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!


  1. That… is fucking hilarious. I wonder what the Ghiscari Valyrian translation for the killer rabbit scene is…. LMAO.

  2. The punchline to the “red shirt” joke is “bring me my brown trousers”. I first heard that joke when I was about 10… But I guess that’s the point.

    It’s also referenced in an episode of Red Dwarf, when Holly is discussing some catastrophe that’s about to befall them all and says “either way, it’s brown trousers time.”

  3. Was this the episode where D&D wanted you to make sure Meereenese was different enough from HV that Dany would struggle to understand?

    Hizdahr zo Loraq was older in my head too, but to be honest, most of the Slaver’s Bay characters kind of blended into each other and I didn’t get a good mental picture of any of them.

    I’d agree that ShowShae makes more sense than BookShae.

    The Dreadfort sequence I’m not sold on. I didn’t really understand why Ramsay would let anyone go? Surely he’d just butcher all of them? Although Iwan Rheon (who in unrelated news is a native speaker of Welsh) is indeed awesome, and I’m also interested to know why he was covered in blood BEFORE showing up to fight.

    But anyway, the linguistic artistry in Dany’s storyline was ace, and that’s the most important part of any episode!!

    1. Was this the episode where D&D wanted you to make sure Meereenese was different enough from HV that Dany would struggle to understand?

      This is the first episode where it’s relevant, but it was for the season in general. They wanted Dany not to be able to understand the Meereenese supplicants.

  4. Thanks, of course, for the acknowledgement.

    But is there a reason (in-story and/or out) why Oznak’s speech is in AV and not MV? I did wonder if maybe the speech of the Masters was closer to AV than that of the slaves and commoners (though the line the Master mutters under his breath when he sees that graffito inexplicably written in Common does certainly sound like MV), but your transcription seems like pure AV. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Oznak may be speaking with an MV accent, though, since I heard things like tujiles… but it was so hard to hear anything in the first place that I can’t swear to that.

    Since we’re still in limbo about how we’re going to deal with MV on the wiki, I’ll need to know what’s up with Oznak before I start adding in those vocabulary words.

    Since both elderberries and hamsters occur naturally in Europe, it’s not too much of a stretch for them to exist in Essos.

    And wow, guess there will be a lot for me to cover this week.

    1. I thought hamsters were from the Americas? Or am I thinking about guinea pigs? Now I can’t remember what the difference is… Where’s wikipedia…

      Not that it really bothers me either way. I know there’s a tradition in faux-medieval fiction to keep the set dressing European (probably from people hearing about Tolkien going back and editing all the tomatoes out of LOTR).

  5. Good stuff! And congrats to ML again for his catch. I share his confusion about the taunt being in AV.

    It was awesome to hear Missandei (my favorite GoT character! :) speak MV as a matter of course, and the contrast with Daenerys’ HV was appropriately striking. The shepherd also came across as a natural speaker. Lots of awesome non-linguistic scenes as well. Tyrion rocks.

    Dang, elderberry is a great thing have named after oneself. Good for you, Tom! ;o)

        1. Wait, considering that the word for plant is tōmo, perhaps I should consider the connection to five may not be merely a folk etymology!? What are you saying??

          Is this like how “plant” itself comes from the Latin word planta “sole of the foot”? Only in HV it refers to the five toes instead? Yes, I think that must be it! ;)

          1. Oh, thought I made an article error there. I didn’t say “plant” I said “THE plant” (look again). Big difference. Tōmo is the word for the sambucus plant, and it was intentionally derived from the word for “five”. That the diminutive worked with Tommy’s name I considered kismet.

  6. Great episode! Great post! You know, I did get the very same feeling about Shae/Tyrion’s relationship in the books as different from the show. They tell me it’s not the common opinion, but glad to know someone else agrees.

    What can I say about the Monty Python translation? Awesome Easter Egg! Thanks for that and for this post. It’s nice to see our vocabularies growing. What a nice catch from Mad Latinist there! Hehe.

    Did I hear some sibilant harmony in the MV version of “zaldrizes”? :p

  7. Quick question, how inflectional are MV (or AV) nouns in relation to HV? Did the Ghiscari variants lose all the cases or did they keep a few?

  8. I like to think that the Essosi equivalent of hamsters is hyraxes as you find in the Middle East. Fun fact: they look like hamster-rabbits but are most closely related to elephants.

  9. Zhey David! Rystas! MV sounds amazing! I love the accent.
    Mirrior (something?) ūō bē epagon jaelan: Skorion kesīr vestris?

    Rȳptan se mirrī bardutan. I most likely got everything wrong, though:

    MissandeiYe Thal poghash koth nyesha she yedhra.

    GoatherdSkang mathigh shprash ma uvresh nyeta. Uig nyeta ma inye upashkish.

    MissandeiThal Daenerys a krimuosh.

    GoatherdShtas va saldríjesh. Yata uesh saldríjesh. Uashish kis nyeko nya pro.
    Gran thangho thangho shelkishe, shilya mankó.

    (And then Dany speaks while Missandei interprets, so it’s difficult to hear.)

    MissandeiOsh ehosh… Daenerys… uamashi tosh uakish… nyel va yotroyé.

    GoatherdGhrimua. Osh eghlish, ghrimua!

    I understand some of the words which I can recognize from AV, but there seem to be a lot of new words.

      1. That’s a great transcription! It was of great help. Thank you!
        Btw, this time I heard ‘shíl yamáng tor’, so maybe the ‘shíl’ comes from ‘sīr’. ‘Now I have nothing’.
        Also, I heard ‘Shkang ma thikhprash pa huvresh nyeta.’ So ‘thikhprash’ must mean ‘hearder’. Maybe te aorist participle of ‘thikhpagho’, ‘to heard’? A wild guess, haha.

  10. J’adore khaleesi ses ma préféré dans game of throne et si vous voulez apprendre le dothraki le site parfait est le garde de nuit .
    Daenerys Targaryens

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