Daily Archives: November 12, 2023

The Origin Of The Word ‘Orc’

The term for a cultural group, as a name, is its demonym. In Cobrin’Seil, demonyms are words from the culture in question. There are some political contentions there – the Eladrin consider themselves more legitimate Elves than Elves, but Elves are called Elves and Eladrin don’t call themselves Elves because they do not want to be considered the same thing as Elves. This is a long standing beef between the kind of people who own libraries older than most countries. But notably, these words are in the languages of the Elf and the Eladrin. Drow is a word from the same language group, a term that the Drow chose for themselves and use for themselves. The Kai of Shadar-Kai are named after their fortress home, which is, again, an Eladrin word, but they’re all from the same cultural group and choose the term.

The term ‘Beast’ in common comes from ‘Beastfolk,’ which is to say a generic term for a scary thing from the forest. But Beasts are named after Beastfolk, and Beastfolk, again, named themselves. The Beastfolk formed a coalition, made a common language, and then shared that language amongst themselves, developing the term bhehst which evolved over time to Beast, and when they needed a term to describe the coalition, Beastfolk was the result.

Common did not impose this name on them, it learned it from them.

Consider the word ‘Goblin’, a word from the Goblins, is notable because the way the word is used and structured, in language, it’s a possessive. Whose land is this? Goblin. Where are we? Goblin. Who are you? Goblin. What are your people? Goblin. This incredibly flexible term, with its overwhelming ubiquity, also plays into the way goblins are perceived as speaking a strange and confusing language. It’s more that they have multi-purpose words are build their language on trust and social intuition. This is why Goblins will often drop a conversation exactly when they know you’re getting frustrated, because they can tell you don’t actually care and need time to process what they said.

In Cobrin’seil, heritage names are largely entirely self-chosen demonyms. Oh sure, there are names for Orcs that Orcs don’t use, but those words are largely considered slurs, or are often inexact – Bugbears, Hobgoblins, Goblins and Orcs were all for a time treated as the same culture and named interchangeably by outsiders who did not interact with them (which means some of these ideas remain codified by the Eresh Protectorate and Dal Raeda histories). A proper cladistic chart can rejoice in how interesting it is that yes, Bugbears and Hobgoblins are extremely closely related, and yet Hobgoblins and Goblins are so distant as to be functionally alien to one another. Humans are closely related to Hobgoblins, but not to Goblins, and Orcs, while closely related to Humans, are extremely different to Hobgoblins, such that they don’t even recognise one another’s common cause.

And if you think Humans are racist against Orcs, you should hear what Hobgoblins think of them sometime.

But what is an Orc? Not culturally – linguistically, what is an Orc?

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