I said in our last IRC chat that today would be the deadline for submissions, and since Qvaak has not submitted a haiku, we will have a new winner this year! But who will it be? First, let’s take a look at the contenders. Starting with Dothraki…
First, we have this entry from Zhalio:
Khal vezhven akka
laz drivo ki zisoshi
kash me vos villo.
The intended meaning is:
Even a great king
could succumb to a mere scratch
when his wisdom failed.
I don’t see how the last line works… It literally translates to “While he isn’t wise”. I would have used arrek for “when” rather than kash, but that would’ve exceeded the syllable count. I think kash could work in this way. Nevertheless, a nice reference to the untimely death of the mighty Khal Drogo, felled by a zisosh (or, maybe, a maegi).
Next, we have an offering from first-time haiku submitter vaqari:
fansa zin fredrilates
yer chir chafaan
It’s tough to understand, but I think what’s being said is, “Drop the reins! Let the dapple continue to gallop! You will nearly be the wind!” If that was the intended meaning, first, punctuation would’ve helped, and second, though a little unorthodox, I would’ve recommended Yer achafoe. That kind of turns chaf into a verb, but I think it works. I’m trying to wrap my brain around whether or not this works, but I very much like the aesthetic.
Now for High Valyrian, the number of entries of which absolutely dwarf Dothraki this year. What happened?! A lot of people turned in themed haikus, or multi-part haikus. I’m still looking for the best one, though. Let’s see what we’ve got!
Starting with Danny, check out this poem:
The intended meaning is:
The beauty of yours
It is chosen
By the people.
Close! It should be aōho (the genitive of the second person possessive pronoun aōhon), although this technically could work as a kind of “Oedipus the King” construction. That’d be more “The beauty yours”. So yes, you’re good there. The second line, though, should really just be a verb. The “to be” plus participle strategy really isn’t done in High Valyrian, though it remains a plausible strategy for languages descended from High Valyrian. “It is chosen” can be done with a single verb form. Also, I know there are problems with the whole applicative thing. Let that lie; I’ll take care of it. I like your use of ābrar for “people” (it’d mean more “humanity” rather than “populace”), but I haven’t seen bē used for the reintroduced agent of a passive verb. That’d be new territory for High Valyrian. Innovative, though!
Next, let me turn my attention to what I’m calling Zhalio‘s Fig Cycle. For those unfamiliar, I gave a talk at Google where I talked quite a bit about dried figs, for which there is a word in Dothraki (kemis). For the record, I spent a year in my youth in Fresno, where my step-grandmother and step-grandfather owned a house on which were kept many, many fig trees. The smell of rotting figs is…unmistakable. So is the joy of not having to ever eat figs. What an ugly word: fig. It’s like “pig” plus some dirty word that starts with “f”… Anyway, playing on the theme of figs (the word, for which, in High Valyrian is rōbir—one of the earliest High Valyrian words, oddly enough), Zhalio produced this brilliant quartet of haikus:
yne sȳngus daor,
— Nyke gōntan.
His fanciful English translations are even better than their comparatively spare High Valyrian counterparts:
Doth nothing to deter me,
O figs, fruit of gods!
Upon my palate
adorned in kingly splendor
you shall seem to me.
How much sweeter is your taste
Than all the world’s figs.
«Who», I hear thee wail,
«did bite this fig, mine by rights?»
— ‘Twas no-one but I.
Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. This transcends brilliance. There is a word for “ugliness” in High Valyrian, but Zhalio‘s use of qringevives I think adequately expresses the ambivalence a fig lover must have upon viewing the mawan that is a fig. Gevives (the High Valyrian challenge word) means “beautiful”, and qrin- is a kind of pejorative prefix. It doesn’t mean “un-” precisely, it’s more like “mis-” in “misinformation”. Very well chosen. Also, I love sȳngus supposedly from sȳngagon, which isn’t a word. I may add it as a backformation. The word for “royal” is actually dārōñe, but everyone would understand dārenka. There is a verb for “seem”, but the translation you chose works well. Masterful use of the instrumental collective of “fig”. I knew that case/number combination would come in handy one day. And finally your use of the independent pronoun in the nominative in the last sentence of the last haiku in conjunction with the regular conjugation of gaomagon was marvelous. Very well done! Truly better than figs!
Zhalio also gave us this non-fig-based haiku:
hae jesot jelmiot
The fanciful translation is below:
All men must needs fly
like dust in the fickle winds
of this vengeful life.
In this case, though, I like the Valyrian better. Much sparser; to the point. Very nice poem. I also really like the use of the verb iāragon. Nice job!
Moving on to Joel W‘s submission, first we have:
continue to see ourselves
in all beauty
I think the English translation of this one is clumsier than the Valyrian, which is good. I also like how “in all beauty” was put at the end; it’s a better capper for the poem than the verb. Very nice poem! Here’s the next:
The next is a cycle of poems called Zaldrīzero bē, “On Dragonkind”. Here they are:
lo mirre drēje;
And here is the intended meaning:
or like fire;
which is it?
I don’t know
But I think
if either is true:
what great beauty!
This is a great idea, but there are a few problems here and there. The first is the first verb should be gīmion (subjunctive), and the second is that I swear there’s a “to be” verb missing in the second half. Maybe it could work? The meaning would be “Perhaps both or none”, though. I think that works. The same is true of the next sentence, with a missing “to be”. In truth, the haiku format is simply unsuited to High Valyrian; it’s not as economical as Japanese. There are no null copulas in High Valyrian, so sometimes you just have to go without, and the result is a little clunky. I really like your use of the vocative in the last line, though! I’m not sure if that’s something I’ve done before (i.e. “what a x” or “such a x”, but I like it! I may add that to the official grammar. I like the first of these haikus the best. I think it works the best as a haiku and works the best grammatically. Excellent job!
To close, let’s look at Papaya‘s 12 (yes, 12) haikus. The first four were presented in a group, though they’re not thematically linked. Nevertheless, I will present them together, to make things easier on myself:
se sōnar māzis.
Raqan lī tembī
Se geviar udra.
The meanings are:
beauty in the night
under the sky.
and winter is coming.
Where are you?
We were victorious.
And I read
The pages I love
And beautiful words.
Some notes: As Papaya realized, the fourth poem breaks the mora count, because what was initially lua should indeed have been lī. All good, though! The first and third are my favorite. I like how simple the third one is. It just takes an idea and expresses it. Very nice! By the way, after you had composed this poem—and for a totally unrelated reason—I created a new word: ēbrion. It refers to the sky specifically at night. Of course, ēbrio gō still works!
Up next is an epic eight haiku cycle called Embro gō, “Under the Sea”. Here they are:
Yn iosre tolī
Yn skoriot iksan?
Kempr’ iēdro gō
Yn sparos iksan?
Gō nyk’ ilan
And here are the intended meanings:
Kisses my feet
In the sand
A life in the sea
Would be sweet for me.
It seems like
And death to me
To go far
And to die.
That’s my wish.
Although too cold
Under the sea
But where am I?
Under this heavy sea,
I don’t know
And who am I?
Under this dark sea.
my ship in the sea
And I sink/drown.
Wow. Stunning. Unless I’m missing something, these are flawless. A lot of nice choices made here. Some of the elisions are a little rough (in the sixth poem in particular), but they work! Excellent job.
And now the heavy burden falls to me to choose two winners. As I said before, from now on there’s going to be one winner for Dothraki, and one for High Valyrian. Competition was, uh, niqe for High Valyrian; not so much for Dothraki. First, then, I shall award the Mawizzi Virzeth—the Red Rabbit—given to the annual winner of the Dothraki Haiku Competition. This year’s winner is Zhalio!
Hajas, zhey Zhalio!
And now announcing a new award: The coveted Golden Owl (Āeksio Atroksia), given to the annual winner of the High Valyrian Haiku Competition. This year’s winner of the Golden Owl is Papaya, for his second haiku from the “Under the Sea” series!
Rijes aōt, Papayus!
It was tough to choose a winner for the High Valyrian side, but I thought that haiku of Papaya‘s was perfect, even apart from the greater context.
Fantastic work this year! Perhaps some of these may end up in the Game of Thrones Compendium? Here’s hoping!
(Note: I’ll still do recordings, but I’ll have to do them later today and add them. No time!)
Today is my birthday once again; I’m now 34 years old. Since there are no snappy songs associated with the number 34, I think it’s about time for me to stop announcing my age… (Well, except Charles Barkley’s number was 34 on the Suns). I received a nice gift from a fellow conlanger, Andrew Gerber, whose tales from Mongolia helped to inspire a number of Dothraki terms (including the separate words for wet and dried animal dung!). He sent me a card he wrote in Dothraki…
…and in Mongolian:
Veteran Dothraki speakers might spot a few errors in the first message, but give him a break! He’s still learning. I thought it was pretty good! As for the Mongolian, I have a hard time even pronouncing it (Mongolian’s use of Cyrillic is…unique). Wildly impressed how fluent he became in three years in Mongolia with the Peace Corps!
Now to business. It is time for this year’s Dothraki haiku competition. This year I’ve decided to throw a twist into it. We will have the haiku competition in Dothraki, as usual, where the prize will be the coveted Red Rabbit (Mawizzi Virzeth), won all three years by the amazing Qvaak. Will this be the first year he’s dethroned?! Be interesting to see if we get any from Living Language Dothraki users this year! (Though it’ll be understandable if there aren’t any: It’s only been out about three months.) Anyway, that competition will run per usual (rules at the end of this post). What I’m adding this year is an official High Valyrian haiku competition. It will not be for the Red Rabbit, but for some separate prize of my choosing (I haven’t decided yet). This way the different languages won’t be in competition. There will be separate rules for the Valyrian entries, so pay attention to those at the end. Feel free to submit one of each.
But before all that, here are my haikus for the year. First, Dothraki:
Achrakh ozokhi she yash
Glas rayim rissa.
Words that may not be available in there: yash is “air”; ozokh is the corpse of an animal; and rayim is like ray, but also passive. Now for High Valyrian:
A new word here is kȳvanon, which means “plan” or “strategy”. (And I think tubī works for the meaning I intend. Don’t you judge me! It’s my birthday!)
All right, this year’s challenge words are niqe, “stiff”, for Dothraki (take note of the rules regarding epenthetic vowels below) and gevives, “beauty”, for High Valyrian. Now here are the rules, reposted from years prior:
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, go for it, but I will weight exact syllable counts more highly..
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.
For Valyrian: Long vowels count as two mora, and a vowel with a coda counts as two mora, but a syllable will not have more than two mora. So a long vowel plus a coda consonant will still be two mora, for the purposes of the poem. If you can’t do the poem using mora, do it with syllables, but I’ll weight those done with mora more highly. This will make it more like a real Japanese haiku. If you need a particular word in a particular number/case combination or a verb in a particular conjugation, please let me know and I’ll give it to you.
Addendum: Rising diphthongs count as two mora (i.e. ae and ao); falling diphthongs count as one (e.g. ia, ua, ue, etc.). Also, word order is certainly freer in poetry than it is in everyday speech, but the rules about adjectives still apply (i.e. you use the short forms if the adjective appears directly before the noun it modifies; otherwise they’d take their full forms). And, finally, word-final consonants are extrametrical. Thus if a word ends in -kor, that counts as one mora, not two.
Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!
Firesof athvezhvenari! Happy New Year! 2014 was a pretty swell year for Dothraki, as it saw the publication of Living Language Dothraki, the official introductory guide to the language, but onward we ride!
To start the new year off, I thought I’d go back and do a post I’ve been wanting to do for some time. A while back, Monserrat Vargas asked me for a translation of the famous Star Trek phrase “To boldly go where no man has gone before” into High Valyrian, as she intended to get it tattooed. I provided the translation here, and shortly thereafter, she got it tattooed—and sent me the pictures! Since I had her on the line, though, I decided to turn her new acquisition into an interview.
You see, I, like the majority of Americans, do not have any tattoos. (A poll quoted here says about 23% of Americans have tattoos, as of 2010.) This is not something that’s likely to change, as I can’t imagine getting a tattoo, and my wife is opposed. Unlike the majority of people who actively do not want to get tattoos, though, I think tattoos are the absolute coolest things in the world. I have opinions about what makes a good tattoo, and how much is too much, for my aesthetic tastes, but in general, I find tattoos fascinating and, well, badass. Nothing’s tougher than a tattooed biceps.
Because of this fascination, I’m always curious as to why those with tattoos get them, why they chose the tattoos they chose, etc. In the case of Monserrat Vargas, the choice is doubly interesting—not merely because she decided to get a tattoo in High Valyrian, but because this was her very first tattoo! I’m not certain, but I think that may be a first, for my languages (as far as I know, everyone else who had something tattooed in one my languages already had other tattoos). To learn more about why she made this decision and what went on behind the scenes, I conducted an interview with Monserrat Vargas over e-mail, which is copied below (with pictures!). Enjoy!
Q: Is this your first tattoo? If so, why did you decide to get a tattoo? If not, why did you decide to get your first tattoo? (Feel free to go into the meaning, but I’m also curious why you thought a tattoo was the way to go.)
A: Yes, this was my very first tattoo. I’ve always known that I wanted tattoos. They do tend to get a bad rap because they’re so permanent and that’s an intimidating thought. But to me, they’ve always represented the wearer at their deepest—most honest—level. I wanted my tattoos to be a visual representation of who I am. However, I also wanted it to be subtle. Truly an art piece. Everyone chooses how best to express themselves—I chose tattoos! The decision to FINALLY get my first tattoo was made because I was about to embark on a new stage of my life. I was leaving my hometown of Los Angeles, California to move to Seattle, Washington. It felt right to get my first tattoo as a tribute to my hometown. It would be the ultimate reminder of family and friends!
[Note: I didn’t know you lived in LA! But now that you’re gone, I’m going to be in Seattle this April for Norwescon. We should meet up!]
Q: What’s your connection to Star Trek—and what’s your favorite instantiation of the series?
A: I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek from a very young age. It inspired my love for the stars and most especially for the science-fiction genre. Of course I love TOS (Star Trek: The Original Series). That was how I discovered Star Trek and that’s a bond that can’t be matched. But, as sacrilegious as it may be to say, I especially loved Enterprise because I was old enough to catch the real time broadcasts as opposed to discovering it via re-runs. It was always such a thrill to be a part of their next, great, space adventure!
Q: You kind of answered this already, but why this quote in particular? And then why around your ankle?
A: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The quote that encompasses and defines Star Trek. This was a quote that followed me as I grew up. It became more than a symbol for the show—it became a value I chose to live by. It encouraged me to not do things just because they’ve always been expected and done. To genuinely consider new, and even scary, possibilities. It’s what gave me the courage to pack up and leave the home I’ve always known. The choice in placement… I’ll be answering that part of your question in question 7.
Q: Who did the lettering? It’s gorgeous! Did you do it?
A: The lettering is intended to be Elvish from Lord of the Rings. I say “intended” because there are some slight modifications that needed to be made. When you get a tattoo you can’t just tell the artist, “I want this!” Certain alterations need to be made. What looks good on paper won’t necessarily translate well to skin. I researched heavily before I got my tattoo and I finished my journey at Ink Monkey Tattoo in Los Angeles (on the corner of Venice and Lincoln). I came across artist Juan Ramón Solano (goes by Ramón). He’s a magician when it comes to line work and lettering. When I saw his portfolio I knew I was in good hands.
Q: I’ve always been curious. A tattoo artist, in effect, has to be able to do every type of art—and well—in order to reproduce others’ drawings. And furthermore, they have to do it without making a mistake. So, like…how? How nervous are you of the tattoo artist making a mistake? Can you get your money back if they do make a mistake?
A: You’re putting a permanent piece of art on your body, of course you’re going to be scared that something’s going to go wrong! But you do your best to mitigate that fear beforehand. You REASEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. I can’t stress that enough! Do NOT go into some random beach tattoo parlour, do NOT make this choice when you’re inebriated. Do NOT make this choice unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure it’s what you want. If you interview with an artist and you’re not comfortable, don’t do it. There was an artist I interviewed with whose portfolio was promising and seemed capable—but their station was a mess! That immediately drew me away. There were establishments I didn’t even consider for more than a minute because the entire place was a mess. If you sense a tiny bit of unease, red flag that place and walk away.
When I walked into Ink Monkey it was immediately welcoming. The atmosphere was clean, professional, and fun. Ramón sat me down and we talked at great length about what I wanted and what options I had. We worked together on reworking the idea in my head into something that would complement me. He knew I was nervous so he thoroughly explained every part of the process and repeated himself as he began every step. He attended to my needs and helped keep me calm and happy. We build a bond of trust between artist and canvas.
He actually did make a slight mistake! Sometimes no matter what you do—mistakes happen. But Ramón handled it like a pro! In the word nēdenkirī what he thought was an n was actually the rī. Ramón immediately realized his mistake—confirmed with me that it was a mistake—and set it right. He mixed an ink color that perfectly matched my skin tone and broke the line between the two letters. When he was done, you couldn’t even tell that there had ever been a mistake! When mistakes do happen, any reputable tattoo artist has methods in place to correct it and make sure you walk away absolutely thrilled with your decision. There are even tattoo artists whose portfolio consists of fixing the shoddy work of other (less talented) tattoo artists!
Q: And, of course, the top question on the mind of anyone who’s never gotten a tattoo: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most), how much did it hurt?
A: In regards to pain, that depends on the location of your tattoo. If you get it in a location with more fatty tissue or muscle to cushion you, it will hurt less. But if you get it somewhere where there’s very little to cushion the bone, then be prepared for it to sting! Since I got my tattoo on my ankle, I was in quite a bit of pain! The WORST bit was closer to the heel. I was handling it like a champ until he got to that part. Ultimately, it’s a needle piercing just underneath your skin. If you can’t handle a shot—then I’d rethink a tattoo. In answer to your question I started out with a 6/10 but it definitely ended with an 8/10!
Q: Any ideas for another tattoo if you’re getting one?
A: As far as other tattoos I plan to get… Now that’s where this gets pretty dorky. I got the tattoo around my ankle because this tattoo will be part 1 of a 3 part tattoo. This part is a matrimony of 3 television/book series that I deeply enjoy (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Trek), all represented in a way meant to represent my love of language.
Part 2 (which I’ve already gotten as of July) is a representation of my love of music. It is located on my other ankle and it’s a musical arrangement containing pieces from Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who.
The final part—which is still in the planning stages—will represent my love of symbolism in art and it will be an homage to some of my favorite video games (Gears of War, Bioshock, and World of Warcraft) that will be located between my shoulder blades. Thus turning myself into a visual representation of a Triforce. The ULTIMATE homage!
[Note: As a ten year WoW player, it’d better be the Horde emblem you’re getting, and not the Alliance!]
Thank you for taking the time and sharing your photos, Monserrat Vargas! Your tattoos are awesome! You’re a lajak tawak in my book.
Coming soon: The Dothraki Haiku Competition. Maybe now that Living Language Dothraki has come out, we’ll see even more challengers trying to knock Qvaak off the throne!
As the title portends, I will be talking about Monty Python in this post, but first a brief commentary on “The Laws of Gods and Men”, written by old friend Bryan Cogman—who, by the way, is back on Twitter, so give him a follow!
There were some great speeches in this episode, but I feel like Tyrion’s trial overshadows the awesome scene with Stannis, Davos and Tycho Nestoris at the Iron Bank. It’s really awkward and uncomfortable for Stannis, which is the point, but then Davos comes back with this incredible save out of nowhere. And while we don’t know what the outcome is precisely, we get the sense that he made a positive impression—which is made all the more powerful after you think about how Tycho has just gone over how they at the Iron Bank are swayed by nothing but numbers. Yes, Davos does give him some facts, but he also lays his heart out there in front of these stuffshirts—and it works. It’s a Hail Mary to end all Hail Marys, and I loved it.
In Dany’s scene, I didn’t know we were actually going to see the dragon doing dragon stuff. That was pretty intense! Though I can’t help but feel bad for the sheep. They even have him bleating as he’s being carried away in the dragon’s claws on fire… Or wait, was that a goat? Let me check… Take that back, it was a goat. I know this because I just searched my Low Valyrian dictionary for a word for “sheep” and came up empty. “Goat” is there, though. (And hey, that’s the second time that word has been used—but only the first time in reference to an actual goat!)
Hizdahr zo Loraq looks a lot younger than I pictured him in the books. Then again, since I listened to the audio books, all of my mental images were painted by Roy Dotrice (or John Lee, for one book), so my mental images were dependent not just on the words but on the performance. The—
Whoa, hang on. Just realized I was about to write something spoilery. This is always a tough one. I’ve only read each book once, so when I start watching the show, I sometimes get confused about stuff that has happened or hasn’t—and whether it was in the books or the show. I had that confusion during the Theon scene, actually. Did that happen in the books? Also, from that scene, Ramsay was all cut up before that fight started, right? What was he doing beforehand?! That dude is straight up creepy; I love him.
Oh, and another question: I missed the “red shirt” punchline that the girls shout. What is it?
Back to Dany, looking back at the script, it looks like a couple of the Meereenese Valyrian lines with the goatherd were cut (likely for length). Still a lot left in there. Here’s a few of those lines. Dany first speaks to the goatherd in High Valyrian:
- Zūgagon daor, ñuhys raqiros. Skoros ynot epilū?
- “Don’t be afraid, my friend. What would you ask of me?”
And he responds saying that he doesn’t understand:
- Yeng shijetra, osh eghlish. Tha shifang.
- “Forgive me, your grace. I don’t understand.”
I was really fond of that osh eghlish for “your grace” or “your highness”. It’s the characteristic phrase of MV. Then Missandei says:
- Ye Thal poghash koth nyesha she yedhra.
- “The Queen says you may approach and speak.”
Funny how close thal is to khal (total happenstance), but with this line here, Miss Nathalie Emmanuel became the most linguistically diverse actor in all of Game of Thrones! She has officially spoken:
- Common (i.e. English)
- Astapori Valyrian
- High Valyrian
- Meereenese Valyrian
Or, hmm… Actually, I guess Dany never speaks AV, so I think this was a title Missandei already claimed, but still, it’s further cemented here. She’s the only actor who’s had to deal with all of the Game of Thrones languages, and for that, I salute her! And, in fact, if the White Walkers’ language and Asshai’i were not used in the show, as I suspect, she’s also the only actor to speak every language featured in the show. That is boss!
Before leaving this episode, Tyrion’s trial was incredible (everyone knows that Tywin is my favorite character, so him doing anything is a treat), but I feel like the things I want to say about it are going to spoil at least one thing from the remaining four episodes… And since I’m liable to get confused, I’ll just hold off. All I’ll say for now is that I think Shae’s progression is done better in the show than it is in the books—either that, or I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the books. Frankly, it feels that way a lot when I’m watching the show (e.g. like the time I actually said, “Wait… Renly’s supposed to be gay?”). Also, “trial by combat” are possibly my three favorite words from Game of Thrones.
If you’ve read this interview with me over at the Making Game of Thrones blog, you’ll know about yet another one of Dan Weiss’s practical jokes. The insults that the Meereenese champion was hurling at Daenerys et al. were translations of the French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you don’t know what Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, you should probably stop reading this blog and find a way to watch the movie immediately. At the very least, you can see the speech being referenced here.
Also, I know I mentioned this in the interview (which, by the way, D&D gave their blessing to), but just to be clear, I don’t get credit for coming up with this idea; that was all Dan Weiss. Usually after I’m done translating the bulk of the material for a season, Dan gets an idea for something fun after the fact, and I get an e-mail starting with something like, “Hey, I had an idea for a joke…” I know I’m generally a stickler for realism when it comes to the languages, but when this opportunity presented itself, it was just too good. I like to think (though I don’t know either way) that Emilia Clarke, Nathalie Emmanuel, et al. had no idea what the champion was actually saying. This would amuse me to no end. But anyway, if you’re wondering, “Does this mean there are hamsters in Essos?”, or “Does this mean there were elderberries in Valyria?”, I honestly have no idea. I had to Wikipedia “elderberry”—both when I coined the word, and just right now again, because that’s how much I know about elderberries. The relevant words lie somewhere in between the holy mountain of Canon and the dry wastelands of Non-Canon. I’ll not sort it out beyond that.
Without further ado (and I’m not sure exactly how much of this made it onscreen):
- Byjan vavi demble eva o, trezy eme verdje espo jimi! Oa mysa iles me nýnyghi, si oa kiba tuziles espo tomistos!
- “I fart in your general direction, son of a window-dresser! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”
So you don’t have to look for it, “hamster” is nýnyghi (which may have been inspired by the Knights who say Ni). Also, tomisto, from High Valyrian tōmītsos, was an homage to my friend Tom (a.k.a. Tommy) Lieber. I’ve found a way to work him into each one of my languages, but “elderberry” is the best, I think.
- Já si hojgá oa gundja, trezy eme mero dovodedha!
- “Go and boil your bottom, son of a silly person!”
Note to the Wiki folks: If it’s got a j in an odd place, it’s probably Ghiscari in origin.
- Kiman nya másina orvorta va oi sodjistos!
- “I wave my private parts at your aunties!”
There were some edits made to the text:
- Do eban av kimívagho dombo, o doru-borto pame espo gruzi evi havor espo begistos!
- “I don’t want to talk to you no more you empty-headed animal food trough wiper!”
- Ghorgan ji pungo va o, nynta Dare espo Zaldrizes, o si une oi dovodedhi, Vesterozi azzzzzantys.
- “I blow my nose at you, so-called Dragon Queen, you and all your silly Westerosi kaniggets!”
And there it is.
But let me apologize to the Valyrian students out there. In the interview, I said that I didn’t think anyone had figured it out, but I sold you short! Mad Latinist and at least one other person did guess right; I guess I just didn’t hear about it (probably because I was traveling at the time). Well played! And you didn’t even have the words for “hamster”, “elderberry”, “aunty” or “fart”… That’s excellent sleuthsmanship!
Since it’s come up in the comments and elsewhere, I thought I’d give a quick rundown of my read on the Valyrian in the world as it exists in A Song of Ice and Fire. It’ll be useful to refer to this map in the discussion to come, since I’m going to be talking mostly about Slaver’s Bay.
High Valyrian was spoken in Valyria for centuries. The Ghiscari Empire was preeminent in the ancient history, and five times they tried to conquer Valyria. Each time they failed, as Valyria had dragons, which they used to repel the invasion. After the last attempt, the Valyrian army wiped the capital of the Ghiscari Empire, Old Ghis, off the face of the planet, and the empire fell, Ghiscari culture being displaced by Valyrian culture. At this time, the Valyrian Freehold took control of Slaver’s Bay, and three formerly small cities became large and rather important: Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen.
Looking at the map, it makes sense to me that the way Valyria interacted with these three cities was by boat. An army could march overland and get to Meereen, then Yunkai, then Astapor, but why bother? A trip by boat is much quicker. Consequently, Astapor is the closest of these three cities to Valyria. (Oh, and if you’re wondering why Daenerys, who, presumably, is coming from the north, goes to Astapor, Yunkai and then Meereen, as opposed to the other way around, it’s because she traveled all the way to Qarth first, and then traveled from there. Qarth is way east and south of Astapor.)
In these cities in Slaver’s Bay, everyone would have spoken Ghiscari, during the ancient wars. When Old Ghis fell, though, a Valyrian ruling class would have had to have been installed, and High Valyrian would have replaced Ghiscari by fiat, and also in practice. When this happens, it generally takes three generations for a language to be lost in a single family. In five or six generations, the Ghiscari language could have been stamped out, if that was a goal of the Valyrians (and it was, I think it’s safe to assume). The old language, though, would have survived in local vocabulary (why lose a word for something that the new language doesn’t even have a word for anyway?), and in the vocabulary of those who weren’t taught the new language explicitly. The result ends up being a Valyrian language grammatically, but with a lot of Ghiscari vocabulary.
Now, all this time, High Valyrian could have been maintained. With the presence of a home base in Valyria and a Valyrian upper class, there would always be motivation to maintain the original language. It seems likely that Valyrians would care about maintaining the language so they could communicate with every part of their vast Freehold. So even as new languages are emerging amongst the lower classes in Slaver’s Bay, High Valyrian would carry on.
The aggravating factor in this history is the mysterious Doom of Valyria, which we don’t know a whole lot about. The Doom was some sort of cataclysmic event that destroyed Valyria and left physical scars all over the region. Not even sailors were go near it now. It’s considered haunted and/or cursed. Linguistically, this is when the umbilical cord was severed for the various outposts of the Valyrian Freehold. I’ll leave the Free Cities out of this discussion for the time being and instead focus on two areas: Slaver’s Bay and Dragonstone.
Dragonstone was founded by the House Targaryen before the Doom of Valyria. It’s located in Blackwater Bay, and is a stone’s throw from King’s Landing (which didn’t have that name at the time). Initially it was established as an outpost to facilitate trade between the Valyrian Freehold and Westeros. Consequently, the Targaryens here would be upper class High Valyrian speakers. After the doom, Aegon I conquered Westeros, and the Targaryen dynasty was established. Naturally, they would have to learn the Common Tongue (it’d just make things simpler), but it doesn’t mean that they’d lose High Valyrian. Valyrian is the tie not only to the old Freehold, but to Essos and the old culture. It would easily have been retained over at least the first two generations. Thereafter, if it was important, it could be maintained through family use and careful instruction. It takes resources to do so, naturally, but they’re royalty; they’ve got resources. So to me it makes sense that High Valyrian is maintained by the Targaryens.
The evolution of the language is difficult to map realistically, since the time depth is greater than the real world analogues George R. R. Martin used. For example, at least 5,000 years are supposed to have passed between the old days of Valyria and the Doom. From 0 CE to today, Latin went from being an everyday spoken language to not existing. In fantasy, though, there’s a bit of wiggle room. I like to think that the rate of change in High Valyrian was accelerated by two factors: (1) contact with other languages; and (2) distance from Valyria.
In the case of Dragonstone, the Targaryens were far from Valyria, but also weren’t really mixing with Common Tongue speakers, per se. They kind of kept to themselves. So rather than change, the language is preserved, while the other varieties of Valyrian evolve past it. Low Valyrian never touched Dragonstone. When it comes to pronunciation, though, Common Tongue pronunciations did end up affecting the Targaryens. This is why older pronunciations of j and v aren’t maintained in the otherwise pristine form of High Valyrian spoken by the Targaryens.
Back to Slaver’s Bay. Although Yunkai is geographically closer to Meereen, I’ve always thought of it as being closer to Astapor culturally. Looking back, I’m not sure how precisely I came to this determination (I admit that). It felt, though, that Yunkish Valyrian and Astapori Valyrian would be closer to each other than either is to Meereenese Valyrian.
Each of the dialects (and I would characterize them as dialects of a kind of “Ghiscari Valyrian”) would be grammatically very similar. They have a common culture, and seem to exist in a kind of symbiotic way, with each city having something the others don’t. Since Meereen is the largest, it likely also has the largest lower class. This is where I saw the most distinct form of the language emerging. This is why it made sense to me that Meereen could support a Valyrian variant that’s quite different in sound from the other two. It’s the same language, but it’s developed its own distinct character.
With Daenerys, she grew up with High Valyrian from Viserys and from the loyalists that helped raised them. In Essos, she would’ve been exposed to a ton of different Valyrian dialects from the Free Cities. This would help her be able to pick up a new one. And, of course, if you look at Astapori Valyrian and compare it to High Valyrian, though there are sound changes, they’re not that drastic. I think it’s plausible that Dany could get the gist of it, even if she can’t speak it. Meereenese, though, is tougher. It’s hard to see a word and tie it to an Astapori Valyrian word, let alone a High Valyrian word.
Regarding comparisons, I likened Meereenese Valyrian to Scotch English and Astapori Valyrian to Southern California English. They’re way different, but they’re the same language with some vocabulary items that differ. A couple of commenters have likened the two to Spanish and Portuguese. I simply don’t know if I’d go that far. If I see Portuguese written out, I can kind of get the gist of it, but hearing it? I get nothing. If I studied it a little bit and got used to the sound changes, I mean, maybe, but I’m not sure they’re close enough grammatically. In some ways, Portuguese and Spanish are too close, and in other ways, too far. The pronunciation of Portuguese and Spanish is closer than the pronunciation of Meereenese and Astapori, but the grammar is much further apart. This is why I really think of them as dialects not separate languages.
As for Yunkish, I put don’t put it in the middle of the two dialects. Rather, it’s all but identical to Astapori. Truth be told, I haven’t had to do anything specific for Yunkish, but if I did, the variation would be minor.
If I’ve left anything out, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll add it to this explanation. It isn’t as thorough as it could be, but it’s a start. The Valyrian language family is really a fun linguistic experiment, so I wanted to at least give you an idea how I was approaching it. Thanks for reading!
Edit: Some thoughts on New Ghis. New Ghis is an island to the south of Slaver’s Bay:
Regarding New Ghis, where I would start is with the notion that the Ghiscari culture was wiped off the face of the Earth. If we accept that as a truth, we have to accept that they’re speaking some form of Valyrian in New Ghis. New Ghis is pretty far from Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen, so one would have to expect it to be quite different, but how is a question I haven’t dealt with yet. Presumably they can still converse with the cities on the mainland (this happens in Book 5), so it couldn’t have diverged too much. At this point, I think that’s all we can say about New Ghis.
We are officially half way through with the fourth season of Game of Thrones, and after last night’s episode, I know exactly what’s on everyone’s mind. Two words:
You kidding me?
Cersei and Tywin are sharing a pretty good scene—finally getting down to brass tacks with one another—and then Cersei drops this one on us (speaking of the Iron Bank of Braavos):
Cersei: But someone does work there; it is comprised of people.
Tywin: And a temple is comprised of stones.
When I heard this, I felt like Bender attending his own funeral. WHAT?! I mean, it’s one thing for Cersei to say something like this (she tries to act younger than she is), but for Tywin Lannister to say “comprised of”?! I…just…
Listen. You’ve got exactly two options, and they are these:
- is composed of
That. Is. It. You cannot hope to create a timeless it’s-not-television-it’s-HBO classic and date yourselves thus. What’s next? Is Tyrion going to use “whom” in subject position when he’s trying to sound formal? Why even have the British accents? Where’s that guy that played Benvolio in Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet? Why not have him play Jaime Lannister?!
(Oh, and a note, as I put my responsible linguist’s hat on: This is a fight that’s already been lost. At present, the best we can say is that you can still use “comprise” as an active verb. “Comprised of” is totally the norm now, and will continue on its path to becoming the only correct way to use “comprise”.)
But, yeah, with that out of the way, welcome to my first post in three months! I’ve been intensely busy, and have less to show for it than I should, but much more than I would if I’d been keeping up with everything I’d been keeping up with. One of those casualties has been this blog, which I never intended to abandon (and still don’t), but from which I’ve had to take a step back for a bit. It’s actually been quite encouraging to hear from a few people that they’ve missed the episode recaps I did the past couple of seasons. In fact, it’s because of one person on Tumblr specifically that I’m writing this post (because I promised I would).
There’ve been a lot of big talking points this season, which, honestly, has kind of surprised me. I mean, the Purple Wedding, sure, but there are some other things that really caught me off guard. I’ll try to hit them all.
But first and foremost, I want to talk about one dude: Jack Gleeson. I never got a chance to meet him (I’m sure we’ve been at the same thing at some point in time; I just never ran into him), but now that Joffrey is gone and Jack is done with the show, can we please give this guy a standing ovation? What a challenge. Joffrey is awful, of course, but he’s also vulnerable, and at times quite pathetic—and then sometimes he turns right around and plays Prince Charming to a T! There may have been another actor that could have done one or two of these traits very well, but Jack Gleeson embodied that little so-and-so named Joffrey so well that he became the face of the character—for the books as well as the show. He owned that role. And if he never acts again, which is what he’s claiming at the moment, his place in television history is cemented. He doesn’t need to do anything else. His skill is on screen for the ages, and he can do whatever he wants now for the rest of his life. He earned it.
Other minor notes: Love Prince Oberyn. Can’t wait till he gets revenge on the man that killed his
father sister. Love every single gif that came out of the Purple Wedding. Pure genius. Lena Headey deserves an Emmy nomination (she was wonderful in yesterday’s episode), but probably won’t get one, because I know the Emmy dudes are real grammar sticklers. Would love to see a spinoff entitled something like Arya and Her Dog—or, maybe when she gets a little bit older, The Fox and the Hound? (You can boo now.) I know people felt bad for Hodor when he was being attacked, but I bet Hodor probably felt worse when he awoke from a trance and saw what he did to Vargo Hoat Locke. Love Pod, Love Bronn, Jaime and Cersei…
Oh yeah, that.
There’s already been a lot that’s been said about Jaime raping Cersei. I know book readers probably felt betrayed, since this is at least the second time this has happened (Dany and Drogo being the first), but my wife had an interesting point. At no point in time is the rape portrayed as consensual (duh, it’s a rape, I know, but bear with me). After seeing that scene, there can be no argument that Cersei starts to “enjoy” it, and so it’s not a “legitimate” rape (a shockingly common argument made by rape apologists). Public opinion, for some crazy reason, loves to side with the rapist when there’s any potential “gray area”. There was none in this scene. No matter what way you look at it, that scene, both in world and out, was negative, and the reaction was supposed to be negative—and it was. So, at the very least, we’ve come that far, I guess.
But here’s what really bothers me about it. After that scene is over with, it’s like it never happened. It’s not as if Cersei’s not trying to think about it, or anything: it’s like it literally never happened. The very next episode, we see Jaime right back on his upward-trending arc, giving armor and a sword to Brienne, and Cersei out to avenge her dead son. In the book, that scene was supposed to be disturbing because it happens next to Joffrey’s dead body, and is supposed to further characterize Jaime and Cersei’s bizarre relationship. In the show, the scene—or that act, rather—has absolutely no dramatic function. This is actually one of the problems I had with Battlestar Galactica. Often you’d have an episode where some really tense, really dramatic stuff happens, and then the next episode, it’s like none of that stuff happened: two people that are mortal enemies at the end of episode X are suddenly friends in episode X+1. This is something I expect to happen on a show with a dozen or more writers. But Game of Thrones is literally shrinking its writing staff as the show goes on. It’s now down to four, and I don’t expect it to grow. There’s no excuse for this. It’s weird.
(Note: I won’t delete the above, since it already appeared, but this was worded much too strongly, and there’s a key piece that’s missing. We’re only five episodes in—and four seasons. The dramatic function of the rape scene is to produce a clear and obvious rift between Jaime and Cersei. This rift may play out later this season; it may play out later this series. It has the potential to be a defining moment between these two characters. The show has done an outstanding job at planting seeds that bear fruit several episodes or even several seasons later. We have to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and see what happens as the story unfolds. -DP)
All right, on to language stuff.
Now for a positive surprise. I didn’t get to watch the episode “Breaker of Chains” live because I was on a trip to Colorado (shout out to the CU Linguistics Department! Thank you guys so much for having me; it was awesome!). I ended up watching it right before “Oathkeeper”. Consequently, I was puzzled why I was getting so much Twitter love after the episode aired.
It’s not as if I didn’t know what was in that episode—I mean, I translated all that—I just didn’t think it would be particularly memorable. With the scene from episode four of season three, I knew beforehand that that was going to be good. I’d read the books; I knew the scene; and the script was great. I didn’t get that sense from this one, though. I mean, it was cool, and all (it’s Game of Thrones), but I had no idea how awesome that scene was going to be. And man, the ending—with the slave holding the collar, the master right behind him? That was badass! That scene played way better than what I was imagining in my head, and Emilia Clarke’s really got the rhythm of High Valyrian down. It’s wonderful to hear.
Here’s her full speech. You’ll have to forgive me, because I know for a fact I’m going to miss some of these long vowels. There’s a lot of text, and, as I’ve said before, Final Draft (the program I use for the scripts) doesn’t allow macrons, so I have to reinsert them where I remember them. Eventually I’ll get it all right.
- Daenerys Jelmāzmo iksan. Kostilus jevi āeksia yno bē pirtra jemot vestretis, iā daoruni jemot vestretis. Daoriot jemas. Doriar udra pōnto syt eman. Mērī jemī ivestran.
- I am Daenerys Stormborn. Your masters may have told you lies about me, or they may have told you nothing. It does not matter. I have nothing to say to them. I speak only to you.
I’ve always wondered how they could hear her—or how anyone could hear anyone in our world in the days before amplification—but maybe everyone in Meereen has HBO GO. Continuing, Dany says:
- Ēlī Astaprot istan. Astaprot dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Hembār Yunkaihot istan. Yunkaihī dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Sesīr Mirinot mastan.
- First, I went to Astapor. Those who were slaves in Astapor now stand behind me, free. Next I went to Yunkai. Those who were slaves in Yunkai now stand behind me, free. Now I have come to Meereen.
Okay. Dude. Like, you have no idea how much I was laughing at the fact that I literally got to use a pluralized nominalization of a past habitual participle. This has happened several times in Game of Thrones, actually, where I created some word or some grammatical form and thought, “This is cool, but it’ll never see the light of day.” Then all of a sudden I get to use the Dothraki words for “duck”, “rabbit” and “cooking pot”—and now this. The fact that High Valyrian even has a past habitual form still makes me chuckle (this is a form of the verb that is approximately equivalent to “used to” in English). I remember when I first looked at these sentences and had to translate them, I kind of rolled my eyes, and was like, “Oh, brother, I’m going to have to do a big old relative clause…” Then I paused, looked again…and my eyes got wide. It’s kind of like going for a royal flush as a joke in Texas Hold ‘Em and then the last card is the jack of hearts you’ve been waiting for. I laugh right now as I’m thinking about it.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me back up. Dohaeragon is a verb that means “to serve” (everyone should recognize it from the expression Valar dohaeris). Dohaeran means “I’m serving (right now)”. Dohaerin means “I serve (generally)”. Dohaertin means “I used to serve”. Each of these can be turned into participles. For example, dohaerare is the adjective “serving”, and you might use it to say dohaerare vala, “the serving man”, or “the man who is serving us at the moment” (e.g. a waiter). You can turn the participle itself into a noun to shorten things up, though, and say dohaeraros, which could mean something like “waiter”, so long as it’s understood that it’s temporary. You can do the same with other participles, as well. For example, the High Valyrian word for “slave” is dohaeriros, or “someone who serves habitually”. Dany uses the word buzdar, a Ghiscari word for “slave”, so the slaves in Astapor will understand what she’s saying (they may not know the High Valyrian term).
In this case, though, Dany turns the past habitual into a participle and nominalizes it. So dohaertre becomes dohaertros, which, when pluralized, is dohaertrossa, which means, “those who used to serve habitually”—and, if you put Astaprot in front of it (the locative version), you get Astaprot dohaertrossa, which literally means “those who were slaves in Astapor”.
All of that in two words! Man alive, this is what makes the job fun!
Yeah, so what was I doing when I got side-tracked? Oh, Dany’s speech. Still a lot left, actually. Here’s the next bit:
- Jevys qrinuntys ikson daor. Jevys qrinuntys jemo paktot issa. Jevys qrinuntys jevor riñar laodissis ossēnīs. Jevys qrinuntys jemo syt mērī belma se boteri se udrāzmī ēzi. Udrāzmī jemot maghon daor. Iderennon maghan. Se jevo qrinuntoti pōjor gūrotriri maghan. Naejot!
- I am not your enemy. Your enemy is beside you. Your enemy steals and murders your children. Your enemy has nothing for you but chains and suffering and commands. I do not bring you commands. I bring you a choice. And I bring your enemies what they deserve. Forward!
(Note: Above, ēzi should be ēza, but I misconjugated. I was thinking of the subject as “the masters” not “your enemy”.)
And finally, when she tells them to fire the catapult, this is what she says:
That is, “unfasten” or “unleash” (she’s talking about catapults, after all). An incredibly awkward word, with four long vowels in a row. If all the vowels are long, how can you even tell?
Anyway, there’s been other Valyrian, but I don’t have time to go into all of it (this post is getting a bit long). I was pleasantly surprised by Michiel Huisman’s performance in 401 (another Dutch actor!). His Low Valyrian was great. Jacob Anderson, though… Well, but who could ever top the master?
In 404, we got to hear some of Meereenese Valyrian (MV), which we’ll get to hear more of in the second half of the season. I know that Mad Latinist has been conjecturing that it’s not as close to Astapori Valyrian (AV) as I let on, but, I mean, it is literally the same language—I promise you this. I don’t have a separate document; just a section in the AV grammar entitled “Meereenese Shift”. It’s just AV with sound changes. There are a lot more Ghiscari-derived words in the MV dialogue, but they now exist in AV, too. They were new words. They weren’t created specifically for MV, but were created because there was a need for them in the MV dialogue. I thought of them as just new Low Valyrian words.
Here’s a nice comparison of all three Valyrians (this is an actual line of MV):
- MV: Shka ma khurf. P’ashkesh she kraj waov.
- AV: Ska me gurp. P’aeske si kotovi uvuve.
- HV: Mittys iksā. Āeksia tolī kostōbi issi.
- English: You’re a fool. The masters are too strong.
You can see each thing I mentioned at work here. Gurp is a Ghiscari word for “fool” that surfaced for the first time in MV, but is now in AV as well. Schwas are unmarked, but if it’s written a and occurs at the end of a word and is unstressed, it’s a schwa in MV. The word kraj has a reflex in krazi in AV, where it means “large”. MV is more Ghiscari in this way, since kraz- is a Ghiscari root. Otherwise it’s all sound changes. Radical sound changes, to be sure, but sound changes nonetheless. To give you an example how of just how radical the sound changes are, here’s the word “Unsullied” in all three Valyrians:
- MV: Thowoá
- AV: Dovoghedhy
- HV: Dovaogēdy
- English: Unsullied
Dave and Dan wanted MV to sound different enough that Dany wouldn’t be able to understand it, so I did that. Still, though, if you speak AV fluently, I contend that you can figure out MV without too much trouble. It’s just a thick accent with a lot more Ghiscari vocabulary.
All right, at almost 2500 words, I’m going to bring this to a close. I likely will not have an episode-by-episode recap for the last five episodes, but I will post again before the season’s over (or the day after it’s over). Fun stuff coming!
P.S.: If you’re wondering about the title, let me tell you: Silicon Valley is definitely worth watching. Absolutely loving it. Veep is killing it, too. Add John Oliver, and we’ve got some great Sundays ahead of us.