Fog Talking

The title for today’s post comes from the word athastokhdevishizar, which means “nonsense”, but which literally translates as “fog talking”. It was also used in the first Dothraki haiku submitted in response to last week’s post. As it happens, it was authored by ingsve, whose (at the time of writing) birthday it is! Happy birthday, ingsve! Here’s what he wrote:

Anha tokikof?
Athastokhdeveshizar!
Anha dirgakof!

Which translates to (translating loosely):

I’m a big idiot?
Nonsense!
I’m a deep thinker!

You can let me know how close I got to what you were thinking. Ordinarily yes/no questions are preceded by hash, but I think the lack of hash here works to make this kind of an echo question (e.g. “You’re nothing but a lazy daffodil!”, “I’m a lazy daffodil?!”).

Another of ingsve’s is his birthday-inspired haiku:

Kisha vazhaki
Chisen ma at halahis
Lekhmovekaan.

Which is:

We will give
Thirty-one flowers
To the conlanger.

San athchomari, zhey ingsve! I’d coined the word lekhmove for “conlang” previously, but this is the first time I’d seen lekhmovek for “conlanger”. I like it!

I made one correction above: What was halahi in the original should be halahis, as it’s a plural direct object (and halah is an animate noun). And, since it’s his birthday (and I believe we’re the same age), here’s a haiku back, zhey ingsve:

Ma anha vazhak
Chisen ma at halahis
Dirgakofaan.

It’s funny. A lot of times it’s hard to fit large Dothraki words into the slender frame of a haiku, but in both of these, we had to not contract a word in order to get the right number of syllables.

One more of ingsve’s: An ambitious attempt to translate Robert Oppenheimer’s quoting of the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s what he came up with:

Ajjin anha ray
athdrivaroon, drozhak
rhaesheseri.

For those unfamiliar, the quote is, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. If I were to translate the above, this is how I would translate it:

Now I was already
Death, killer
Of worlds.

In order to tackle this translation, one has to come to terms with the English, which, I think most native speakers would admit, is fanciful, at best. If one were to switch out “Death” for, say, “teacher”, one would probably say, “Now I’m a teacher”, or, perhaps, “Now I’ve become a teacher”. The use of “am” is reminiscent of an older form of English where people said things like, “Now I’m come” to mean “Now I’ve come” (if you want to learn more about it, look up unaccusative verb and prepare to have your mind melt). Dothraki doesn’t have anything like that (he said, sweeping under the rug material for potential future blog posts), though, so before one translates the quote, one has to reword it a bit.

It was Qvaak, I believe, who pointed out that I translated something similar for the LCC4 relay. In that text, I translated the line, “The crone turned into a wolf” as follows:

  • Yesi nemo ficho mehas venikh veri.
  • /crone REFL obtain therefor semblance-ACC wolf-GEN/
  • “The crone got unto her the semblance of a wolf.”

That could work, technically, but I get the sense that it would mean something more like, “I took on the semblance of Death”, or, “I turned into Death”, which I think kind of defeats the tone of the thing. It’s more direct as it is, and the translation should reflect that.

So if I had to translate it, I would probably just have it as (not trying to keep to the haiku form):

  • Ajjin anha Athdrivar: Ohharak rhaesheseri.

Perhaps one could say “Athdrivaraan” and cast it as the future tense. Depends on how you read it. Nice job, ingsve! Way to push the envelope.

Next, Qvaak did a series of seasonal haiku, which I’ll look at it inverse order. Let me know if I got these right. The first:

Hrazef vos govo.
Chaf ish atthasa okre,
Chiori memras.

The horses don’t mate.
The wind maybe fells the tents,
A woman therein.

I made a slight correction (typo: hrazhef for hrazef), but otherwise I think that’s about how it translates. Nice use of the adverbial preposition! Next:

Halah she sorfo;
Negwin nem eyyelie.
Dani vekh hazze.

A flower on the ground;
A stone is spotted.
A gem is there.

I have to admit this one sent me to my dictionary. I knew eyel was “rain”, but the verb eyyelilat is something that Qvaak coined for this poem. The verb eyelilat is a stative verb meaning “to be spotted” (like the ground after it’s begun to rain lightly). Qvaak causativized it to produce eyyelilat, which means “to spot” or “to put a spotted pattern on”—then he passivized it! Nice.

I was trying to figure out what the poem actually means, and what I can guess is that there’s a rock, and there’s actually a gem inside, which you can see sparkling? Reminds me this old thing. The meaning of the flower, though, escapes me.

Edit: If you take a look at Qvaak’s comment below, you’ll see that he meant “ford” when he used dani. “Ford”! I never thought I’d see another person use that word in a million years. The idea is to evoke spring rains and spring flooding.

Next!

Kash shekh vervena,
Kash hranna veltoroe;
Voji virzethi.

When the sun is violent
The grass yellows;
Red people.

Yet again, Qvaak coined a word, and it makes perfect sense. Veltor is the word for “yellow”, and veltorat means “to be yellow”, so, of course, veltorolat means “to yellow” or “to grow yellow”. Very nicely done! If only it would have fit the syllable count, I think vervenoe would’ve worked even better in place of vervena.

Now, as for “red people”, I have to ask: Did you mean “sunburned people”? If so, nice try! When I get around to it, there will probably be a different word for “sunburned”. (Virzethoe would also work well, though, again, it’d be one syllable too many.)

Edit: Qvaak intended “People are red” as the translation of voji virzethi, but either translation works.

Excellent haiku, you guys! But, of course, there can only be one “winner” (in the non-contest sense): Only one that can claim the mighty and fearsome Mawizzi Virzeth (the Red Rabbit). And here it is, the first from Qvaak’s seasonal series (and below that an audio file of me reading it):

Vorsa erina.
Ikh dozgosoon anni;
Ahesh sash qisi.

At first I didn’t even read it right, because I thought the verb in the first line was an adjective. But, indeed, it’s a verb. Here’s my translation:

Fire is kind.
Ashes from my enemies;
Fresh snow nearby.

Now that’s evocative! Nicely done! And for penning my favorite of the bunch, you win the “coveted” Mawizzi Virzeth:

The 2012 Red Rabbit Award presented to Qvaak.

This precious award comes with no physical prize. In fact, as the Dothraki don’t value money, it doesn’t even come with a virtual prize. It does, however, come with much respect. San athchomari, zhey Qvaak! And thanks to both Qvaak and ingsve for submitting haiku! I know specific grammatical information on Dothraki isn’t easy to come by even now, and the available lexicon is smaller than the total lexicon, but you took the plunge! And for that, I salute you.

In other news, if you haven’t seen it elsewhere, I’m going to be presenting on Dothraki at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference next month. The conference is being held from February 8th to the 11th, and my talks will be during the day on the 9th, and in the evening on the 10th. The latter is open to the public. So, if you happen to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stop on by! It’ll be lots of fun.

Update: Added audio of Qvaak’s poem.

Posted on January 27, 2012, in Community and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. So dani means gem? I guessed that Dani meant Daenerys in that haiku.

    Also my guess is that the flower on the ground is simply an observation that flowers have started blooming since it’s spring. And I took the stone becoming spotted to be an indication of a light spring rain.

    I’m sure Qvaak will explain what he intended it to say.

  2. Yeah. There’s very little hope that I wouldn’t explain what I intented so say… in great lenght.

    All the poems tried to play on some kind of contrapositioning – mostly for mildly humorous effect.

    Hrazef vos govo.
    Chaf ish atthasa okre,
    chiori memras.

    The horses don’t mate.
    The wind maybe fells the tents,
    women therein.

    That’s the idea, yes. The weather is bad, people hide in their tents, mating season is over for horses, but people certainly still mate. I was going for a bit more intimate tone, so I’d have used a tent and a woman (shouldn’t chiori have a plural chiorisi?), and since I tried to use a lively experssion for “fell”, I hope even The wind might defeat [or "might be defeating"] the tent would be an acceptable translation…

    Halah she sorfo;
    Negwin nem eyyelie.
    Dani vekh hazze.

    A flower on the ground;
    A stone is spotted.
    A gem is there.

    Ingsve got my intention right on the stone becoming spotted to be an indication of a light spring rain. It’s a bit heavy-handed, “spring”, “rain” and “spotted” being all words from the same root, but I thought it would be an appropriately honest and strainghtforward attitude towards the use of metaphors. The idea of the haiku was to contrast sweet and pleasant spring against spring floods; the last line was meant to be “there/here was a ford”.
    The effect might go interestingly backwards, if the familiar climate patterns do not fit: first flowers and first drops of water after a dry season; nostalgic look at a still dry riverbed…

    Kash shekh vervena,
    Kash hranna veltoroe;
    Voji virzethi.

    When the sun is violent
    The grass yellows;
    Red people.

    Well, I would have gone with “people are red”, but essentially that’s what I meant: sunburned people (people turning red huffing and puffing to get work done in a scorching weater works too – so does anger-red from rising tempers). I would not, though, find it problematic, if there was completely differend vocabulary for being sunburned; the comical observation works better, if it isn’t the word for sunburn, per se.
    This is my least favourite of my haiku (which makes it kinda the least favourite from them all). The joke is simple and does not fit well with Dothraki: dothraki-skinned people sure still turn red if burned badly enough (and at least turn angry easily), but voji feels too much “we” and “everybody” to work well even as a comical exaggeration… and vervenat is a cool word, perhaps even “the right word”, but it too feels like a choice made because of a limited vocabulary.
    Vervena might also indeed work better as vervenoe, but I wouldn’t change virzethi to virzethoe. A blunt arhythmicality is what I’m looking for in my haiku, and the immediateness of dropping the kash and moving from to become to to be add IMO to the punch the ending line needs, and pretty much save the poem, if it can be saved.
    Also: there is too much alliteration. It’s not an effect I wanted there, it’s just a distraction.

    Vorsa erina.
    Ikh dozgosoon anni;
    Ahesh sash qisi.

    Fire is kind.
    Ashes from my enemies;
    Fresh snow nearby.

    Hoy! That’s exaclty what I meant. And I was rather proud of this one. Still, dozgo already implies the anni, so the word feels a bit weak and syllabe-county. I wonder if Jada ikh dozgosoon would make an even stronger second line. The meaning would shift it’s focus a bit, but that might be pretty acceptable shift.

    Anyways, I got a prize! Wooot!

    • I was going for a bit more intimate tone, so I’d have used a tent and a woman (shouldn’t chiori have a plural chiorisi?)

      Arrgh! I can’t believe I was thrown off like that! And such a common word, too… I’ll fix that. Oops!

      …the last line was meant to be “there/here was a ford”.

      lol Are you kidding?! I was looking through my dictionary, came to “ford”, and thought, “Well, there’s no possible way anybody would use that word. It’s got to be ‘gem’…” Ha! And, of course, my choice in translation forced me to reevaluate the entire meaning of the poem.

      Well, I would have gone with “people are red”…

      Ah, that could work. I thought to myself, though, “What would Jim Morrison have written?” And so I went with “red people”.

      I wonder if Jada ikh dozgosoon would make an even stronger second line.

      Well now hang on, because that actually changes the meaning of the poem. Instead of “The ashes of my enemies”, that’s “Ashes were the enemy”. Is that what you intended (i.e. a copular expression rather than a noun phrase)? I like it better as a noun phrase.

      As for the use of anni, without it, it implies that it’s “the” enemy—that, in this instance, the reader and the writer would share a common enemy that’s understood. I like it with anni better than without.

      • lol Are you kidding?! I was looking through my dictionary, came to “ford”, and thought, “Well, there’s no possible way anybody would use that word. It’s got to be ‘gem’…” Ha!

        Hehh. It felt quite natural word for me, really. I drowned my cell phone a few years back trying to cross a flooded ford right in the middle of my hometown.

        Well now hang on, because that actually changes the meaning of the poem. Instead of “The ashes of my enemies”, that’s “Ashes were the enemy”. Is that what you intended (i.e. a copular expression rather than a noun phrase)? I like it better as a noun phrase.

        Yeah, well. My initial intention was to be at peace with the whole field of meaning from inalienable possession to copular expression. It’s good as it is. I just tend to wonder and fiddle.
        Oh, but a curious thing that I missed/forgot initially, and which I hope isn’t “Ha! I managed to hide an error you didn’t catch” kind of thing…
        We did not have the animacy of dozgo, and since “enemy” is, in principle, a human (even if sometimes appearing as a demonized horde), I bet on it being animate. I now notice that you use (again) plural on your translation of dozgosoon, and since possible plurals should be dozgoon, dozgosoe and dozgosoroon, I think there might be something fishy somewhere?

        • I shall mourn the loss of your cell phone. Oh, and yes: That should be dozgoon. I looked at dozgosoon and my brain thought you had written dozgosoroon, which would be appropriate. So I guess it should be either dozgoon or dozgosoroon. Oops! I should make a habit of thinking when I read stuff…

          Though I will say if you coined dozgo as animate, you could use it. It would mean “one enemy”, and likely a specific one.

  3. Insgive and Qvaak, those are amazing haikus! I’ll be lucky if I can ever write something that creative!

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