What to Say: Paraphrasing and Giving Directions
Date Written: August, 1986
Last Updated: September, 2017
Author: Hirsch von Henford

Policy Level: Informational
Intended Audience: All Heralds
Abstract: Introduction to the idea of paraphrasing and instructions on how to give directions as a duty herald.


It’s your turn as duty herald! The constable asks you to announce that all autos must be removed from the area immediately, and parked in the parking lot. Your problem is wording the announcement so that the information is given but people are not annoyed by the wording of the announcement. Many people are in the SCA to escape (at least temporarily) from the mundane world. These people can get quite upset if an announcement about something as mundane as automobiles is inserted into their world -- but will get even more upset if the automobiles remain on the field.

Paraphrasing announcements is not necessarily easy. Finding equivalent terms for mundane items in medieval terminology can be simple, like replacing tent for pavilion. Or it can be more complex, like finding an appropriate “period” term for automobile. Often a new herald is told to use his “common sense” in these matters, but sometimes common sense doesn’t provide an answer. If the term automobile is not acceptable, what term is? Well, let’s look at the terms most often substituted at events.

One of these terms is fire-chariot. Summon up this image in your mind. Would you willingly step into a burning chariot? Or put all your tourney gear into one? Another term often heard is dragon. The usual way to get inside a dragon is to be swallowed, which is not a pleasing idea. Besides, they get mad if you keep messing in their trunks. Just because a term is not modern doesn’t mean that it’s the best term to use.

So what substitute would be reasonable? Try chariot, or wain, or wagon. Your revised announcement might become “The Constable requests that all wagons be driven from the field immediately. Please remove them to the area beyond the trees.” A guide for what words to use for announcements may be found in this article What to Say: List of Alternate Wordings for Common Phrases of the Handbook.

Be careful when rewording announcements to make sure that the content is not lost. If you are not sure about it,check it out with the person who asked you to make the announcement, or with a more experienced herald. If you don’t have time, or there isn’t help around, announce the message in plain, formal, modern English, and resolve to do better next time. (The important thing is getting the message out!)

Another problem which arises when making announcements is indicating locations. Pointing and saying “Yonder” is funny, but not really good enough. Telling people that a meeting is occurring on the north side of the eric doesn't work well either. Even if they know which way north is, the directions are not specific enough. If you use compass directions, combine them with other information to help pinpoint the location.

This additional information could be a reference to a well-known pavilion, such as the Royal Pavilion, or County Seat (home of Frederickof Holland). Or it could be a reference to a particularly large or brightly-colored pavilion. For instance: “There will be a meeting of the College of Heralds at County Seat at 9. There will be a meeting of the Constables at the orange yurt on the south edge of the eric at 9:30.” You can also use banners as a point of reference, as in “Entries for the Arts Competition should be brought to the white pavilion on the west side of the Eric. Look for the Arts banner -- a gold harp on purple.” When you are giving directions, try to make them concise enough that they can be followed easily. As always, check the wording with someone if you aren’t sure.And if people seem confused, or keep asking you to repeat the announcement, try a different wording.