Word Power

dennis grace amazing at mail.utexas.edu
Wed Oct 23 22:50:38 PDT 1996

Greetings Cousins, 

Lyonel here.  In a recent posting, Daniel de Lincoln delineated and
critiqued my previous explanation as follows:

>A> SCA heralds control words.
>B> Look at Daniel de Lincoln's postings on
> > the matter of names using the words Devil or Hell, for example, or
> > his latest posting of Master Talan's response.
>C> We in the SCA cannot use the names we select without heraldic
> > approval.
>D> This approval,
>  > quite simply, represents linguistic authority and requires a certain
>  > linguistic facility.
>I believe the reasoning shown above does not support "A".  "A" is
>about words, and B and C are about names.  Onomastics and linguistics
>are separate fields.  Related, yes, in that some tools might be useful
>in both (I suppose, having no great knowledge of either).  Knowledge
>of linguistics might help the study of onomastics, since all names are
>words ... but most words are not names.

Correct in your final statement but essentially an over-reading of A.  I
never said heralds control all words, nor even most words. I said heralds
control words.  Names are words.  I was correct.  Granted, I could have
specified that "Heralds control a class of words," but why would I try to
label heralds linguistics experts.  I know better.  I was on the commenting
heralds list for a time, and I've never seen a more ludicrous collection of
quasi-linguistic jibberish in all my life.  I would also insist that a
knowledge of linguistics is essential to (Daniel said "might help")
effective onomastics.  See statement D above.  

>I don't see where expertise in onomastics would help much in
>linguistics.  How would knowledge of name stocks, use of patronymics,
>use of inheritable surnames, new forms of construction, existing forms
>of construction, or many of the other topics important to the
>onomastician help in learning linguistics?

You got me there, Daniel.  I agree, but whom are you addressing?  I know
this paragraph has nothing to do with anything I said in A, B, C, or D
above.  I never said expertise in onomastics would offer help in
linguistics; quite the opposite (see D).  What I meant to say (and yes, I
could have been more specific) is that heralds--in claiming authority over
SCA onomastics--represent a linguistic force within the SCA.  As you noted,
Daniel, all names are words.  Onomastics, therefore, is a subset of
linguistics.  Thus, onomastic authority is a class of linguistic authority.  

>For authorities on words, I would think rhetoricians, grammarians,
>philosophers, and poets would have far stronger claims to the titles
>than heralds.

As a rhetoric teacher, writer, poet, grammarian, and arm-chair philosopher,
I concur here as well.  Onomasticians, even self-proclaimed bush-league
onomasticians, are another class of word authority.  I study several
languages, but I can't read Japanese.  If I want a Japanese translation, I
find someone who reads Japanese and speaks English.  I'm no onomastician--I
defer to the heralds in the SCA when I need assistance in determining the
appropriateness of a name.  In other words, in many cases, I defer to the
appropriate word authority when dealing with classes of linguistics beyond
my scope.

>As a side note, C is false in general; people can use names without
>heraldic approval.  Many people go about with unregistered or returned
>names.  There is no heraldry police, either for names or armory.
>There was recent discussion of this on the SCA Heralds' mailing list.
>A few older heralds said that there once was such authority exercised
>in some places.  A few heralds said that it ought to be so; most
>(OK, for *branches*, name and arms registration are required.  Even
>that's a more long-term force; some groups will, for various reasons,
>go for years with unregistered names and armory.)

"False in general" (as your parenthetical aside demonstrates) doesn't mean
false in particulars.  Talk to the folk of what would be Gnome Vale if you
think heralds don't exert a form of authority in such situations.  I have
seen Crowns who would not give AoA's to people who did not have their names
and devices registered; I have heard tsks of disapproval in peers circles
because a candidate hadn't yet registered his name and device.  When the
Northern Crown Lands of Atenveldt were becoming a the Principality of
Artemisia, we were threatened with delays if we didn't get a name and arms

>In short, even if I were an onomastics expert -- and I'm far from that
>-- I would refuse the mantle of "word expert".

Modesty?  From a herald?  Refuse what you will, Daniel.  Your postings here
to this list have demonstrated a fearless facility with onomastics that, to
most of us, represents a degree of expertise above the norm.  With power, as
my wife's original posting on this matter claimed, comes responsibility.
Until Daniel de Lincoln riposte, I remain

Yours in eService

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace

Dennis G. Grace
Postmodern Medievalist
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
Department of English
University of Texas at Austin
amazing at mail.utexas.edu

Baro, metetz en guatge                    |  Lords, pawn your castles,
Chastels e vilas e ciutatz                |  your towns and cities.
Enanz qu'usquecs no'us guerreiatz         |  Before you're beat to the draw,
                                                    draw your swords.

                   -- Bertran de Born (a really fun Viscount)

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