Daily Dwarf Common

By Ed Greenwood

"Now," Azoun murmured. "Just through here . . ."

He reached back his hand to his queen and drew her forward -- only to fling up his arm like an iron bar to bring her to a sudden, silent halt, raising a finger to his lips and pointing at the wall.

A rough male voice could be heard growling faintly, "A fair fallhammer, that!"

Filfaeril lifted one of her eyebrows in a silent question. Azoun smiled, raised an 'I'll explain this, really I will' finger to forestall any comment she may have made, then cocked his head to listen to whatever else the unseen speaker had to say.

Dwarves have their own proud, ancient tongue, but increasing numbers of the Stout Folk (as a result of dwelling and working with humans and other races on the surface of Faerûn) speak Common daily.

Here follow a few handy linguistic notes on "Dwarf Common" (that is, sayings and coined words often uttered by dwarves when speaking Common).

A little down! (originally accompanied by letting a sparse handful of sand or gravel fall from one's palm) -- means "So it goes!" (Or, to modern, real-world speakers, a variant on "That's the way the cookie crumbles!")

A fair fallhammer! -- something satisfyingly good, such as a meal, a brawl, a decision, or victorious confrontation.

Curlbeard -- something bitter or disgusting in taste or smell, or something nauseating.

Darrown (pronounced "darr-OW-nn") -- noble, superb, supremely dwarf-like and praiseworthy (even an act or the speech of a non-dwarf, such as an elf risking his life to save a dwarf in battle).

Galakkur -- applied to anything messy, untidy, or sloppy. It's derived from the name of a legendary dwarf who did everything fast but in slapdash manner, heedless of even obvious consequences. The real Galakkur lived some eight centuries ago. Tavern-tales give him various, improbably sticky ends. His misdeeds have been greatly exaggerated since by the addition of many invented tales of his life and doings.

Goldnose -- haughty (behavior called "highnose" by any human in the Realms not a member of, or trying to pretend membership in, the upper classes). Dwarves find such behavior contemptible in elves and amusingly silly when practiced by humans.

Ho! That one had teeth in it! -- used in commentary on anything large and uncomfortable such as a belch, breaking wind, a blow to the head, or a fall.

Mardarl -- an effort to hide something, either physically or by withholding information (or twisting a conversation onto another topic, right now). An example would be a false name, particularly when used to conceal gender (for instance, a female dwarf using a name such as Brokh or Garlfang to make non-dwarves think they're dealing with a male).

Ogurkh (pronounced "OH-gurk") -- something unbelievable, insane, monumentally stupid, or the result of crazed, dunderheaded, or scarcely-to-be-believed actions. "Blazing proper ogurkh" is an exasperated dwarf's straining-to-stay-polite comment on something that really upsets or irks him. "Burns me ogurkh" is the dwarven equivalent of "sticks in my craw."

Paerth (pronounced "PAIR-urth") -- the disgusted equivalent of balderdash, piffle, not bloody likely, or fat chance!

Shards! -- a gentle oath derived from the loss of a gemstone or good building-stone that breaks into fragments. It's the equivalent of a real-world speaker saying, "darn it all!" or a similarly mild expletive.

Sprendle -- a trick, prank, or deliberate misdirection, especially if lighthearted and harmless or meant to prevent a confrontation.

Tarunter (sometimes "a proper tarunter") -- a word to describe anything pretentious or fussy (such as elven dancing and most human festival celebrations or "goldnose" etiquette). Dwarves never apply this word to religious customs, dress, or rituals, even of a human faith they barely understand or that seems fussy at first glance.

Unbearded -- foolish talk or deeds (an "unbearded one" is a fool, "full-unbearded" is a mad dwarf). Dwarves never apply this word to non-dwarves (because, as the old dwarf joke goes, all non-dwarves can safely be assumed to be fools until proven otherwise, and such proof appears for only a handful of individuals once or twice a century). Something that's "fair unbearded" is reckless or dangerous.

Vellamorn -- treasure, valuables, hidden wealth. Originally a silly euphemism for gold used in dwarf rhymes and jests (derived from the name of a fictitious dwarf maiden in a ballad who wore only gowns made of linked gold coins). This has become a code-word for dwarves wanting to discuss (for example) gold coins without saying "gold coins" where others might overhear.

So Azoun and Filfaeril, still in the tavern that's much more than a tavern, are eavesdropping on a dwarf. Our next column will reveal what happens to them next -- and more.

© 2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.