Five primary languages are spoken across the Flanaess, with Common the most prevalent. Most folk are multilingual, though barbarians and the uneducated often speak but one tongue. Adventurers always know Common and learn additional languages in the usual manner.
Baklunish, Ancient: An ancestor of Common, Baklunish bears its offspring little resemblance. Many colloquial Baklunish dialects (some used by the Paynims) are based upon the classical language and collectively called Low Baklunish. Ancient Baklunish, however, is the standard literary form of the language and is used in religion, mythology, and poetry. It is also the language of all official documents and courtly proceedings west of the Yatils. Despite this, Common is widely known and used in the west, especially by traders and the educated.
Common: A combination of Ancient Baklunish and the dialect of Old Oeridian spoken in the Great Kingdom was the basis of this traders’ tongue. Beginning centuries ago as Middle-Common, the language contained many obviously Oeridian elements, and the contributions of Baklunish grammatical structure and vocabulary are clearly identifiable. Regional variations were also pronounced, but all these elements became blended and standardized during the years of Aerdi dominance, resulting in the birth of the Overking’s Common Tongue, later simply called Common. Any traveler must learn Common or be greatly handicapped. Very often, a language must be translated into Common before it can be translated into another language.
Flan: Doubtless the oldest language still spoken to any considerable extent, Flan is used by the Tenha in a corrupt form, and Rovers of the Barrens have a strange version of it. A stagnant language, it is hard to translate modern concepts (such as magic terms) into Flan.
Oeridian, Old: A young language, Oeridian took in few outside influences until a few centuries ago. As a result, translation into any language except Common is difficult at best. Many books and documents of the Great Kingdom were written in Old Oeridian, and in the far east the language is still widely known and used in speech and writing.
Suloise, Ancient: This ancient and widespread language became all but extinct after the Rain of Colorless Fire destroyed the Suel Imperium. Today it is rarely spoken, even by the few scholars who know the tongue. The infamous Scarlet Brotherhood are one of few that continue its use. It exists in its written state for those who would delve into the surviving arcane tomes of the Suel people. Transliteration into modern tongues or alphabets is difficult, and dangerous when used in spellcasting, for the significance of certain inflections has been lost over the centuries.
Dialects and sublanguages worthy of note follow. Those who speak related languages have some chance to understand dialects, but little chance to comprehend distorted, mixed tongues.
Amedi: Only Suel natives of the Amedio Jungle speak this corrupt form of Ancient Suloise. Its few written symbols are Suloise alphabet characters.
Cold Tongue: This dialect, also known as Fruz, is Ancient Suloise with Flan admixture, spoken by Ice, Snow and Frost Barbarians. It has no relation to Common, and even speakers of Suloise find it difficult to understand.
Druidic: The druids’ tongue of the Flanaess shares roots with Flan, but it is specialized and static, focusing only on the natural world and agriculture.
Ferral: Ferral is an old Oeridian tribal language spoken only by officials of the Iron League. Ferral is used for military command and identification purposes and is not a living language. Many fear that infiltration by agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood has compromised this code-tongue, but a magic-laced version is being developed in Irongate.
Keolandish: This widespread dialect of Old High Oeridian has local admixtures. It is spoken in and around Keoland.
Lendorian: This obscure dialect of Suloise (influenced by Common and full of nautical terms) was spoken in the Lendore Isles by humans before they were deported by elves in 583 CY. Only human refugees know it now. It has no relation to the Cold Tongue and is not written.
Lendorian Elven: A peculiar new tongue that only high and aquatic elves of the Lendore Isles know, this might be a divinely inspired language. It is thick with religious and philosophical terms, and it cannot be learned in the normal manner. It seems to appear in the minds of elves who go to the Lendore Isles.
Nyrondese: This High Oeridian dialect of Common is spoken in rural areas of Nyrond. It is the primary language of peasants, shopkeepers, and other common folk who distrust outsiders. Learned folk speak Common as well.
Olman: Olman slaves taken by the Sea Princes or Scarlet Brotherhood speak this strange tongue, as their masters hated it. Its huge, complex “alphabet” is really a vast set of pictographs. It is heard most often in the western Sea Princes’ lands and in the Amedio Jungle.
Ordai: This dialect shared by the Wolf and Tiger Nomads bears some resemblance to Ancient Baklunish, but it is most similar to dialects spoken among the distant Paynims. Its written form is based on Baklunish script.
Rhopan: The language of the Rhennee, Rhopan is also called “Rhennee cant” because it borrows many terms from other languages, including the argot of several thieves’ organizations. It is not related to any Oerthly tongue.
Ulagha: The language of the Uli is a debased form of colloquial Baklunish.
Velondi: This Old Oeridian tribal tongue is known to rural folk near the Furyondy-Veluna border. Those who speak only Common cannot understand it. It has no written form.
Greetings and Farewells
A few local greetings (and some other expressions of note) are listed below, for the use of travelers and the satisfaction of the overly curious.
Cold iron avail you is a common exchange between warriors among the Highfolk and in Furyondy, referring to the efficacy of cold iron against certain undead (among Iuz’s servants).
I spit on the Old One is an almost aggressive greeting, a rejoinder to any question of one’s bravery, among the same folk. It can even be a challenge to the bravery of the one so addressed.
Stone endures and its variants (such as So long as stone endures and stone endures still!), is a greeting and sign of friendship among those allied with Irongate, an acknowledgment of the heroism of the dwarves there and the endurance of their walled city.
’ware and were, friend is a greeting used between, and when meeting, rangers of the Gnarley Forest, who have many friendships with werebears there. When used by an outsider, it shows politeness in that one has taken the trouble to learn something of the rangers’ ways.
Hands in your pockets, eyes on your purse! is a characteristic well-wishing and farewell used in the Free City of Greyhawk. It is a city ruled by thieves, after all.
Are you athought? (i.e., are you thinking?) is a half-challenge or intimidation used by seniors of the Scarlet Brotherhood wishing to put juniors at a disadvantage. True believers should not think. They should just obey orders.
Until the starbreak is a farewell and oath of fidelity used among the barbarians. It has two distinct meanings. The exhalation of breath in the bitter cold causes a frost and tiny cloud of snowflakes to fall, and those falling flakes are referred to as “the breaking of stars.” Hence,
until the starbreak is roughly equivalent to until we talk again. Also, an ancient barbarian religious myth tells that the end of the world begins with the falling of stars from the sky as the heavens break. Hence, until the starbreak also means forever.
May the Axe grow great is an expression used among the exiled Knights of Holy Shielding. It refers to their deity Heironeous, who possesses a magical axe that can shrink and expand in size. The phrase expresses the desire to see good grow great, for the Shield Lands to be reclaimed, and is a general expression of goodwill, an encouragement, and a hope of better times.
Kill your father, eat your mother is an encouragement among the ores of the Pomarj, entreating the listener to evil and notable deeds. It sounds marginally more unpleasant in original orcish. However, if the listener’s parents are both dead, it is a terrible insult, for it implies that the listener is incapable of performing worthwhile acts of evil, and generally leads to a fight to the death.