Archives for August 2006

Smallbold vacuums the cat

I have just spent an hour or two going into the etymology of the name Håkar, given to two characters in the Octopus, one ancient and heroic, one modern and rather ambivalent. It is of course a Palandine name, which accounts for the diacritic, but despite the pronunciation and the obvious shortened form, it has nothing to do with the word hawk.

Orthodox theory derives it from *há-kári, meaning the wind in a high place. Indeed Håkar the Red was partly descended from the mountain-dwelling Ascoli; the trouble is that of his ancestors, they were not the ones that spoke Old Palandine.

B. R. Smallbold, who occasionally drops in to rub my lack of erudition in my face, came to my relief by explaining his own theory; and Smallbold being Smallbold, I am inclined to back him against a whole team of orthodoxen. He says it comes from the dialect of Ulfmark, Old Pyrandine with a strong Palandine overlay, and was originally Hákaru, meaning ‘towering sorrow’ or, alternatively, ‘the cares of a ruler’. Both meanings suit his history tragically well. But he was not content with that. He delved deep into the history of Ulfmark, pulling dusty volumes from untidy shelves, talking about historical periods with queer names like ‘the Grace of Tonúr’, and reading bits of incomprehensibly archaic poetry at me. The upshot is that while Håkar has indeed nothing to do with hawk, people have been linking the two with puns for a thousand years. By the time he had explained all this to me, and then disappeared in his customary way, my evening’s work was rather thoroughly spoilt.

It is very strange when one’s characters volunteer to help one avoid writing about them.