Modern Terminology

I’m back home from Albuquerque, and finally getting back into the swing of things. I don’t have any pictures of me presenting (I was presenting), but here’s an awesome picture of me with Sean Endymion from the University of Texas, San Antonio. He’s got “Valar Morghulis” and “Valar Dohaeris” tattoed on his arms:

Me and Sean Endymion.

Pretty cool! Now let’s take a look at some of the words coined for modern implements.

As ingsve rightly pointed out, I did, in fact, coin something for “train” in the New York Times article (forgot!). The coinage I came up with was zhav taoka, which is “metallic lizard” or “metal lizard”. Looking at it now, though, I think gezri taoka, “metallic serpent”, makes more sense. Hrakkar, though, came up with some really cool possibilities:

  • vezhtawaki “metal stallion”
  • vezhshiqethi “iron stallion”

Those are pretty cool! I think over time, vezhshiqethi would simplify to vezzhiqethi, making it even more cohesive. Another option would be vezh taoka. I think any of those would work. The difference between using tawak with the genitive and taoka (simply an adjective) is that tawaki might suggest “real” instead of “metal”, since, as an adjective, tawak means “real” or “authentic” (though the -i on the end should make it clear that it’s not an adjective).

As Hrakkar pointed out, trains and cars probably aren’t dissimilar enough to merit separate coinages. Using rhaggat, as ingsve suggested, would probably be what would happen (after all, we got our word “car” pretty much the same way). However, I would like to suggest (in honor of both Bob Marley and Hrakkar’s awesome neologisms) hrakkarshiqethi: an iron lion! (Hey, even if it doesn’t work for a general word for “car”, it could certainly be a brand of car.)

For airplane, ingsve suggested rhaggat asavva, “sky cart”, on analogy with rhaggat eveth, “water cart” (which is the word for “ship”). Hrakkar, yet again, busted out some awesome ones:

  • zirtawaki “metal bird”
  • vezhasavva “sky stallion”
  • sajasavva “sky steed”

I love all of those. “Sky stallion” just sounds awesome. From the Dothraki perspective, though, I kind of like sajasavva better (makes it feel like the pilot is more in control).

We also had a suggestion for a Klingon spaceship in a pretty kickass (and lengthy!) comment from LoghaD. After all, if the main warship of the Klingon is the bird of prey, it would certainly make sense to translate it directly as zirqoyi. I like it! As for how “Klingon” would render in Dothraki, my guess would be khlingan (based on the breathiness of the original affricate, which I think would take precedence over the stop). This would mean that there would be a hard g sound, but I find that more likely than the velar nasal becoming alveolar.

As we jump to cellphone, things do become quite a bit more abstract. The first is ingsve’s long-range compound vekhikh astokhhezhahan, which I would bracket this way:

  • [ vekhikh [ [ [ astokh ] hezhah ] -an ] ]

If you can follow that, the word is actually a tripartite compound (and, by the way, the way ingsve wrote this might serve to answer one of loghaD’s questions from the last post), rather than a two-word compound plus another word, and means “thing for far-speech”. If this were a real compound, the word vekhikh adds practically nothing, as far as semantics goes, so it would likely drop out, leaving astokhhezhahan. By projecting, I could see that being reduced phonologically to astokhezhahan and then astokhezhaan and then astokhezhan—and maybe even further to tokhezhan. It’s not monosyllabic like “cell”, but it’s close!

Hrakkar’s suggestion would need a little work. If the intended meaning is “something that converses intended for one’s hand”, I’d probably retranslate it as “thing for hand-conversation”. The word for “conversation” is vasterikh, so “hand-conversation” would be vasterikhqora or maybe vasterikh qora (the difference being where the stress would land). That’d give us vekhikh vasterikh qoran, and then vasterikh qoran, and maybe vasterikhoran—and then after that, maybe rikhoran. That could work!

While we’re on phone, ingsve also came up with a word for smart phone, specifically: vekhikhdavrakhan, i.e. “a thing for apps”. This was based on an interview I did somewhere where they asked me what a Dothraki translation for “app” would be. I said that an app is a “useful thing”, which I translated as davrakhan. Somehow, though, that became the word for app (unofficially officially). So, when ingsve got to “computer”, he added the augmentative suffix to the word for smartphone: vekhikhdavrakhanof. This is rather something to ponder. After all, there’s no question that the computer came first, but it does rather seem like computers and smartphones are getting closer and closer to one another (especially for us Apple users). I’ll bet there are probably young kids (or kids not yet born yet) who think (or will think) of computers as big iPhones, rather than iPhones as small computers! Wild.

Hrakkar’s suggestion was dirgakhtawaki, which is a “metal thinker”. I think I might prefer dirgak taoka (or dirgakhtaoka), but I can see the former working.

For “e-mail” and “text”, there were calls for more words, and, indeed, that’s probably in order. Hrakkar suggested asathmovezari, “words of magic”. I think the adjective would work better there, giving us asmove, “magic words”. But something that would probably make this a lot easier is the word assokh, which means “message” (also means “instruction”; comes from the same root as ase, “command”). The question then becomes, though, is it important to distinguish between text message and e-mail? It is in our world (so you don’t waste time checking your texts if someone’s sent you an e-mail, and vice-versa), but it may be hard to distinguish without more specific vocabulary having to do with “writing”.

Thanks for the comments, though! I had a lot of fun reading through them. Look for this to become a regular feature on the blog. I’ll have to think up a title for it, though, so we know what we’re talking about… Any suggestions?


  1. With the word for message given I think my preferred words for e-mail and text message would be assokhdik and assokhdikish. To me it makes sense for text message to simply be a diminutive of an e-mail since there really isn’t that much of a difference other than e-mails generally being longer especially now that you can write and send e-mails with your phone just as easily as you can send a text message.

    We have “ase” to mean “word” as an inanimate noun. Is “ase” meaning “command” the exact same word or is it just a homophone? And if so is it also inanimate?

    1. Well, it’s the same word in the way that “gutter” (in the street) and “gutter” (in bowling) is the same word. So, yes. The original meaning was “word”, and it’s been extended to mean “command”.

      1. That’s interesting. Is there a specific reason or circumstance behind that extension? It’s sort of a “my word is law” thing perhaps.

        In English the extended meaning of the word “word” would be more like “promise” or does the same word->command extension exist in English as well?

  2. The discussion regarding the use of ‘word’ for ‘command’ did bring to mind a place in English where ‘word’ is used for ‘command’, and I got a good education following up on it!

    Section 37 of Handel’s Messiah, is a chorus with the text “The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the preachers”. Since most of the Messiah is simply scripture from the King James Bible set to music, I was able to find that this text is an adaptation of Psalm 68:11, which indeed starts out with “The Lord gave the word”. However, as the King James Bible does not reflect current, modern usage, I looked up this verse in much newer translations. The two most literal translations (The New American Standard, and the Holman Christian Study Bible) render ‘word’ as ‘command’. I don’t think this surprises any of us.

    However, the Amplified Bible, which gives a long-winded, wordy rendition of each verse, to emphasize the meaning, translates this as ‘word (of power)’. This version, and the New American Standard then go on to say ‘The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host’. This clearly establishes ‘word’ as a command. However, the King James and the modern New International Version follow ‘word’ with something to the effect of ‘great was the company of those who published it‘. This rendition implies that ‘word’ is both a command and a message to be delivered at the same time. The italicized it indicates that this word is not in the original language. It was added by the translators to make this sentence make more sense in English. But does the omission of it take away from ‘word’ being both a command and a message at the same time?

    Thank you, zhey David for the kind words regarding the compound words. It gives me hope that someday I might be able to speak/write Dothraki vichomer. I think I will take your new car-word hrakkarshiqethi and have a bumper sticker made. It will fit perfectly, for as you may remember, the plates say ‘lionman’!

  3. “Vezhshiqethi” is too good to pass up, but I think it should mean “motorcycle.”

    (After shotgunning all four seasons of Sons of Anarchy as soon as the first season of GoT ended, I got it into my brain that if the Dothraki existed today, they would probably be a motorcycle gang. Does this make sense to anyone else, or am I just crazy?)

  4. With relation to a Dothraki word for ‘text’, no offence meant to anyone but I’ve always thought putting ‘magic’ in front of words like that was a bit cheesy, and the Dothraki may have a more concrete word based in some physical aspect of the text, such as the way in which a text is received (ie. putting out your hand to grab a phone and receive it), so I thought up the word frakhase from the verb frakhat (to reach out to touch something) and ase for word.

    1. I see what you’re saying. Regarding your compound, though, frakhase would mean something like “a word-like touch”. Is that what you meant, or did you mean something more like asfrakhi, which would be “a reach word”?

    2. Even though I never gave any suggestion, I thought about this challenge quite a bit. And I find that the framework of premises you choose affects your choices more than a little.

      1) What would a dothraki warrior call our modern things if he somehow stumbled in the middle of our world?
      I think this is pretty intuitive approach. My uneducated guess is that on such violent culture collision words with elemts like “magic” or “strange” are perfectly natural.

      2) Let’s assume that the concepts in question are somehow familiar to the Dothraki. How would you camouflage these terms as if they were a natural part of the language?
      This is probably the default “let’s get serious” approach. OK. So no “magic”, just unremarkable everyday words. Derivations from horses n’ stuff would make a lot of sense.

      3) Let’s assume that the world of Dothraki will crash into quick industrial revolution and in a hundred or so years they’ll have computers and cellphones. The language has developed very little, but the vocabulary must have expanded to encompose the new words.
      Curious, fun challenging approach. Still creating simple everyday words, but you get more leeway for bold speculative etymologies. And since the Dothraki culture has now presumably developed far beyond horses and roardless plains, it makes sense to aspire for the familiar city-feel with much fewer connotations to horses.

      4) Forget the dothraki culture. It makes no sense to create some half-arsed ad-hoc worlds. We’re creating expanded Dothraki so that the fandom can use it better when conversing about modern world. Let’s just make it cool, funtional and in synch with the canonical language.
      Well, “likely” versus “unlikely” isn’t a relevan’t argument anymore, but of course “novel” versus “clichéd” or “cool” versus “dull” are much bigger concern than before. All kind of crazy possibilities emerge, some that before were pretty much unthinkable, like borrowing words from English.

      5) Now hold on, you previous point of view! You’re right that ad-hoc worlds are silly and that we’re fandom, but we’re not creating any “expanded dothraki” we’re just toying around with word forming mechanics!

      car (dull & cultural): rhaggat (animate version)
      e-mail (totally unserious): n-assokh

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