The time has come to call a close to this year’s Dothraki haiku competition. Nice job this year! Too good, in fact. It was really hard to choose a winner. I’d feel more conflicted if winning came with any sort of prize. Thank goodness it doesn’t!
I received eleven haiku, all intriguing. Since there were so many, I’m going to choose one from each author to discuss. First, from our newest Dothraki reader, Meghan, we have a haiku from which came the title for today’s post. Here it is:
Ez qoy asshekhi.
Which translates to:
The palomino gallops.
Found today’s blood.
Very, very nice! Meghan basically just started working with Dothraki, like, a few weeks ago, and already she’s putting together long strings of text—and using one of my favorite words (qahlan) that rarely sees the light of day. Athdavrazar, zhey Meghan! The best haiku paint a picture, and this one paints a good one.
Next we have a haiku from Hrakkar:
Fonat ma adakhalat
And the intended translation is:
The lions are ready
To hunt and to eat
This is close, but there are two issues (one my fault. Sorry!). Here the verb hethkat should be used, in which case it should be hethki not hethke. Next, though I gave everyone the adjective hethke, I never gave the verb, and never said how you’d say “ready to” or “ready for”. That’s my bad there. In fact, you say hethkat ki. So if you wanted to say “they’re ready to hunt and eat”, you’d say hethki k’athfonari ma k’athadakhari. Of course, the last three words would be way over seven syllables, so that wouldn’t work. I really like this idea, though. After all, the Dothraki Sea is a place where horses and lions roam. It stands to reason that the lions would hunt those horses the way lions in our world hunt zebras. That’d be pretty cool to witness.
Next we have a poem from ingsve:
“Hethkas she oakah” ma
“Hethkas she khado”.
And my attempt at a translation is:
The scouts’ motto
“Be ready in your soul” and
“Be ready in your body”.
Very clever! It took me forever to figure out what was intended by the first line, and I eventually needed to seek out ingsve’s help. Turns out he was using an off-brand word for “scout”. I’ve got tihak for “scout” (in the literal sense: someone who serves as a lookout), and I’d probably use that for the “boyscout” version of “scout”. Using oakah for this version of “mind” is interesting (I translated it as “soul”, but the original calls for the English word “mind”). Nice work!
Next is a haiku from Zhalio, which is brilliant:
Vo sanneyos vort
Zhavvorsoon fin nem azh.
And this is the translation:
Don’t count the teeth
Of the dragon that was given (you).
Say “thank you”.
In High Valyrian. Ha! I gathered he’d try to work that in, and he did it well. This is a great version of the English phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and works perfectly. I was also quite pleased to see the correct usage of the negative imperative. And, adding to its worth, I think it sounds better in Dothraki than any translation I can muster in English, which is just awesome. You can hear Zhalio reading it aloud here (brother got some bass in that voice! Nice reading!).
Alas, there can be only one winner, and this year, as with last year, our winner is Qvaak. He did it again. Here’s his winning haiku:
Rhaesh ath hethka.
Oqoe ven vash memof
And my translation:
The dry land is ready.
A great noise reverberates like a stampede
From the sky.
Worthy of Eliot. An initial draft of this poem had a grammar error, and when he fixed it, it called for a radical reorganization of the syntax of the second line. The result harkens back to the old days of Dothraki, with the verb in initial position. Furthermore, by putting memof, the subject of the sentence, at the end, there’s a curious type of enjambment (if that’s even the right term in this case) which allows one to read memof asavvasoon as a single noun phrase. In fact, memof is the subject, and the phrase asavvasoon modifies the verb phrase. Semantically, though, the great noise (memof) actually is coming from the sky (asavvasoon), so it’s still semantically felicitous. Just awesome. There’s been a decent amount of material written in Dothraki, but this may be the best thing ever composed. And for that, Qvaak has earned this year’s Mawizzi Virzeth: The Red Rabbit!
That’s two years in a row, zhey Qvaak! I think we’re going to need to start giving you a handicap of some kind…
Thanks so much to everyone who submitted haiku! It was a tough choice this year, and you did incredible work. I’m already looking forward to next year. I also think that (regarding the experiment) I’m going to keep the challenge word as optional only. If it were a requirement, we wouldn’t have seen some incredible haiku (e.g. Zhalio’s), and I wouldn’t want to inhibit that. So I’ll include a challenge word as a possibility to get folks jumpstarted, but it won’t be a requirement. Thanks again for the incredible work!
It’s been a year, and I’m now 32 years old. Among other things, this means I’m halfway to 64. It certainly has been a heck of a year, and I feel physically sound, so I can’t complain.
Enough about me, though. It’s time for the annual Dothraki haiku competition! Last year, Qvaak took home the coveted Mawizzi Virzeth: a prize which comes with no money, no reward, and next to no recognition. Who will take home the prize this year!
But first, in keeping with the semi-tradition I semi-started last year, here’s a haiku of my own:
Oleth rami hoshora
All of those words should be either available in the Dothraki.org dictionary or figure-out-able (if ramasar is a collection of plains, then ram would be…?). Post your translation in the comments, and we’ll see who can get it right first!
As for your haiku, I have an idea, but it is just an idea. For those who might have trouble coming up with a topic, I have a challenge/suggestion: In your haiku, use the word hethke, “tight” (adjective) or “ready, prepared” (adjective). If this works out well, I may start having a challenge word for all successive competitions, and only considering those with the challenge word for the prize. For this one, though, just try it out, and let me know if we should consider making this a permanent change. To repeat: The winning haiku for this year’s competition will not need to use the word hethke.
Otherwise, entries need to be in Dothraki, and I’ll call the competition when it looks like I’ve stopped receiving entries. Leave your entries in the comments, or e-mail them to me at “dave” at “dothraki” period “com”. Below are some instructions I wrote up for last year’s competition which I will repeat here verbatim. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment!
For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7 and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.
Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.
If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.
Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!
Update: Added audio for my haiku.
Did you hear that? Why…it sounds like the gentle rustling of the hoary beard of Winter Goat! No, he’s not here yet, but the goating hour draws nigh! Indeed, it is December, which means the grand nearly year-old Goatmas tradition here at the Dothraki blog is near at hand! And what better way to ring in this glorious goatish season than to begin with a tale of giving.
Today’s story comes from the Netherlands, where Dothraki forum member Pej made a special request. Her sister-in-law recently had a baby, and as a present, she made her a hand-crafted dragon egg (see below. It’s outstanding!).
To accompany the dragon egg, she wanted to include a dedication in Dothraki, so she went to the forum for help. As the request required some vocabulary not yet revealed, I did my own translation, shown below.
This is my gift to you, dragonborn. Always as fierce as fire; always as strong as flames.
This egg might contain your destiny.
You recently became the mother of Julia, and she needs your guidance.
Keep this gift close to you. It brings warmth and comfort.
Jini azho anni yeraan, zhey zhavorsayol. Ayyey ven ivezh ven vorsa; ayyey ven haj ven vorsakh.
Jin gale’sh losha fasqoy yeri.
Yer ray mai haji Julia ajjin, majin me zigeree athvillaroon yeri.
Aqqisis jin azh yeraan. Me yanqoe ma athafazhizar ma athdisizar.
Here are some notes on the translation:
- As they’re proper names, I left “Catherine” and “Julia” as is. I think their most natural Dothraki versions would be Kathrin and Yolia. (Note that as Pej and her sister-in-law are from the Netherlands, the “j” in “Julia” is most likely pronounced like an English “y”, not like an English “j”.)
- Another way to do the third main sentence would be Jin gale losha fasqoy yeri ishish. This seemed more natural to me, but I went ahead and used the auxiliary version to preserve the English word order.
- I recast the beginning of the fourth main sentence so it probably most closely translates as, “You’ve now come to be the mother to Julia”. The folks on the forum had some clever ideas for rendering “become”, but this makes the most sense to me, given the context.
- Athvillaroon is specifically wisdom that comes from experience (as opposed to innate intelligence or talent).
- “Bring” in the last main sentence is colloquial in English. In Dothraki, the closest equivalent is to use the verb yanqolat, which means “to gather”. The form of the verb itself was inspired by Janko Gorenc from Slovenia, who’s spent the past who knows how many years collecting the numbers 1-10 in literally thousands of languages—including over 1,000 conlangs. Also, you may recognize the root of the word athdisizar, which I’ve used here for “comfort”.
- The word athfiezar is used for love between siblings or friends (not between a parent child; that’s a different root). The word that you may know, athzhilar, is used for the love between lovers exclusively. It’s a private word that isn’t used in public.
My best to Catherine and her baby Julia! That’s a pretty incredible gift, and I hope it indeed brings you warmth and comfort. Also, san athchomari to Pej! That’s quite a job you did! Very well done!
And for those who follow the Dothraki blog, the time has come. Where are those goat pictures? Let’s get some dorvi up in here!
Yes. It’s that time again. No, not time for Week 3 of the NFL season or another NHL lockout: It’s time for our own khaleesi Daenerys’s birthday. Asshekhqoyi vezhvena, zhey khaleesi! I couldn’t get you a dragon, because, well, you have them all, so here are some words (along with audio files) to fill in a few gaps on the Word Groups page you’re working on (note: all nouns below are inanimate):
And though we already know the word, dis (the adjective) is used to refer to plain or unpatterned clothing. Happy birthday again, zhey Dany! I hope it’s a good one.
So unlike MiniDisc, apparently turn-by-turn navigation systems aren’t going away any time soon (go figure). Thanks to our very own Hrakkar, though, we’ll soon have the option of getting turn-by-turn directions in Dothraki. Pretty wild, right?
So this is how it works. Hrakkar found a text file used by Garmin to translate its directions into various languages. All you need to do is translate the set phrases and provide audio, and voilà! It won’t translate street names (which is appropriate), or do them in the appropriate accent, but that would be a bit much to expect. Hrakkar got a jumpstart on translating the list of commands, and I helped him fill in the rest. The entire list of commands is presented below, with commentary:
|Proceed to highlighted route.||Dothra osaan shovena.|
|Recalculating.||Anha gachak mae ajjin.|
|Traffic ahead.||Hrazefeser hatif shafki.|
|Continue on route.||Vatteri dothralat she os.|
|Make a U-turn.||Idiro.|
Above, the word I used for “highlighted” (shoven, suffixed with -a above as it modifies a noun in a non-nominative case) basically means “smudged” or “marked”. It’s difficult to translate English’s “headline language” into Dothraki (the same is true of just about any inflectional language), so that something that renders quite simply in English (e.g. “Recalculating”) requires a full sentence in Dothraki (literally, “I’m figuring it out right now”). There’s no real word for “traffic” (and no concept for it), so I used hrazefeser, which is kind of like a herd of wild horses. Hrakkar gets credit for what I think is the most brilliant translation of the bunch: idiro, which, in this context, means “Make a U-turn”. Idirolat derives from the Dothraki word for “owl”, idiro. It literally means “to owl”, and implies that one has made a full 180° turn quite suddenly, as owls do with their heads. That’s basically what a U-turn is, so in this case Dothraki is more succinct than the English (that doesn’t happen often!).
Here’s the next batch:
|Arrive at…||Jado she…|
|Arriving at…||Shafka jadoe she…|
|Enter roundabout.||Emra osfir.|
|Take ramp.||Okki yathokh.|
As you’ll note, we’re using the formal second person throughout (seems like the safest bet). The word for “destination” is just the word for “goal”, which comes from the word for “target”, which is why it’s related to the word for “fly” (ovethat). For “roundabout”, I went with “round road”, which seems close enough. I think it’s a happy accident that, at least for English speakers, you can pluck the word “sphere” right out of the word osfir. Should help one remember the word.
Regarding “in”, you’ll note that the word she is used, as opposed to mra, which means “in” or “inside”. This is because the word here is the English word “in”, and that brings us to a major translation issue in Doing this. The English word “in” could be used by Garmin in a number of ways—most likely in a sentence like, “Turn left in three miles”. There, it’s pretty clear that “in” doesn’t mean “inside”. Rather, it could almost be translated “after” (i.e. “Turn after three miles have passed”) or “at” (i.e. “Turn at the three mile mark from this point”), etc. In Dothraki, she is the most semantically empty locative preposition. As a result, it’s probably our best bet here, even if it doesn’t match up perfectly (and it helps that, in its basic form, she governs the nominative, which will prevent case problems, for which see below).
Here’s the next set:
|Turn left.||Noti sindarine.|
|Turn right.||Noti haje.|
|On left||she sindarinekh|
|On right||she hajekh|
|Navigate off road.||Hezhahi she osoon.|
|Navigate on road.||Hezhahi she osaan.|
I have absolutely no idea what “Navigate off road” or “Navigate on road” means, but I thought Hrakkar’s use of hezhahat was inspired, so I stuck with his translation. (Also, nice use of she with the allative and ablative!). There is no adverb “ahead” that’s used just like the English word, so hatif shafki means “in front of you”. And a word like “keep” just gives me fits (lousy analytical English!). I decided to translate it as “Keep riding”, reasoning that it’ll probably be used in expressions like “Keep right” or “Keep left”. Unfortunately, it won’t be translated quite right (I think a more appropriate translation for “Keep right” would be Vatteri dothralat she hajekh), but that’s on account of the fact that the basic language here is English. If the initial language had been anything else (say, Russian), it would have had more phrases to translate, rather than words. In English, the form of a word doesn’t change all that often (just pluralization on nouns and minimal verb tense), so you can separate them out and not worry about the context of surrounding words. Not so with Dothraki. As a result, some things will not be combined appropriately. I imagine the same would be true of a language like Russian if it were to translate the program using this script. So it goes.
Here’s the next group:
|Board ferry.||Emra rhaggat eveth.|
|Leave ferry.||Esemrasa rhaggat eveth.|
|At roundabout||she osfir|
|Exit roundabout.||Esemrasa osfir.|
|To via point||eleisosakhaan|
There isn’t, of course, a large nautical vocabulary in Dothraki: a boat is a boat is a boat is a water cart. For our measure words, I had to create some on the fly to serve. These aren’t to be used in-universe; they’re just for us. So the word for “feet” (or “foot”, as the singular and plural are the same) is qorraya, the Dothraki word for “forearm” (about as long as a foot). A yard, on the other hand, is a bit longer, and so it’s a rhaesof—not a larger foot, in this case, but a stride. And I’m mightily entertained by my word for “meter”, which is, essentially, “a Valyrian yard”. I think of “meters” as basically “British yards” (even though we got our measure from England initially), and so I thought, “What would the equivalent of ‘British’ be in Dothraki…?” I wanted to say Lhazareen, but that didn’t seem very fair to the British, so I went with Valyrian. You’ll see it again in the next group:
|One quarter mile||irvosa|
|One half mile||chetira|
|Three quarters of a mile||sen irvosa|
|And a quarter||ma saccheya|
|And a half||ma sachi|
|And three quarters||ma sen saccheya|
And there’s our Valyrian miles (a.k.a. kilometers). There’s no word for “quarter” in Dothraki, so I borrowed over the word saccheya (derived from the word sachi, which means “half”) which actually means something like “part” or “division”. It could mean “half” in the right context, but more often it’s less than that, and conventionally I think it works well as “quarter”. As for the terms for miles and parts of miles (another rare instance where Dothraki proves more economical than English), you can read more about their etymologies in this blog post I did for CNN’s The Next List.
Finally, there are a bunch of numbers. It calls for the cardinal numbers 1 through 10 and also 100, and the ordinal numbers 1 through 9. There’s no call for ordinal 10 or 100, but since it’ll make a neater table, I’ll go ahead and include those too:
And there you have it! I’m not quite sure what step lies between having this information translated and recorded and getting it onto your own Garmin, but I believe Hrakkar will provide us with that info in time (at which point this post will updated). If you happen to already know what to do, I’ve got audio of me reading all of the above which you can download here (right click on that. I thought about embedding the audio as I’ve done with previous posts, but there’d just be too much, and this page loads slow enough as it is). You can also get the text from above in a handy .txt file by clicking here. If you’d like to record your own version, send it my way and I’ll put it up here.
In other news, if you’re going to be at WorldCon in Chicago at the end of the month, I will be there. Come find me and test my on-the-fly Dothraki fluency! (Then prepare to be disappointed [though I've always been much more of a writer than a speaker, when it comes to second languages].) Until next time, fonas chek!