Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Heralds and Heraldry

Names And Titles

The following appeared in a letter from Mistress Saerlaith l'Estrangere, Rampart Herald, in the February 20 Letter of Presentation to the Outlands College of Heralds. I reprint it here with her kind permission.

Pronunciation Of Names

The point where most members of the Society interact with heralds is not when they submit their proposed device; most people only do that once. It's when a herald calls their name ... on the field, in court, or wherever. This is the point when a herald can create a good working relationship with his fellow members of the Society, or can create antipathy which will last for years, against heralds which neither of you have ever met.

A field or court herald might have to pronounce the names of 200 different people in 15 different languages, all in one afternoon. Very often, you'll have never met some of them (or any of them) before. Having a photographic memory and a talent for linguistics is a big help, but what if you haven't got one?

In Court: This is actually the easy one. There won't be very many names, and you'll usually have time to prepare in advance.

  1. Look over all the scrolls before court begins. If you can't pronounce the name, or can't read the calligraphy, better to find out now. Ask the King or Queen what the names are. If you aren't sure you'll remember, write it on a 3x5 card and paperclip it to the scroll. (Always have spare cards and clips.) Even if you think you'll remember, write it down anyway ... your mind will always go blank at the worst possible moment. Write the name the way it sounds to you, not the way it's really spelled.
  2. The Crown or Baron/ess may want you to call up an officer or autocrat. Make sure you write their names down, too. It would be embarrassing to forget the autocrat's name, especially when you're speaking for the Crown.

On The Field: This can be tougher than court because of the large number of people and limited prep time, but the informal circumstances can work in your favor.

  1. As soon as you get the lists cards, look them over, right there at the lists table. If you're uncertain about the handwriting or spelling, ask the lists officer right then. The lists folks are less likely to know pronunciations (they just copied the name off the sign-up list), but it's worth asking.
  2. When you get out on the field, call the order of combat using everyone's full name, then say: "If I've mispronounced anyone's name, please correct me before the tournament begins." If you're still uncertain about anyone when the combattants take the field, go up and ask them directly. Listen carefully, and ask them to repeat it if necessary, then write down what it sounds like, just above the name on the card. Repeat it back to them, for practice and approval. Even if you end up butchering the name, the person will be glad that you cared enough to try.
  3. If you're not the first herald on the field, stay close by and listen to the first herald's pronunciations. (The herald of the first round should be the most experienced field herald available, or the one that knows the most names in the tourney.) 'Running cards' will help you associate the pronunciations with the spelling on the card, so you'll be ready when your turn comes to herald a round.
  4. Small tournaments are a good time to talk with each fighter about their name, and if you muck it up the first few times, most folks won't mind much if you're honestly trying your best. Also, many small tourneys are very informal, and everyone will prefer first names or nicknames only. You can 'get the hang' of heralding on the field with very little pressure.
  5. Many people regard field heralding as a fun way to kill time at a tournament, and it is. It's also an obligation, though, because the moment you step on the field, you are representing the Crown, even at a local event. Take pride in doing it right!
    A Note On Titles: One at a time, folks. Generally, you should announce each person by their highest ranking title; if they prefer one of their others, they should let you know. Sometimes people sign up for tourneys without stating their title of preference; this is their problem. Try to encourage fighters in your area to tell the lists officer their title; they shouldn't require you to fill it in by memory, or be offended if you don't. If a person has several titles, they should pick one: Sir, or Master, or Duke, or Baron; never MasterSir, or BaronSir, or DukeMaster, etc. In some kingdoms this is common; that doesn't mean it's good.

[Here ends the excerpt from Mistress Saerlaith's letter.]



Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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