Indeed, season 2 (or series 2, depending on where you’re reading this from) is nearly upon us. This is a small announcement to let regular readers know that during the season I’m going to move away from the regular Dothraki qua Dothraki posts and write up responses to and commentaries on the episodes as we move through the second season (once it’s aired somewhere in the world, the spoiler curtain has lifted. Me nem nesa). Of course, since this is the Dothraki blog, I’ll be focusing on how a given episode relates to the Dothraki language and culture, and I’ll also discuss the Dothraki lines in each episode.
Before moving on, though, I’ve a bit of business to take care of. Last week I did an AMA over at Reddit (you can see the whole thing here), and redditor dopaminer asked the following:
Have you received requests from friends to make their names sound like the word for “awesome” or anything like that? (PS, if you still need to some up with a word for awesome, can it have the sound “rachel” in it?)
Of course, Dothraki has a word for “awesome” (vezhven), but I said I’d come up with something, and I have.
When it comes to flora and fauna vocabulary, I try to research what the Dothraki Sea might be like, but as you read through the Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin’s always throwing wild cards in. I’ve tried to come up with words for all the animals that the Dothraki encounter, and a good percentage of those they would likely encounter (e.g. animals around Slaver’s Bay and surrounding environs). We’ve already seen (and, indeed, already had a word for) the mighty lion, hrakkar, but in A Dance with Dragons we were introduced to the city of Volantis, where there are two major political parties: The Elephants and the Tigers. We’d seen elephants before (or at least in cyvasse), but this was, to my knowledge, the first mention of tigers (or tiger cloaks, for that matter). As it seems only right that the Dothraki would come up with their own words for the mightiest of beasts, “tiger” is a good candidate for a new stem.
While most animate nouns that aren’t humans end in a vowel, there are a number of beast words that are disyllabic and end in a consonant—to wit:
- hrakkar “lion”
- noah “bull”
- qlaseh “deer (archaic)”
- hlizif “bear”
- kolver “eagle”
And, since tigers are awesome, it seems only fitting to add a new one to the list:
- rachel “tiger”
There you go, dopaminer! The word is, of course, stressed on the second syllable, and the vowels are different (and the consonants, a bit), but romanized, you can see the resemblance. And, hey, now we’ve got half of the Volantine political factions in Dothraki! Racheli Volanti. I like it. Now we just need “elephant”…
To everyone else, let the countdown begin! I’ve seen the first episode, and it was damn good. I think everyone will be pleased. Fonas chek!
(Oh, and regarding the featured image, I didn’t have any tiger pictures, so that’s, uh…a murloc. That’s close, right?)
Athdavrazar, zhey David!
Rachel is a fine word for the King of the Jungle! And easy to remember, too.
Tigers are first referred to AFAIK, in ‘Storm of Swords’, when Daenerys mentioned that she had ‘6 bales of tiger skins’ in the hold of her ship. This reference is used repeadetly, as she uses the tiger skins as part of the payment for her army. Six bales, if thought of in typical shipping terms, is a lot of tiger skins. This suggests that tigers ar common in at least part of that world.
With regards to lions, we have hrakkar for ‘white lion’. We see from the Lannister sigil that at least some of the lions of Westeros were the normal brown color. In our world, white is a rare color variation of lions, found in just one small region of South Africa. Do you suppose that white is a rare exception in GRRM’s world as well? Or are most/all of the lions of the Dothraki Sea white? Although white is not an advantage in cover for hunting, the white color is seen often enough to suggest it doesn’t have that big of an effect on the ability to hunt. How would you describe a brown lion?
I am assuming that rachel is animate. And speaking of animacy, I remember you said that one of the big qualifications for animacy for animals is being alive. I went and looked and only about half of the animal terms are animate. There did not seem to be any pattern to this I could recognize. So, there must be other factors in play, as well.
Well, shut my mouth! Nice memory, zhey Hrakkar! I did not remember that mention in A Storm of Swords.
Regarding hrakkar specifically, I left that open, because I was never 100% sure if hrakkar was supposed to be specifically for a white lion, or for any old lion—or if, for that matter, all lions on Essos are white naturally. I think I’ll have to ask GRRM the next time I see him, and until then, we’ll have to wait on a distinction between a white and non-white lion.
And, yes, everything in the list above is animate. There is no sure fire test for animacy. However, something that is alive is a better candidate for animate status than something that isn’t alive. Similarly, something that ends in a vowel is a better candidate for animate status than something that ends in a consonant. That said, neither test—nor both combined—are enough to predict whether a noun will or will not be animate: it’s just something one needs to learn.
Speaking of all these animal words. We have certain animals that when used with the suffix -ven take on a specific meaning such as vezhven (stallionlike) meaning great, verven (wolflike) meaning violent and qosarven (spiderlike) meaning deceptive. Do all animals have some kind of specific connotation like this when used with the similative suffix or is it only certain specific animals for which this construction have any added meaning?
It’s only specific animals, but that list of terms hasn’t yet been exhausted. It won’t work for every animal (well, unless you want to form an ad hoc word that means “like a female goat” because you’re talking about something that some other person or animal does just like a female goat), but for a fair number.
INCREDIBLE!!!! I am the Rachel that posted that question on reddit, and I am blown away You have absolutely made my month!!!!!
Thank you SO MUCH! I AM A TIGER!!!!!!