The Crown Province’s Shibbøleðr

Newcomers and neighbors of the Crown Province inevitably run into a tricky question: how do you pronounce Østgarðr?

There are (at least) three potential pitfalls packed into this one word, and even many long-time residents habitually get one or two of them wrong.

Caveat: Please note that I am not an linguist, nor an expert in Old Norse; the below is merely my amateur understanding of the subject — feel free to comment below if I’ve badly mangled any of this.

The Letter Ø

The stroked O (Ø/ø) is is the trickiest part of the word, as the corresponding sound isn’t common in American English. Phoneticists describe this as a “close-mid front rounded vowel,” meaning that your mouth is positioned as if you were making the sound “eh” but your lips are pursed  or puckered.

If you shape your lips like you were going to make the vowel sound in “two,” but then actually voice the vowel sound in “egg,” you’re in the right ballpark. If you’ve learned French, this is the vowel sound at the end of “bleu;” in German it’s written as ö in words like “schön.”

The Letter Ð

The letter Eth (Ð/ð) was used in northwest Europe during the medieval period for one of the sounds that we now write as “th,” which phoneticists call a “voiced dental fricative.”

If you can resist the temptation to read this as a letter D, it’s easy to pronounce because it’s reasonably common in English: think of the sound at the end of “smooth” or “breathe.”

(By contrast, the word “math” or the name “Garth” both end with the softer “voiceless dental fricative,” which medieval folks wrote as Þ rather than ð; if you gently rest your fingertips on your throat you can feel your vocal cords remain still when you say “math” but vibrate when you say the final sound in “smooth” — you want those vibrations when you make the sound at the end of Østgarðr.)

The Trailing R

Trailing Rs are a common feature of many Old Norse words because it is the nominative suffix for masculine nouns.

English doesn’t have nominative suffixes, but you can think of them as parallel to the way we use the genitive suffix ’s to show possession — in English, we would write “Ty drinks” (nominative unmarked) and “Ty’s cup” (genitive ’s marker) while in Old Norse we’d write “Tyr drekka” (nominative -r marker) and “Tys skál” (genitive -s marker).

The precise sound used for this purpose changed over the centuries and across the thousand-mile expanse of Old Norse speakers. Earlier speakers might have pronounced it as a “zh” sound (ʒ, a “voiced palato-alveolar fricative“), which transitioned into a soft “r” sound. In normal speech, for a word like Miklagarðr (the Old Norse name for Constantinople), the trailing r would likly have been softened into a nearly-imperceptible sound or dropped altogether. In the centuries after the Viking Era, as Old Norse evolved into modern languages (and loan words were incorporated into other languages such as English) the sound they each used diverged, becoming variously silent, or a schwa (“soft grunt”), or a harder “ur” sound.

Because we’re typically saying or writing the Province’s name in English, a good argument could be made that we should lean towards making the trailing r silent because it doesn’t play a meaningful role in English grammar.

Putting It Together

So, given all that, how should we pronounce Østgarðr?

The good news is that there are no language police, and nobody is going to throw you out of a Society event because you say the name differently than they do.

But if you want to make the extra effort to pronounce the name in a way that might be more medievally authentic, you can be on the lookout for pitfalls around the three trouble spots referenced above:

  • The Ø is not a “oo” sound — “Øst-” sounds closer to “best” or “bust” rather than “boost.”
  • The ð is a “th” sound —”-garð-” is somewhere between “garth” and “guard.”
  • The final r is silent, or very nearly so — “-garðr” might sound like “garth,” or maybe a little like “gartha,” but definitely not “garth-ur.”

In all honesty, I’m terrible at making unfamiliar sounds, and my Old Norse accent is horrible, but for what it’s worth, here’s the way I typically say the province’s name:

(Update: Thanks to Þorfinn Hróðgeirsson for pointing out an error in my description of the Norse eth. And thanks to Zahra de Andaluzia for helping with examples of the Ø and trailing r.)

A Winter’s Worth of Traceable Art

The seasons are starting to turn here and I figured that was as good reason as any to review the changes that’ve been made to the Traceable Heraldic Art collection over the last three months, including over two hundred and sixty new entries.

Eighty of those new images are drawn from Joakim Spuller’s WappenWiki collection, for which he has my continuing thanks. My appreciation also goes out to returning artists Volusia Zoe, Aurora Faw, and Lily Morgaine, as well as first-time contributor Tancorix inigena Bivaidonas — welcome to the team!

Other images in this update were drawn from period manuscripts, including for the first time Jean Faucket’s Commonplace Book of Heraldry, Des Kaiserlichen Kammergerichts zu Speier Kammerrichter, Wapenboek van Gent, and Queens College MS 72. My thanks to Iago ab Adam for continuing to bring new sources such as these to the attention of our community.

Additions since the last announcement are listed below, with parenthetical labels for new entries or multiple related illustrations.

  • Fields: Kürsch (2); Masculy; Vair Counter-vair
  • Divisions: Chapé; Chapé Ployé; Checky of 4; Gyronny of 14; Lozengy; Masculy (3); Paly Bendy; Paly Bendy Sinister; Per Bend Raguly; Per Chevron Throughout; Per Chevron Throughout Ployé (new); Per Fess Embattled; Per Fess Embattled Ghibelline (new); Per Pale Per Bend and Per Bend (new)
  • Ordinaries: Bars Dancetty; Bars Enarched (new, 2); Bars Gemel; Base and Pale Conjoined (new); Bend; Bend Compony; Bend Dancetty; Bend Embattled; Bend Fusilly; Bendlets; Bendlets Cotised (new, 2); Bendlets Fimbriated (2); Bend Masculy (new); Bordure Compony (2); Chevronels, Chevronels Gemel (new, 2); Chapé Ployé And A Chief (new); Cross Engrailed; Cross Formy Throughout (new, 2); Cross Raguly; Cross Interlaced with an Annulet (new); Fess Counter-compony; Fess Doubly Cotised (new); Fess Raguly (2); Pall; Pall Voided (new); Piles Inverted Palewise; Saltire Compony; Saltire Engrailed
  • Shapes & Symbols: Cross Couped and Pierced (new); Cross Crosslet (2); Cross Énchancré (new, 2); Cross Formy; Cross Formy Fitchy at All Ends (new); Cross Formy Voided (new); Cross Of Santiago; Cross Swallowtailed; Cross Swallowtailed Voided (new); Cross of Four Lozenges; Ermine Spot (2); Heart Voided (new); Mandorla (new); Masculyn; Octagon Voided (new); Patriarchal Cross; Saltorel Engrailed (new); Tau Cross; Three Vires; Triangle Inverted Voided Bottony (new)
  • The World & Heavens: Demi-Sun Issuant from Dexter Chief (new); Rock Face; Rock Issuant from Base (new)
  • Plants: Acorns Issuant from a Trimount (new); Angemme (new, 2); Ash Keys; Chaplet of Roses; Cinquefoil (2); Firewood (new); Fleur de Lys Fracted Palewise (new); Garb of Wheat; Ginkgo Leaves Conjoined in Pall (new); Hurst of Trees Couped; Linden Leaf Issuant from a Ragged Staff (new); Linden Tree Eradicated; Maple Leaf; Nopal Cactus (new); Oak Leaf; Oak Tree Fructed and Eradicated; Per Chevron Two Linden Leaves Issuant from the Line (new); Pine Tree; Quatrefoil Slipped (new); Sprig; Sprig of Maple Leaves (new); Stemless Trefoil (new); Trillium
  • Fishes: Chabot; Eel; Fish Skeleton Haurient (new); Nautilus (new, 2)
  • Reptiles: Basilisk; Caldera Gringolada; Crocodile Statant; Dragon; Frog; Serpent Erect
  • Birds: Bird’s Jambe Conjoined to a Wing (new, 2); Crane with Wings Addorsed (2); Eagle; Wing (2)
  • Beasts: Badger Passant (new); Bear Statant Erect (2); Bear’s Head Couped; Beaver Statant; Bison Statant (new); Boreyne Passant (new); Bull Statant Head Lowered (new); Bull’s Horn (new); Caretyne Passant (new); Chatloup Rampant (new); Dog Courant (2); Fox Rampant; Lion; Lion Collared and Chained (new); Lion Passant Guardant (2); Lion with Paw Upturned (new); Lion’s Head Erased (2); Ram Couchant (new); Stag’s Attire (3); Stag’s Head Cabossed; Stag’s Head Erased Affronty; Stag’s Massacre; Wolf Passant; Wolf Passant Ravishing a Lamb (new); Wolf Rampant; Wolf Sejant Affronty (new); Wolf’s Head Cabossed; Wolf’s Head Erased Affronty
  • People: Harpy Displayed (new); Manticore Rampant (new)
  • Food: Amphora; Bread Basket (new); Cheese Grater (new, 2); Covered Cup; Drinking Horn; Footed Pot; Gridiron; Knife; Pie (new); Pretzel (new)
  • Clothes: Buckle (2); Comb; Glove; Imperial Crown; Jester’s Cap; Jew’s Hat; Maunch (2); Mitre; Scarf Tied in Annulo; Slovene Hat (new); Sugar-loaf Hat (new)
  • Tools: Anvil; Axe; Carpenter’s Square; Ladder; Punner; Staple
  • Buildings: Castle (2); Fireplace (new); Park Pales; Pavilion; Tower (2); Tower Battlements (new); Writing Table (new)
  • Arts and Sciences: Backgammon Board; Crozier; Harp; Mouth Harp (new); Pair of Stilts (2)
  • Farming: Barnacles (2); Collar and Chain (new); Covered Wagon (new); Fer-a-loup; Harrow; Hay House; Pruning Knife; Rake Head; Scythe; Scythe Blade; Turning Cratch; Wagon; Winnowing Basket; Yoke
  • Ships & Fishing: Anchor; Drakkar; Hulk (new); Lymphad with Oars Shipped (2); Rowboat; Trident
  • Military: Arrow; Bow; Breastplate; Caltrop; Cannon Barrel (new); Catapult (new, 2); Fauchard (new, 2); Gauntlet Aversed; Lance; Mortar (new); Pistol (new); Spearhead; War-Scythe (new, 2)
  • Assorted Objects: Candlestick; Money Box (new, 2); Orle Of Chain; Pair of Felloes; Rimless Wheel; Wheel (2)
  • Achievement Elements: Banner and Lance; Grassy Compartment (2)
  • Escutcheon Outlines: Embowed Heater; English Scrollwork (new); Heart Field; Kite Outline; Nguni Shield (new)
  • Diapering: Dot and Cross Diapering (new, 2)