more concerned with the overriding force in an elf's life: time. Elfs are basically immortal unless killed so they tell each other histories - their own, and histories that other elfs shared with them. They tell histories even in their names. An elf's name is tied to a specific age of civilization. Then to a year, then a phase of the moon, then the hour. As an elf ages and sees certain milestones - a rite of passage into adulthood, or first sexy times, or first blood in combat, or first hunt, or by marriage or courtly appointment - their names get longer and longer. To your human ranger and halfling wizard an elf may be known by Agion. To another elf Agion may have a longer name than Russel Crowe, Orson Bean, or Emilia Clarke combined. This is one of many reasons elfs usually don't refer to one another by their names but by any appointed stations they've earned. They usually don't even do that: elfs know other elfs sure as they know the name of the wind and the song of the trees. Their postures say more than ululates ever could.


Many human and halfling names are taken from very impermanent things such as regions, local fauna, or professions, things which change drastically in as short a span as a thousand years. Dragons have names associated with their hoards and with their offspring, and those with the blood of dragons have names forbidden among true dragons. Gnomes have names associated largely with love and life and the experiential. Goblins are usually not named (as with elfs goblins know one another on sight from bearing, expression, and the wrack of their misdeeds on the body) but they all once had different names, human or elf or dwarf names; if they need to specify a particular goblin to a third party they refer to their methods. The One Who Spoils The Milk Inside The Goat. The One Licking Your Hand While You Sleep. The One Laughing From The Trees At Night. The One Who Frightens The Prince of Tergemord. Giant naming conventions mostly have to do with decibels, and the bigger or more regal the giant the better their name will sound when screamed across a mountainside.


Orcs, though...


Murder, Fuck, Bladder, Snatch, Fist, Cock, Blood, Spike, Fire, Balls, Nose, Tooth, Crunch, Foot, Crush, Spit, Iron, Shaft, Chain, Storm, Nail, Piss, Scar, Scab, Mane, Sabre, Thew, Strong, Hammer, Bone, Smash, Axe, Ice, Dark, Fear, Kill, Damn, Ass, Gash, Hole, Spine, Cleave, Breast, Fart, Shit, Bastard, Boil, Scrape, Skull, Rash, Torn, Worm, Hell, Split, Maw, Talon, Face, Blade, Doom, Night, Burn, Saw, Green, Sweat, Fat, Stink, Choke, Puke, Ale, Slash, Death, Punch, Hawk, Brutal, Pig, Jaw, Bellow, Thunder, Toad, Cruel, Fierce, Bollock, Gut, Thug, Chunk, Rot, Mud, Crag, Crotch, Jugs, Steel, Beast, Heart, Demon, Wolf, War, Knight, Mourn, Shadow, and Rump are the only names amongst the Orc.


(This is the first of a few articles about Orcs and this is the best place to start. Also, you're welcome.)


When I say they are the only names amongst the Orc I mean that these are the only names which directly transliterate into the local Lingua Franca or Low Tongue. It also doesn't work like "Hi, this is Fart." Not usually.


Orc names are earned. An Orc's parents might name her (this is the Orc's only pronoun but it's pronounced like "HRRR") something initially but that's no more a permanent or meaningful thing than the names an owner tries out with a pet before finally settling. "Princess? Goldie?" How about Mudfuck?


Most things in Orc society are based on hierarchy and accomplishments. Orcs deal in extremes, which is why they are mostly known solely for being warlike: the armies of the orc are the most extreme form of military might they can conceive of. Bizarre war machines, charismatic dervishes with extra teeth implanted, ten thousand nude warriors painted gold and swinging bloody chains and hammers that way as much as a Magic-User. No mercy in battle, always up for a fight, they against the world, burn the village salt the earth poopoo on all the altars. The thing is that despite conventional appearances and stereotype orcs do not care if you war. If you want you can me an orc surgeon, or an orc poet, or an orc mommy, or an orc shepherd. It's just that every great orc king sneers at every orc general who in turn wipes hrrr ass with every orc soldier. If you are going to do a thing then you need to be the very best at it. THE BEST, THE MOST, THE GREATEST, THE POWERFULEST. An orc surgeon can make two healthy orcs out of five mangled orcs and never invoke magic or alchemy. A truly ORC poet can talk you to death. Orc mothers strive to raise the most children, the best and most successful children, the happiest children, so on. Orc shepherds tend fields of one million sheep at a time, single handedly. Every aspect of orc culture is extreme. If you are not the BEST at what you do then orcs will respect you for every rival you have ever bested and that is it. They will not respect you as a person and they will constantly loathe you for not being good enough to be the best. They loathe themselves for the same reason. This self loathing drives them to be better and more extreme. Even peaceful pursuits are aggressively practiced.

Naming conventions are no different. As an orc you always want to have the best name. As an orc your name will immediately tell everything about you. In this way an orc knows exactly how much they should hate you. However, all the good names are already taken. If you want a name to be proud of you have to kick someone's ass for it.

An infant orc may be named Bladder for example. This is a diminutive form of the 'Me Name,' the name the orc things of as hrrrs. It has only one part. If another orc parent wants the name Bladder for hrrr infant they may arrange a contest between the two infants. This may be a straight contest of strength or an obstacle course or a measure of survival against a tenacious fight-dog. The victor will be able to take the loser's name to complete hrrr Me Name; continuing with the above example, if young Snatch becomes the winner then hrrr becomes Bladdersnatch. The name of the most recently defeated rival always begins the Me Name, and your previous conquest slides to the back. The defeated infant is now Orr, which doesn't quite mean 'Nobody.' It more accurately means "Fuck 'Em." They will have to defeat two rivals to earn a proper Me Name. If they lose a second contest they will be branded Orrorr, "Fuck right off," and either be cast out of the band, abandoned when camp breaks, or simply dashed open and fed to fight dogs. This will keep going on until the hottest day of hrrr tenth summer.

This Swelter sees a band's ripened youths brought before the leader of the band for a test of fortitude. They will clear the fight-dog pens and attempt to beat the absolute hell out of all eligible youths at once until dawn. All who survive Swelter are now orcs and may take hrrr 'Orc Name'. In the rare case where the leader himself succumbs to the masses of young he is fed to the fight dogs, while all those he fought (including the dead) are considered orcs and elevated or buried as such.

An orc may dedicate hrrrself to any pursuit. The different lifestyle pursuits carry specific titles, by category, further modified by a suffix denoting hrrr station in this pursuit within the band. The categories are broad so often many orcs share an Orc Name. As an orc successfully challenges hrrr way up the chain hrrr Orc Name will change. The suffixes which begin hrrr Orc Name stack up like so:
  1. Gar (Paramount in this pursuit)
  2. Gor
  3. Kor
  4. Mor
  5. For (this homophone is responsible for the idea that orcs can't count and are therefore dumb)
  6. Dor
  7. Tor
  8. Lor
  9. Loc
  10. Moc
  11. Roc
  12. Acc
  13. Frak
  14. Frag
  15. Farc
  16. Fecc
  17. Thek
  18. Shak
  19. Sok
  20. Sarc (True neophyte)
Meanwhile, the stations one might find themselves occupying within an orc band are as follows:
  • Orggo- Warrior
  • Kalkeh- Maker for War
  • Mukra- Maker for Other (including agriculture)
  • Dorvn- Caregiver (a homophone that causes many orcs to perceive dwarven culture as comparatively gentle)
  • Kata- Religious Duty
  • Torran- Instruction
  • Brok- Utility (feeding/raising dogs, cooking, garbage burning, slop toting, hole digging)
  • Uhl- Brute Force (for making buildings and carrying things)
  • Havar- Hunters/Gatherers
  • Dax- Soft Words (science, magic, and diplomacy and politics, all considered mystically obscure abilities)
  • Warn- Drums
  • Vyl- Fires
  • Nobog- Fucking (to produce more infants and/or for the pleasure of other orcs)
So if we continue our above example this young orc may one day find hrrrself ascended to being named Havarkor Bladdernsatch. Additionally, the leader of a band may carry the honorific Orrchiorr, "Fuck Everyone Else But Me," which just means they're the big swingin' dick in charge of everybody. Orrchiorr will always be a warrior leader, meaning hrrr ultimate Orc Name is Orrchiorrggogar. When many bands get together to discuss war or peace or war (they like war) they will appoint an "Above-Above" to have final vote in case of a tie: Chirorrchiorrggogargar. These orcs will often simply go by hrrr Orc Names, hrrr Me Names not considered relevant and rarely challenged for.

By now a few things should be obvious about orcs: they will turn anything into a fight, fight over anything, hrrr chaotic actions and lifestyles are largely due to a constantly churning foaming surf of strictly regimented order, and a lot of the time they are not pillaging your village they are devoting an awful lot of effort and concern on hrrr names.

Orc bands usually operate as close as possible to 500 ("Force"), not counting the band's Orrchiorr. Orcs may come and go freely between bands since being an orc is more important than who-you-orc-for. These two facts mean there is a constant ebb and flow that orcs fucking hate. Once a year on the brightest night of snowy winter all orcs in a band gather for Presents. If the Presents exceed 500 then every fifth orc the Orrchiorr touches is banished from the band until they reach the desired Force. This right to go hrrr own way and wander may be dismissed if an orc wishes to prove hrrr value to a community, which will result in hrrr bare-handed brawling other orcs until hrrr body lies broken or until hrrr opponents have been sufficiently winnowed to a Force. If a band numbers too few then one of two things happens: either they immediately make plans to attack a neighboring Force and make up the difference from the survivors (killing or banishing the rest), or else a gigantic orgy breaks out until sunup, the goal being to just shit out enough kids to reach a proper Force.

When a name proves too popular with orc parents an Orrchiorr may impose a Title Bout where every child bearing that name must fight until only one stands. If a band has too many priests and not enough mothers or too many warriors and not enough shit cleaners they may meet with another band for a Roast. Both bands bring the largest game they can kill and spend a week cooking it and feasting. The band with the larger beast gets to pick and choose who gets swapped while the losing band mercilessly criticizes and jeers at hrrr choices, even if (especially if) they are actually pragmatic.

Because naming conventions are so complicated with orcs some weird incidentals have arisen. Hrrr historical and cultural traditions are entirely oral and replace the names within these stories with the names of popular, powerful orcs currently in the band. Hrrr can read and write hrrr own ugly script but its use is entirely utilitarian, such as for military movements. hrrr tattooing traditions are entirely graphic for similar reasons. You know that an orc belongs to a particular family because of hrrr frankly over-involved bloodcrest, usually found on an orc's neck beneath hrrr clothes or beard. No orc wants to be known first for who hrrr parents were, so this detail has attained a level of taboo (and therefore fetish) among orcs. Hence the common orcly pillow talk, "Who's your daddy?"

You may meet many orcs who do not hold with these naming conventions. These orcs are usually Orrorr, though sometimes they may instead be orcs who willingly left behind orc customs to embrace a new master like an evil necromancer or powerful human king. These are living ghosts, dead to all orcs, and are derisively called Half-Orcs. That's right, though some may be born of a union between one of these shadows-of-true-orcs and other beings there are no halfbreeds: like elfs, or like everything else about orcs, hrrr blood is incredibly dominant. The distinction between an elf and a half-elf or an orc and a half-orc are entirely cultural. Many half-orcs, especially Orrorr, are slaves around the worlds. While horrible this has helped to dispel hrrr stigma to many people, since slaves are property like a chair and who would be afraid of a chair? In this way a society comfortable with slavery is comfortable with half-orcs, slave or free, in their society.

Orcs fucking hate hearing that these half-orcs thrive. Sometimes they'll burn a kingdom down just to get at them. After such a strike, a raid on a nearby orc band, or any great victory for the Force the Orrchiorr may offer orcs in Hrrr charge a number of rewards...including a new name. One they don't have to fight for, one they've already earned. Orcs are sometimes even granted the name of another being they have killed, such as a fabled elf warrior or a craven human king. There will maybe be one orc like this in an entire Force, but it happens.

One last thing: orcs will never volunteer hrrr name but will answer truthfully if asked. This is a sacred possession orcs aren't keen to share with riff raff beneath hrrr. The only exception is when meeting someone in a challenge as either the defender or the aggressor. Then the orc loudly proclaims hrrr name in the interest of honorable warning and fair disclosure. This means that it's not unusual to see two orcs get super pissed at each other, introduce one another, and then chat a bit and walk away. It also means that when a Force of orcs is charging at you on the battlefield it sounds like absolute chaotic berserker hell, like this, and you're MORE welcome.