Player Character Race: Gresh

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Like this guy, but without the tail and the wings.

I grew up in Japan, and I speak a fair bit of the language, so I wracked my brain and did some research while I was naming these guys, trying to think of something I could use or adapt from Japanese legends. The problem is that nothing sounds right.

The obvious thing to name them is Ryujin, which literally means “dragon-people” But the “ryu” sound is pretty tough for English-speakers to say. There’s this flippy thing that happens with your tongue, which takes practice. “Tatsujin” would be equally appropriate, but again, the “tsu” sound is tough.

There are plenty of things I could name them that are NOT hard to say, but just don’t sound right. Although we don’t often think about it, languages are often limited to a small number of familiar syllables. Most people and places in Felmoor have names that should be pretty memorable for westerners, because the syllables and rhythms combine in familiar ways. I think you start to have problems if you carelessly disrupt that familiarity.

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Kumawani was exactly 33% more awesome than this.

But then again, maybe I’M the problem. See, the temptation in English is to inject an accent somewhere in the word. Kumawani, for example. (Kuma, means bear, or strong. Wani can mean shark, or alligator. Oddly enough, there is a legend about an ocean dragon named Kumawani, so I guess he was a bear-shark-dragon, which is a whole lot of awesome.) An English speaker sees the word on the paper, and reads it as “KOOmuhWAni.” There’s a natural tendency to read it as syllable pairs, either as iambs or trochees. Japanese doesn’t do accents in the same way that English does, it’s much flatter. When I see “kumawani” my brain goes into Japanese mode. I hear 4 unaccented consonant-vowel pairs: “Ku ma wa ni.” The dissonance would bug me, but it wouldn’t necessarily bug anyone else.

I ended up with “Gresh.” It’s short, it’s English-speaker friendly, it’s a little bit growly, and a little bit hissy. Problem solved!

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