How about a d30 table of mistranslations of dwarven proverbs?
What is it with you d30 people? It’s an ugly die. I don’t like the d10 either, since it’s not a real Pythagorean solid. It’s cheating, I tell you!
Notes on the table below: As you can see, humans mistrust dwarves. They half expect them to take their women and eat their children as soon as the men turn their backs.
Some of the mistranslations or misunderstandings have lead to tragic results. General Border, for instance, is a sort of General Custer figure who couldn’t be bothered to hire a good translator when he marched on the Foggy Mountains.
Some of this also stems from the early translations of Dwarven literature and colloquialisms, which were done by shy monks of the north. Dwarves were, at the time, a virile race with a ribald tongue.
In the end, even as dwarves decline, the symbiosis between the two races (the exchange of meat and ale for steel) rules the day. In places where the two races interact, these stereotypes are not taken so seriously and are in fact fodder for jokes between the two races.
|Proper Translation of Dwarfish Proverb||Mistaken Translation or Interpretation Commonly Repeated Amongst Men|
|1||God’s Balls! [an oath]||God’s Beard!|
|2||The most beautiful dwarfess is the one with [this dwarf’s] beard tickling her face.||A dwarfess is most beautiful when she has a beard on her face. [Leading to the common human belief about Dwarfesses and facial hair.]|
|3||Don’t make deals with sheepf—-rs.||Never negotiate with humans. [This mistranslation comes from an early nickname dwarfs had for humans. This has also lead many to believe that dwarfs cannot be negotiated with.]|
|4||The worst day comes from elfish breakfast, human work, hobbit song and orcish supper. Followed by any of their sexual practices. [Note: the words for meals, such as supper and breakfast imply heavy drinking of ale as well.]||I wouldn’t eat with an elf, work for a human, sing with a hobbit, or dine with an orc–unless they did me sexual favors.|
|5||The best day comes from hobbit breakfast, dwarfish work, dwarven song and hobbit supper. Screw the tall folk. [Note: the words for meals, such as supper and breakfast imply heavy drinking of ale as well.]||The best way to live is to eat hobbits, work hard and screw the other races.|
|6||A sharp axe can only come from a strong hammer.||You can make an axe by hitting a hammer hard enough.|
|7||A penny saved is still only a damn penny.||A dwarfess can be bought with a penny found on the road. [This one was probably intentional and malicious.]|
|8||If you dig under a small hill, you will find small gold. And worms.||Small hills hide golden worms.|
|9||If a dragon dares take your gold, every last dwarf has a duty to kill him.||We dare any dragon to try to kill us and take our gold. [Very tragic, this one.]|
|10||The sun neither rises nor sets on our halls. We care not for the clocks of humans.||The sun neither rises nor sets on our halls. We care nothing of the fates of mankind.|
|11||We are not the fathers of the burnt men of the earth’s skin, but we are their elder brothers.||We burned the fathers of the men until their skins crisped. We shall burn that brotherhood again.|
|12||A dwarf cannot measure his day except by the cups of sweat from his brow.||No mistranslation, but it many accept as fact that dwarfs save and measure their sweat, perhaps mixing it with ale. Thus the human terms ‘sweatybeards’ and ‘sweatdrinkers’.|
|13||Every man must dig his own tunnel. [Meaning: in life.]||According to his last journal entry, General Border took this to mean that dwarves do not band together during adversity, but dig a tunnel to escape.|
|14||To move the earth, work hard and work near its center. [Those who work under the earth–dwarves–make a bigger impact.]||To move the earth, dig toward the center. [Misinterpretation: We are going to dig until we reach the center of the earth.]|
|15||Bats, moths and blind fish have learned to live under mountains as you have. [All are revered or worshipped, although sometimes eaten or sacrificed as well].||A human saying goes: Dwarves are stuck under the mountains with only bats, moths and blind fish to eat. [Without us, they would have no meat.]|
|16||Gold so pure it shines in the dark. [Meaning something is profound or very pure.]||Rumors of dwarven ‘dark gold’ abound.|
|17||With long legs come good, red meat. [Meaning: We must remember that humans play an important role in our lives–they raise cattle.]||Belief that dwarves have a taste for human flesh.|
|18||A clear nose smells all farts. [Warning against clearing a nostril in another’s presence, which is a sign of condescension and pride.]||Clear your nose so that you may better smell our farts.|
|19||Don’t tell any tall folk about mithril. [Meaning don’t tell younger races what they don’t have the wisdom to handle.]||Widespread belief that under every rainbow is a dwarf with a shield of pure mithril.|
|20||Elves came from outside this world [meaning: planet or plane].||Elves came to visit our ancestors from outside this world [mistaken meaning: underground]. Recent scholarship shows that this was never a proverb, but was meant to be taken literally. Nonetheless, modern dwarves believe the same misinterpretation humans do.|
|21||When an elf screws an orc? A human.||An unkind comment on general appearances has been misinterpreted by those with esoteric beliefs regarding the origins of humanity.|
|22||Elf Balls! [an oath meaning useless]||Elf Beard! This is also a dwarven oath meaning something that cannot exist. This is substituted by prudish translators.|
|23||A hobbit tunnel to a dwarven hall. [Making a grand result with plain materials.]||A hobbit tunnel to a dwarven hall. [Making a big deal out of something trivial. Also convinces some that the two races are in cahoots.]|
|24||Grass won’t grow in the dark. [Meaning human customs don’t make sense below.]||Lead to the belief that dwarves have no body hair under their kilts.|
|25||Brandishing a rapier in a mine. [Wasting time doing something the fancy way such as using a pointy weapon in the dark when a slashing weapon would do.]||Brandishing a rapier in a mine. [This is a good weapon underground. General Border also believed this.]|
|26||Teats of the Earth. [A metaphor for mountains.]||Humans believe this refers to a specific mountain range full of precious gold and mithril that the dwarves refuse to tell anyone about.|
|27||A tunnel filled in. [The past is left in the past. Meaning something is forgiven if not forgotten.]||A tunnel filled in. [Meaning revenge has been taken and the bodies hidden.]|
|28||To f— a human. [Meaning to achieve something impressive.]||Humans have known all along that these little perverts are after their women.|
|29||A human brother. [A human little person. Often welcomed among dwarves.]||Humans of this time and setting believe that small adult humans come from #28. The usual medieval prejudice applies.|
|30||To serve man. [In this age of dwarven decline, some believe that helping the younger races get on their feet is their calling.]||To serve man. [For dinner]|