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UPDATE: It appears that all comments are being moderated, for some reason (it’s usually just new commenters that get moderated). I’m not sure why that’s happening, but I’m looking into it. As long as your comment gets into the moderation queue within a week that counts for the contest.

Another year, and another season in the books! The finale happened yesterday, there are a number of important characters who are now dead, and I’ve got a book to give away (more details on that at the end of this post!), but I first want to talk about something that happened in episode 509.

With the Sons of the Harpy closing in around her, Daenerys’s goose looked cooked, until Drogon showed up from the sky and started blasting everybody. With Drogon getting hurt (poor dragon!), Dany mounted Drogon’s back and told him, “Fly!”, and then she took off. At least, that’s what I heard when I saw it, and I didn’t question it. Later on I started hearing from people that she said something different, which I thought was weird, because it sounded and looked like “fly” to me. I dismissed it, until I saw something extremely bizarre: In the closed captioning, the word “VALAHD” had been added, as shown below:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I found this utterly baffling for a number of reasons. For starters, she obviously does not say “valahd”, unless it’s a French word with a silent “d” (I have accepted that she does say something “v”-like at the very least, even though I didn’t catch it in my initial viewing). Second, “valahd” is not only not a word of High Valyrian, it’s not a word in anything (or so I thought, though more on this later). It looks like gibberish and its inclusion confounded me—especially as I had some behind-the-scenes information about this scene.

Initially, I had translated the High Valyrian command “fly” for this scene, and that’s what was in the materials I sent off (the word is Sōvēs!, which you can hear in my official recording here—and, in fact, it already appeared in the series in episode 310, albeit in the plural: sōvētēs). This wasn’t a pick-up line or something added in ADR: It was a part of the script whose translations I sent off last August. For whatever reason, though, that line didn’t make it into the recording that day, and what Emilia Clarke did say was “Fly!” in English. (It happens sometimes: Scenes get busy, lots of activity, sometimes a word gets forgotten and that take turns out the best, etc.)

Many months later when they were doing ADR for that scene, they decided to try to add the High Valyrian back in. I sent the post-production folks the original line and MP3, but there was a problem: Dany’s mouth didn’t match the word sōvēs, as what she said was English “Fly!” They asked me for something shorter, so I offered Jās!, High Valyrian for “Go!”, and they said they’d try it.

Anyway, I guess that didn’t work, so we got “valahd”, and I was wondering where the heck it came from—until I found it.

Dothraki has about 4,000 words, many of which are quite obscure and would never make it into a scene (nhizokh, “raven plumage”? I mean, maybe…?). I’ve probably forgotten over half the words I created—especially as I haven’t translated into it recently. I was looking through the dictionary, though, and came across an entry I’d forgotten: valad.

Valad is the word for “horizon” (among other things), but I came up with it initially when I was creating a bunch of horse commands for the Dothraki. The reason is that I wanted two different words for “giddyup”. We already have hosh or hosha, which is used to urge a horse on (usually when it’s already going), but then there’s this expression: Frakhas valad! That translates to “Touch the horizon!”, and it’s used at the outset of a journey. The interesting thing is the note I added to the end of the definition, which is “often just valad“. And that makes sense: You typically don’t speak in full sentences to horses when you’re riding. Valad! is a much better horse command than Frakhas valad! But yeah, basically it’s just a word that urges the horse to get going.

Back to our “valahd”, here’s what I think happened. Everyone on the production has access to all my materials. I think they just went through and found something that fit Emilia’s mouth movements that seemed like it was close to the original meaning. And hey, if the Dothraki rode dragons, I could imagine them using Valad! to urge them to take off. And it is pretty close to “Fly!”, aside from the final d. So overall, pretty good!

Some open questions, though: Why the “h”? I’m guessing since this didn’t come from me directly, someone was trying to sound it out and spelled it that way? Works for English speakers! Why Dothraki, though, instead of Valyrian? I think it was because of the similar meanings and the mouth movements. True, the dragons are supposed to only understand High Valyrian, but I mean Drogon probably got the gist of it. Plus, he’s named after famous Dothraki speaker Khal Drogo, so maybe he’s got a little Dothraki in him. He’s probably heard Dothraki a bunch growing up, too. And what better reason to switch to Dothraki than when riding a dragon like a horse? I’m still confused as to why the closed captioning was even added. Is that usually done with the languages? Wouldn’t the subtitle that’s already there convey well enough what’s being said? Was it for foreign audiences…? I don’t know—there’s a lot I don’t know about that process. Either way, our “valahd” appears to be Dothraki valad, and it works, in context, so all’s well that ends well.

Regarding the finale, I did want to make one Valyrian note. For this episode I got to translate one of my favorite exchanges, and I wanted to show you how it worked. When Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, Jorah and Daario are left awkwardly in charge of Meereen (I loved this scene. They’re all sitting there like, “So…”), Missandei begins saying something in Valyrian and fumbles over what to call Tyrion. This is because she knows what she would say, but feels awkward calling him krubo, “dwarf”, as he’s standing right there. She ends up calling him byka vala, which literally translates to “little man”. Tyrion jumps in and helps her out, though, saying the following:

  • Krubo. Nyke pāsan kesor udir drējor issa? Munna, nya Valyrio mirrī pungilla issa.
  • “Dwarf. I believe that’s the word? Apologies, my Valyrian is a bit nostril.”

You know I love translating intentionally ungrammatical stuff. A better translation of the above would be “Dwarf. I do believe that is the correct word? Sorrows, my Valyrian is a little nostril.” Missandei then corrects him with:

  • Mirrī puñila.
  • “A little rusty.”

The English dialogue above is exactly as it was written, so I got the chance to create this near-miss. I started with “nostril”, which is actually formed from the word pungos, “nose”, via a suffix associated with byproducts. After that it was a matter of creating a word that had a pronunciation that was kind of close to that. What I came up with was the adjective puñila, which means “worn” or “weather-beaten”—and also, when used in conjunction with a skill or a language, “rusty”. I figured this would be a good pair for a non-native speaker to confuse. First, a double ll vs. a single l would be tough for a speaker who isn’t used to doubling consonants. Second, ñ is a non-English nasal consonant somewhere in the vicinity of the nasal you get when pronouncing ng. Although ñ will just come out as n before i in casual speech, it would be taught as something different from plain n, meaning that it would be remembered by a second language learner as something different from plain n—thus giving rise to the possible confusion, in this context, between puñila and pungilla.

So, I found that fun! Thank you for indulging. I love doing stuff like this, so I was delighted when I saw it in the script!

Posts here have been infrequent, I know, but I have been busy! Today I’m happy to announce the launch of my new website I’ll still have posts to add here, but I’m moving full speed ahead as I’m preparing to promote my new book The Art of Language Invention, which you can preorder now. As a part of that promotion, I would like to give away to a lucky commenter here a galley copy of The Art of Language Invention. Can we get a shot of those galleys?

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There we are! A bunch of galleys being lorded over by little Roman, my feisty feline!

Now, as this is a galley, it isn’t a final copy of the book, but that makes it quite unique. I’ll sign the book and write something in Dothraki or Valyrian and mail it off to you for you to keep! All you need to do is leave a comment below (if you can’t think of something to write, tell me your favorite flavor of ice cream or sorbet). Leaving multiple comments doesn’t count as multiple entries, so I’ll choose one random commenter among each unique commenter and contact them. In order to be eligible, you have to leave at least one comment here that wouldn’t get screened out via my usual screening methods (so nothing offensive, no rants, etc.), and, if you win, you have to be willing to send me a mailing address. The deadline is one week from today. Otherwise, that’s it! Thanks for reading, and geros ilas!

Akatthi Asshekhi

As we near the day of Winter Goat (goat pictures! Send them!), I thought it would be fun to do the old “Twelve Days of Christmas” in Dothraki. I thought I’d do this with twelve days to go until Christmas, but then I forgot to do it, so instead, here’s all twelve days!

Of course, there’d be no such thing as Christmas to the Dothraki. (And, of course, in modern times, we don’t even recognize twelve days. Oh, hang on a sec. The twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas day! This must be what Germans refer to as Sylvester. Huh. Live and learn.) Consequently I had to think up something quasi-similar that they could celebrate annually (or every-so-often-ly, at least), and what I came up with was the coming of Jalan Qoyi, the so-called “blood moon”—a.k.a. harvest moon. The harvest moon doesn’t last for twelve nights, but apparently there’s a time between it and the hunter’s moon that’s special. It’s probably longer than twelve nights, but I say close enough.

So! Are you ready for a translation of a song that will definitely not scan if you try to sing it? Because I’m not! Here it comes!

Jumping straight to the twelfth day (use either khal or khaleesi, depending on your preference)…

Sh’akatthik Jalani Qoyi, azh khal/khaleesi anhaan…
On the twelfth (day) of the Blood Moon, the khal/khaleesi gave to me…

  1. Akatthi Awazakis,
  2. Twelve (Dothraki) Screamers,
  1. Atthi arakh hasi,
  2. Eleven sharp arakhs,
  1. Thi Jaqqe Rhani,
  2. Ten Mercy Men,
  1. Qazat zhoris qiya,
  2. Nine bleeding hearts,
  1. Ori vezhis haji,
  2. Eight strong stallions,
  1. Fekh Rhaeshis Andahli,
  2. The Seven Kingdoms,
  1. Zhinda serj kherikhi,
  2. Six leather vests,
  1. Mek mawizze!
  2. Five rabbits!
  1. Tor fasokhqoy,
  2. Four blood pies,
  1. Sen gal zhavvorsi,
  2. Three dragon eggs,
  1. Akat inglor,
  2. Two medallion belts,
  1. Ma firikhnharen ha khalaan!
  2. And a crown for a king!

Actually, that’s not bad to sing! There are a couple places where you have to jam in a syllable, but overall it works out pretty well. (Note: If line 7 seems like a mouthful, just remember it has only one more syllable than line 8, but you may as well treat ae like a diphthong. It’s doable.) As for the first line which needs to change each time, you can review numbers (and how to create ordinals) here. In singing, the syllable la is the one that should correspond to “day” in that line. Also, khal seems to work better if you hold it for two beats. I suppose you could do zhilak, “lover”, instead, but it’d be odd to do it without anni, “my”, and it would sound rather…personal.

And, of course, if you’d like to learn more Dothraki grammar—or get a gift for someone who might want to—you can pick up Living Language Dothraki, which is on sale now! There’s both a physical version and an online version, so it works both for folks who want an actual book in their hands and those who don’t want more stuff in the house.

Now, if I may turn my attention to long time readers of this blog, we have some business to attend to. There is a book coming from HBO called The Game of Thrones Compendium. This is a book that is going to compile and present a gigantic mezcla of fan submissions related to Game of Thrones the show (season 1 through 4—crucial to remember that it’s the show and not the books, where they differ). Afterwards, it’s going to be published. You can submit anything from analysis of the show to original works of art related to the show (visual art, songs, spoken word recordings, poetry, pictures of costumes). For a full rundown on what it is and how it works, read the faq here.

No matter what, this thing is going to be really cool. But you know what would make it cooler?


Ever wondered what you would do with a poem in High Valyrian or Dothraki other than put it in a comment on this site? This. THIS. Granted, whatever you produce should be related to Game of Thrones in some other way besides the fact that it uses a language from the show, but that shouldn’t be tough. In fact, I’m sure some of the haiku submitted already could be resubmitted for the book. (Oh, and for legal purposes, all poems, etc. submitted to this website are the property of the original authors, and by submitting them here you give me the right simply to display them; you have not conveyed the rights of the original work to me in any way: You can still do what you want with it.) Or do something new. It’s all good!

The point is this: I want to see some language work in this book! Original poems, original songs—maybe even a dramatic reading of some of the lines in the show (Drogo’s speech, for example?)—memes (yes, Mad Latinist, you can submit your Valyrious memes, so long as you have the rights to the images! [If you don’t, note that you can use images from the show for this])! The possibilities are limitless!

Before submitting stuff, be sure to read the faq and the submission specs. If you’d like me to proofread something, please feel free to leave it in a comment, and note that it’s for the Compendium; I’ll try my best to get to those quicker than I do other things (I know I tend to be slow in responding).

Oh, and if you have a Dothraki or Valyrian tattoo? Please take the best photo you can of that and send it in!

As someone who works on the show, is a fan of the show, and is a fan of media in general, I think this is a really awesome project, and I hope it leads to more projects of its kind for other franchises, because it’s an outstanding idea. You can start submitting work on December 18th, and the submission period will be open until March 28th. So get ready, and let’s get crackin’! Dothralates!

The Valyrian Word for Hamster

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:

  1. Common (i.e. English)
  2. Astapori Valyrian
  3. High Valyrian
  4. Dothraki
  5. 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!”

And finally:

  • 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!

Vaes Dothrak Vimithreri

I’m mostly recovered from my first trip to Comic-Con this past weekend, and I’ve discovered that June is almost over, and I’ve only got one post for the month. This is my attempt to remedy that.

Something fun that I got to do for Comic-Con was translate some of the trolley signs for San Diego MTS into Dothraki. The signs were up at the station right across the street from the convention center, and I thought they came out pretty well. Here are some pictures:

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For a full set of the signs, though, check out this picture that SDMTS put together (along with some more literal translations I provided):

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Thanks to Nara Lee for setting it all up! It was pretty cool.

Also, while I was there I got to participate on a panel called “I Can’t Write, I Can’t Draw, But I Love Comics!” put together by Susan Karlin. Here’s a photo:

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The Making Game of Thrones blog also put up a post on the panel with a pretty good picture. You can check it out here.

In Valyrian news, I’ve finished the translations for season 4, so all that’s left is filming and post, and a long wait for the premiere!

Dothra Ma Khalasaroon

So this one kind of slipped under the radar.

If you point your browser over to, you’ll be able to create a custom sigil à la Game of Thrones for your own house. You can choose your colors, your sigil, your house name, your house motto—the whole bit—and share it with friends.

But if you take a moment, you may notice something else. If you go to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and select “Change Language”…

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Yep. You can go through the entire app in Dothraki. I translated the whole thing—even the copyright info down at the bottom.

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In fact, if you want to try to include some salty language in your sigil, you’ll even get to see a custom “Nah, you can’t do that” message.

I could literally sit with something like this all day and never get tired of coming up with custom sigils, but this is my first:

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Those who remember this discussion may know what that means at a glance.

I don’t know if the comments will allow you to post images, but if there’s a way you can share, let’s see some sigils! I’ll probably be doing more as the weeks, months and years progress.

Fonas chek!

Update: And one just for me:

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Dothraki on The Office

If you happened to be watching NBC’s Thursday night line-up yesterday, you will have seen Dwight Schrute teaching Erin Hannon Dothraki on The Office.

For real!

I’d heard a rumor about this before the episode aired, but didn’t realize the extent to which it’s used in the B-story. If you missed it, you can (provided this link works right) watch the episode on Hulu here. (If the link doesn’t work, you can just go to Hulu and poke around; you should be able to find it without too much trouble.)

Someone asked if I’d been consulted, and no, I wasn’t, but whoever was creating the Dothraki for this certainly did some digging. I didn’t even recognize the word aggendat (had to look that up). Actually they did something kind of interesting. Before the first commercial break (around the 7:30 mark on the Hulu video), you see that Dwight has written this on a paper pad:


This is defined (in order) as “I throat-rip”, “you throat-rip”, “he/she/it throat-rips”. First off, the word for throat is fotha, meaning that the accusative is foth, meaning that they declined this noun correctly (props all around!). What they created here, though, is something I haven’t done (yet) in Dothraki: a noun-verb compound. In particular, this is a form of noun incorporation. Noun incorporation happens in many (if not most) languages. In this instance, it takes the characteristic object of the verb and adds it to the verb stem, making the new object something connected to the incorporated noun. An easy example to think of is “sideswipe”, in English. If someone sideswipes you in a car, they have hit the side of your car. “Side”, though, is incorporated, and “you” is treated as the direct object.

Back to Dothraki, this is something I actually avoided and never did, because I didn’t want to bother to think of how it would work (and it never came up in translation). But you know what? That works pretty well (i.e. putting the noun in the accusative and attaching it to a transitive verb), so I’m canonizing it. In my mind, I’ll think of it as a Schrutean compound. (Though, of course, I’d probably delete the space between the two words.)

Of course, this isn’t the first time The Office has mentioned Dothraki. For last year’s Emmy’s, The Office folks put together an Office-style montage which featured Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope doing some fake Dothraki. Before that, though, there was an actor done up as a Dothraki from Game of Thrones who did a different kind of fake Dothraki—specifically, French. I thought that was a hoot. Fast forward to today’s episode of The Office, Erin is trying to learn a language to impress Andy’s family. The language? French. Dwight then convinces her to switch to Dothraki—only this time they did actual Dothraki. Nice.

Anyway, that kind of made my day. (Though I’m still going to have the quote from The Simpsons etched on my tombstone.) Yera chomo anna, zhey liraki haji Office!

Fonas chek!

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