Friday, 2 January 2015

Of Elfos Oscuros and Ogerkonigreiche (and not knowing how to input umlauts in blogger)

The German and Spanish language websites for Games Workshop are an excellent source for spurring your imagination. Say the words "Dark Elves" and you immediately think of, well, a Warhammer/D&D/Peter Jackson style elf but a bit nasty and emo. "Elfos Oscuros" makes you think of something else entirely - to an English speaker it sounds more like obscure elves, which means elves who are even more alien and otherworldly than the normal kind: maybe they only ever answer a question with another question, or speak in blank verse, or constantly refer to barely-known singer-songwriters who you've never heard of and only get played on BBC Radio 6. Or maybe they are so obscure you never even see or hear them, just their effects.

The German for "Dark Elves", though, is altogether the opposite: Dunkelelfen. Can you get a name that is more evocative of the pseudo-Nordic origins of elves and dark elves than that? It conjurs up and image of mean-spirited bogeymen living under the earth who come out at night to play tricks on unsuspecting housewives. Way more interesting than poor-man's-Noldor-but-with-spiders.

Then there's "Ogre Kingdoms", which in English is pretty banal stuff but in German is transformed into the highly evocative (to English speakers) Ogerkonigreiche - a word that conjurs images in my mind of Prussia in the era of the 7 years' war, except Frederick the Great is a fucking Ogre. In a black uniform and an uhlan's helmet. Which is, when you think about it, way more Warhammer than what the actual Ogre Kingdoms are.

(From the same army list comes my absolute favourite: what in English is the uninspired "Stonehorn", a sort of cross between a woolly mammoth, stag, and bantha, is rendered in German "Steinyak". Now that is a monster name and surely a fitting steed for Frederick the Gross. In French it's "Mastauroc" - which can only possibly be a cross between a mastadon and a roc. You can't get better than that.... Oh no wait, you can: from the Chaos Warrior list comes the English "Slaughterbrute", the infinitely classier French "Carnabrute", and the immortal German "Schlacterbestie". Yes, Schlacterbestie. A sort of four-legged monstrosity in a kilt and sporran, swilling Famous Grouse and stuffing its face with haggis.)

It should probably be the law that if you're going to have a Bretonnian army ("Bretonnie") they should use the French names. "Chevaliers du Graal", "Le Chevalier de Sinople", "Hommes d'Armes Bretonniens".... I could go on. If you're going to have a Das Imperium army, you really should populate it with "Demigreifen-Ritter des Imperiums" (demigryph knights) and "Bihandkampfer" (greatswords). Which leaves us with dwarves, who are most logically from Norway - but unfortunately it seems Norwegians are so good at English the Games Workshop site doesn't offer Norwegian translations. Fucking Scandinavians.


  1. Man, I gotta re-dig out that Polish edition of Warhammer 2e...

  2. Replies
    1. Don't thank me. Thank those wonderful fellows at Games Workshop.

  3. You do realize, I hope, that you don't need Games Workshop if you want to get the effect you're looking for, in Norwegian or any other language., or any similar service, can be a wonderful source of alternate/exotic versions of words and phrases that may feel overused if left in English.