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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!

Dothra Ma Khalasaroon

So this one kind of slipped under the radar.

If you point your browser over to JoinTheRealm.com, 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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Click to enlarge.

InundaTED

If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m at TED in Long Beach right now, and that it’s not likely that I’ll get out three more blog posts before the month is up. That, however (as well as the title to my last post), got me thinking about months.

In the Universe of Ice and Fire, we know there are seasons, because we’re told that there are. Seasons can last months, years—decades, even. We don’t know why, but I’ve heard that there is an explanation, and we’ll learn what it is when George R. R. Martin is done with the series. In the meantime, though, I have absolutely no idea what to do with month names—or dividing up months—in Dothraki, and so I’m going to leave it alone. After all, though summer will be the same every time one experiences it, whether summer lasts three months or three years, there’s no guarantee that a single month (e.g. September) will be the same year in and year out. What, then, would distinguish it? Why even name it?

That, though, doesn’t change the fact that we have months in our world, and that those months have names. So if one were to use Dothraki, we could use the English names and Dothrakify them (though “February” is terrible in any language. What an awful word! I think I’d Dothrakify it as Fevyuweri, which will betray my accent), but I thought it might be fun to come up with Dothraki words for our months—and so I’m throwing it out to you. What would be some good names for our months in Dothraki? You might find it useful to refer to the extant vocabulary of Dothraki in coming up with words, but feel free to be creative. As a reminder, these are the terms for the seasons in Dothraki:

  • Spring: Eyelke
  • Summer: Vorsaska
  • Autumn: Chafka
  • Winter: Aheshke

You might also find it interesting to look at how other cultures have named their months. For example, in Ancient Egyptian, the months were called Growth, Harvest and Inundation followed by a number (I always found that amusing). If we can come up with terms we like, we’ll start using them out of world.

Oh, by the way, I think it’d be helpful to come up with a list of out of character Dothraki vocabulary (e.g. some of the modern terms we’ve come up with). Possible expansion for the language wiki…?

February

It’s now February 20th, and this is the first Dothraki post of the month. Given that it’s a short month, this may very well be the last, as well. I feel obliged to offer up some sort of explanation, given that (most months) I’ve been pretty good about living up to my unwritten (until now) four posts per month goal.

As it has turned out, this month has been pretty busy. In addition to the SWTX PCA/ACA Conference from last week, I’m giving a TED University talk at TED this month (a whole 6 minutes on the 28th!), and have been busy doing a lot of prep work for that and for TEDActive, where I’m giving a workshop. If you want to talk any Dothraki, the best place to catch me these days is on Twitter or at our weekly Dothraki chat on IRC.

I didn’t want this post to be completely devoid of Dothraki, though, so I thought I’d address an issue that came up on Twitter. Our latest (and quite prolific!) Dothraki speaker Tyene Sand was trying to translate a sentence using the Night’s Watch (that is, the name “the Night’s Watch”). That can be translated in a number of ways (I offered Vitihiraki Ajjalani), but the translation called for the phrase to be declined in some way. This is where one runs into a dilemma.

In Turkish, if you take a foreign noun and try to decline it, the word behaves a little differently from native (or assimilated) Turkish nouns. Turkish names take a number of case suffixes (similar to Dothraki), but these suffixes participate in vowel harmony. Here’s a small example:

Turkish
(Nominative)
English Turkish
(Locative)
English
mağaza store mağazada at the store
göl lake gölde at the lake

As you can see, in the Turkish forms in the third column, there’s a suffix that’s either -da or -de. Which suffix you get depends on the character of the previous vowel (for more, see this article on Turkish vowel harmony), but they both mean the same thing.

That’s fine and good. What happens, though, when you add these suffixes to a foreign word? Turkish, as it turns out, does a couple of things differently. First, the suffix is always attached with an apostrophe (kind of like how sometimes in English, acronyms are pluralized with an ‘s as opposed to just s [e.g. DVD's rather than DVDs]). Second, unless the quality of the vowels is quite apparent, Turkish just uses one of those two suffixes—specifically, the -da suffix. Here’s an example:

Turkish
(Nominative)
English Turkish
(Locative)
English
Google Google Google’da on/at Google

So, now that we know what Turkish does, what does Dothraki do?

First, Dothraki noun phrases are often declined on the head noun. This is the rough equivalent of “passerby” vs. “passersby” in English (the latter being the formal plural of the former). Take, for example, the phrase asavva evomen, which has various meanings depending on context (for now, let’s say “afterlife”). If one wanted to pluralize this phrase, the appropriate plural would be asavvasi evomeni (the latter adjective taking an -i on account of concord). That is, asavva is the head noun, so it takes the plural; one doesn’t treat the whole thing as a single noun and attempt to add some sort of inflection to the end of evomen.

That said, one may want to write in Dothraki and talk about modern people, companies, products, places, etc. For something like “Google”, one option would be to try to translate the concept (good luck) or to render it in Dothraki (Gogol?). This might end up making things more confusing than necessary, though. As a result, the kind of catch-all repair strategy used in Dothraki is the preposition haji. Haji means something like “because of” or “on account of” or sometimes “with respect to”. In Dothraki proper, its meanings are a bit more specific. When used in conjunction with foreign names or terms, though, it stands in for any preposition and/or the genitive, allative or ablative cases. Thus, one might say something like:

  • Anha tih mae haji Reddit.
  • “I saw it on Reddit.”

Technically haji there could be standing in for she, ma, irge, hatif, vi, ha, ki—or the ablative, genitive or allative cases. Really, though, given the context, it seems likely that it’s standing for she (a general locative. Not sure if anything more specific would be used to refer to something one sees on a webpage. Mra, maybe?). One might be able to supply a context that would force another reading, but the most obvious reading suggests that whatever was seen was seen on Reddit.

Though the solution is pretty simple, the drawbacks are that there could be confusion or ambiguity, so it behooves one to supply the proper context so that only the correct interpretation is plausible. If more specificity is absolutely required, one can always use the proper preposition. If a case is needed, it’s probably best to attempt to render the noun in Dothraki, as below:

  • Anha dothrak Disneylandaan!
  • “I’m going to Disneyland!”

To make it clear, one may (in the Turkish style) separate the case ending from the root with an apostrophe, but personally I prefer it without.

I hope your February’s going well and that it’s not too cold where you are! It rained today, so California will get a bit chillier for the next couple of days, but otherwise I can’t complain. For those of you who speak or are familiar with other case languages, what do those languages do with foreign proper terms? How would “Google” come out in the instrumental in Russian? Or the translative in Finnish?

Dothras chek!

Vekhikh Fishi

There’s a fun multilingual pun referring back to the last post. We had some good suggestions for “ice cream”—too many, in fact. I think there’s only one thing to be done: We need to start up several different Dothraki ice cream chains, each one using a different word for “ice cream”. One year later, we’ll see which word has caught on, and that will be our word for “ice cream”. As it is, though, I liked Qvaak’s suggestion of jeshokh lamekhi. As I see it, a jeshokh could be a word for any frozen treat, with jeshokh lamekhi being ice cream specifically. Good suggestions all! Makes me want to eat ice cream (though, of course, most things do. Mmmmm… Ice cream…).

Those who follow me on Twitter probably will have already seen some of what I’m about to share, but if you don’t, I wanted to spotlight a couple of cool things that have found their way onto the internet recently.

It started back on July 7th when @MattTheHuman_ tweeted this awesome photo of a tattoo of Shekh ma shieraki anni:

A tattoo of "Shekh ma shieraki anni" by @MattTheHuman_.

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That. Is. Awesome.

And the awesomeness continued when @NuhTarian tweeted this photo of his new tattoo (this one for shierak qiya, the Bleeding Star):

Photo of a tattoo by @NuTarian.

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And just yesterday I saw something really cool. @jamyjams_ posted the picture below of a couple of engraved bracelets she’d just received:

A picture of bracelets posted by @jamyjams_ to Twitter.

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Check those out! On the outside they say Shekh ma shieraki anni and Jalan atthirari anni, and then on the inside you see their translations in English. Apparently she got them from Etsy (see this tweet) from Lauren Elaine Designs (she does custom hand-stamped jewelry). Pretty cool! May have to get me one that says Hash yer laz tihi jin, hash yer dothrae drivolataan. Heh, heh…

Oh, man, and I just saw a couple new ones over on Tumblr—check it out!

Now, in the case of all the above, I didn’t actually come up with the phrases (i.e. I didn’t invent the phrase “my sun and stars”), but I did invent most of the words (George R. R. Martin gets credit for shierak and qiya). Having the language spoken on Game of Thrones has been pretty cool. But to think that someone actually tattooed those words onto their body… Wow. That, to me, is beyond incredible. It means a lot to know that someone would actually like the phrases in Dothraki enough to have them become an indelible part of their own body (after all, they very well could have gone with the English as is written in the books). You guys are awesome! If I ever get a chance to meet you in person, I’m going to buy you an ice cream (or a non-dairy equivalent, if you prefer).

If you happen to spot anything cool with some Dothraki on it somewhere out on the internet, let me know and I’ll throw it up here. The fan art inspired by Game of Thrones has been awesome to see.

Hajas, zhey eyak!

Update: Oh, duh. Right after I sent this I thought, “Oh, I should have included the word for ‘tattoo’ in Dothraki.” My head isn’t with me at present.

Tattoos are about as old as humans are, so I figured the Dothraki needed a word for it (though they also need a word for whatever kind of body art is used in the show. Those aren’tattoos, but what are they, exactly? Racing stripes?). The root for the various tattoo words is lir, with the word lir (inanimate noun) being the word for “tattoo”. To give someone a tattoo, you use the verb lirat (e.g. “He put a tattoo on me” would be Me lir anna). The image or symbol depicted in a tattoo is the lirikh; the one who gives a tattoo is the lirak; and all of one’s tattoos taken together is one’s lirisir (think of it like a “body of work” [pun intended if you thought it was funny]).

So, there you go! Now you can talk about your Dothraki tattoos in Dothraki. Fonas chek!

Dothraki Ice Cream

I was just up in Chico for a day, and I managed to hit my favorite ice cream store Shubert’s twice. As I was eating my mocha chip, I came to a decision: Dothraki needs a word for ice cream. Not an “in-universe” word, of course, but a modern one that I we can use when I we need it. Consider this a mini installment of our modern terminology series. (Ooh, that gives me an idea: this needs a tag!)

Anyway, if you feel up to the challenge, why not take a crack at coming up with a word for “ice cream” in Dothraki! It may prove instructive to review how compounds work, and you might also need some vocabulary. Here’s everything I can think of that might be relevant:

  • ahesh (n.i.A) snow
  • fish (adj.) cold
  • flas (n.i.A) a layer that forms on the top of soup or a layer of cream that separates and rises to the top
  • gizikhven (adj.) sweet
  • hadaen (n.i.A) food
  • jesh (n.i.A) ice
  • jesho (adj.) frozen
  • jeshoy (adj.) freezing
  • jeshven (adj.) icy
  • lamekh (n.i.A) milk (from a mare)
  • thagwa (n.i.B) yogurt made from mare’s milk
  • thagwash (n.i.A) a dessert made from thagwa and eaten with dried fruit
  • thash (adj.) soft

There might be more that would be useful. If you need something in particular, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I’ve got it. Otherwise, have fun! I’ll probably be eating ice cream in the interim.

Update: It also might be useful to note that adjectives follow the nouns they modify. So actually jeshlamekh should be lamekhjesh. Doesn’t sound nearly as catchy, I’m afraid…

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