Blog Archives

Game of Thrones Season 2 Premiere Event

Tonight I went to the season 2 cast and crew premiere event for Game of Thrones in LA. It’s a great venue (the Ray Kurtzman Theater at CAA), of course, and a fun time out, but it’s also nice to see people I mainly communicate with via e-mail face to face—though, as usual, I forgot to get pictures. However, you can see Bryan Cogman in this shot:

Last time we saw the first two episodes of season 1; this time we just the first episode of season 2. But…man! These guys do good work. I won’t give anything away, but one thing viewers will notice at the very beginning: Peter Dinklage’s name has moved on up to the east side, as it were (when the first episode airs, compare it to the season 1 intro). Granted, some of the names that were ahead of his aren’t around any longer, but nonetheless, it’s well-deserved!

After the screening was over, there was an after party, and as I was waiting to get my car, I finally had a chance to chat face-to-face with the man himself, khali khali (or perhaps khal khaloa?), zhey Drogo: Jason Momoa.

So, I knew Jason Momoa was buff; we’ve seen that. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how tall he was. Check out this photo:

Me and Jason Momoa.

And hes’ not even standing up tall! Bet that dude could dunk if he put his mind to it. After that one, he said we should make angry, Drogo faces. The result:

Me and Jason Momoa doing angry faces.

It’s an iPhone camera, so we looked at the picture afterwards, and Jason’s exact words were, “Dude, you look constipated!” Yeah… Oops! Truth is, I just couldn’t do an angry face, because I was so floored to be meeting and talking to Lisa Bonet (i.e. Denise). I mean, I grew up with The Cosby Show: That family feels like they’re real to me! I didn’t say anything (after all, every one of the main cast members has heard every comment and question in the world about The Cosby Show ten billion times over), but I couldn’t keep my face from smiling.

At the after party at The Eveleigh, there was legitimate full-course dinner food there, as well as appetizers (which I was grateful for, since I hadn’t eaten much that day). Here’s what I had:

Food I had.

See how red that meat is?! Man, that was good! So that got me to thinking: How would you characterize rare vs. well-done meat in Dothraki? Not an easy question. In my experience, those who live in the Midwest (of America) on farms and actually have a hand in the whole food preparation process only eat well-done meat. Ask for something rare in their presence, and they’ll give you a look like you just stepped out of a chicken. (Think about that one for a minute.)

While the Dothraki are preparing their own meat, I can’t help but think they wouldn’t share this prohibition (I wanted to say superstition, but I’m sure farm people have good reasons for distrusting rare meat [and I’m sure I don’t want to know what those reasons are]). After all, they have pregnant women eat a raw horse’s heart which has just been ripped from a live horse’s body—and they think this will help the fetus, as opposed to lead to salmonella, or something. So “raw” probably isn’t the word for it.

Looking over the vocabulary, I already have words that I think will cover one scale—both vegetation and meat:

  • chosh “fresh” ~ rikh “rotten”

This is one scale (the “how likely is this to be bad?” scale), and I think it works fine for meat. So chosh can cover “raw” or “rare”, depending on the circumstance. In addition to this, though, there’s also the heating scale. Given what we see of the Dothraki, it doesn’t seem to me like they’ve invested a lot in slow-cooking or baking: it’s probably burnt or not burnt. Given those two extremes, going by the color of the meat seems like a good way to characterize the meat:

  • virzeth “red” ~ kazga “black”

So if you ever get a Dothraki waiter, you’ve got two options: che gavat virzeth che gavat kazga. And to me it seems likely that, in the world of Dothraki cuisine (to the extent that that phrase even makes sense), it’s not the case that there’s a dish and you decide how “done” you like your meat—rather, there are dishes where the meat will be virzeth, and dishes where the meat will be kazga, and switching them doesn’t make sense (like if you ordered chicken parmigiana and you got steak parmigiana instead of chicken: it’s just a different dish). That’s my read. What do you think? (Actually, I wonder what they’d think over at The Inn at the Crossroads…)

Fog Talking

The title for today’s post comes from the word athastokhdevishizar, which means “nonsense”, but which literally translates as “fog talking”. It was also used in the first Dothraki haiku submitted in response to last week’s post. As it happens, it was authored by ingsve, whose (at the time of writing) birthday it is! Happy birthday, ingsve! Here’s what he wrote:

Anha tokikof?
Anha dirgakof!

Which translates to (translating loosely):

I’m a big idiot?
I’m a deep thinker!

You can let me know how close I got to what you were thinking. Ordinarily yes/no questions are preceded by hash, but I think the lack of hash here works to make this kind of an echo question (e.g. “You’re nothing but a lazy daffodil!”, “I’m a lazy daffodil?!”).

Another of ingsve’s is his birthday-inspired haiku:

Kisha vazhaki
Chisen ma at halahis

Which is:

We will give
Thirty-one flowers
To the conlanger.

San athchomari, zhey ingsve! I’d coined the word lekhmove for “conlang” previously, but this is the first time I’d seen lekhmovek for “conlanger”. I like it!

I made one correction above: What was halahi in the original should be halahis, as it’s a plural direct object (and halah is an animate noun). And, since it’s his birthday (and I believe we’re the same age), here’s a haiku back, zhey ingsve:

Ma anha vazhak
Chisen ma at halahis

It’s funny. A lot of times it’s hard to fit large Dothraki words into the slender frame of a haiku, but in both of these, we had to not contract a word in order to get the right number of syllables.

One more of ingsve’s: An ambitious attempt to translate Robert Oppenheimer’s quoting of the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s what he came up with:

Ajjin anha ray
athdrivaroon, drozhak

For those unfamiliar, the quote is, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. If I were to translate the above, this is how I would translate it:

Now I was already
Death, killer
Of worlds.

In order to tackle this translation, one has to come to terms with the English, which, I think most native speakers would admit, is fanciful, at best. If one were to switch out “Death” for, say, “teacher”, one would probably say, “Now I’m a teacher”, or, perhaps, “Now I’ve become a teacher”. The use of “am” is reminiscent of an older form of English where people said things like, “Now I’m come” to mean “Now I’ve come” (if you want to learn more about it, look up unaccusative verb and prepare to have your mind melt). Dothraki doesn’t have anything like that (he said, sweeping under the rug material for potential future blog posts), though, so before one translates the quote, one has to reword it a bit.

It was Qvaak, I believe, who pointed out that I translated something similar for the LCC4 relay. In that text, I translated the line, “The crone turned into a wolf” as follows:

  • Yesi nemo ficho mehas venikh veri.
  • /crone REFL obtain therefor semblance-ACC wolf-GEN/
  • “The crone got unto her the semblance of a wolf.”

That could work, technically, but I get the sense that it would mean something more like, “I took on the semblance of Death”, or, “I turned into Death”, which I think kind of defeats the tone of the thing. It’s more direct as it is, and the translation should reflect that.

So if I had to translate it, I would probably just have it as (not trying to keep to the haiku form):

  • Ajjin anha Athdrivar: Ohharak rhaesheseri.

Perhaps one could say “Athdrivaraan” and cast it as the future tense. Depends on how you read it. Nice job, ingsve! Way to push the envelope.

Next, Qvaak did a series of seasonal haiku, which I’ll look at it inverse order. Let me know if I got these right. The first:

Hrazef vos govo.
Chaf ish atthasa okre,
Chiori memras.

The horses don’t mate.
The wind maybe fells the tents,
A woman therein.

I made a slight correction (typo: hrazhef for hrazef), but otherwise I think that’s about how it translates. Nice use of the adverbial preposition! Next:

Halah she sorfo;
Negwin nem eyyelie.
Dani vekh hazze.

A flower on the ground;
A stone is spotted.
A gem is there.

I have to admit this one sent me to my dictionary. I knew eyel was “rain”, but the verb eyyelilat is something that Qvaak coined for this poem. The verb eyelilat is a stative verb meaning “to be spotted” (like the ground after it’s begun to rain lightly). Qvaak causativized it to produce eyyelilat, which means “to spot” or “to put a spotted pattern on”—then he passivized it! Nice.

I was trying to figure out what the poem actually means, and what I can guess is that there’s a rock, and there’s actually a gem inside, which you can see sparkling? Reminds me this old thing. The meaning of the flower, though, escapes me.

Edit: If you take a look at Qvaak’s comment below, you’ll see that he meant “ford” when he used dani. “Ford”! I never thought I’d see another person use that word in a million years. The idea is to evoke spring rains and spring flooding.


Kash shekh vervena,
Kash hranna veltoroe;
Voji virzethi.

When the sun is violent
The grass yellows;
Red people.

Yet again, Qvaak coined a word, and it makes perfect sense. Veltor is the word for “yellow”, and veltorat means “to be yellow”, so, of course, veltorolat means “to yellow” or “to grow yellow”. Very nicely done! If only it would have fit the syllable count, I think vervenoe would’ve worked even better in place of vervena.

Now, as for “red people”, I have to ask: Did you mean “sunburned people”? If so, nice try! When I get around to it, there will probably be a different word for “sunburned”. (Virzethoe would also work well, though, again, it’d be one syllable too many.)

Edit: Qvaak intended “People are red” as the translation of voji virzethi, but either translation works.

Excellent haiku, you guys! But, of course, there can only be one “winner” (in the non-contest sense): Only one that can claim the mighty and fearsome Mawizzi Virzeth (the Red Rabbit). And here it is, the first from Qvaak’s seasonal series (and below that an audio file of me reading it):

Vorsa erina.
Ikh dozgosoon anni;
Ahesh sash qisi.

At first I didn’t even read it right, because I thought the verb in the first line was an adjective. But, indeed, it’s a verb. Here’s my translation:

Fire is kind.
Ashes from my enemies;
Fresh snow nearby.

Now that’s evocative! Nicely done! And for penning my favorite of the bunch, you win the “coveted” Mawizzi Virzeth:

The 2012 Red Rabbit Award presented to Qvaak.

This precious award comes with no physical prize. In fact, as the Dothraki don’t value money, it doesn’t even come with a virtual prize. It does, however, come with much respect. San athchomari, zhey Qvaak! And thanks to both Qvaak and ingsve for submitting haiku! I know specific grammatical information on Dothraki isn’t easy to come by even now, and the available lexicon is smaller than the total lexicon, but you took the plunge! And for that, I salute you.

In other news, if you haven’t seen it elsewhere, I’m going to be presenting on Dothraki at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference next month. The conference is being held from February 8th to the 11th, and my talks will be during the day on the 9th, and in the evening on the 10th. The latter is open to the public. So, if you happen to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stop on by! It’ll be lots of fun.

Update: Added audio of Qvaak’s poem.

Any Color You Like

Today’s topic comes from ingsve over at the Dothraki fora. The inventory of color terms in any given language is likely to prove more interesting than one would imagine at first blush. In discussing color terms in Dothraki, then, I’ll add layers of complexity as we move on, starting with the simplest information.

Here are the ten basic color terms of Dothraki:

English Term Dothraki Term Color Swatch
red virzeth
blue thelis
green dahaan
yellow veltor
purple reaven
pink theyaven
brown nozhoven
gray shiqeth
white zasqa
black kazga

There is no “orange”; that term is covered usually by veltor; sometimes by virzeth. Otherwise, those color terms can be used freely to cover the colors we have in English. The forms above are adjectival. To change them to verbs, simply add -at to those that end in a consonant, and -lat to those that end in a vowel.

Having said that, those who’ve studied Dothraki a bit will notice that at least three of those terms should look suspicious—specifically, those ending in -ven. And if you thought so, you’re right. Though Dothraki now has words to cover ten of the eleven basic color terms, they’re not equal, linguistically.

For many years, Dothraki had the basic set of color terms listed below. For each color, its prototypical value is given, followed by the range of colors it was used for.

English Term Dothraki Term Color Swatch Color Range
red virzeth
blue/purple thelis
yellow/green dahaan
yellow/orange veltor
light zasqa
dark kazga

And before that there were fewer color terms (for example, dahaan, in a time long before the present, derived ultimately from a type of grass called dahana. Prior to this, thelis was used for most blues and greens). As Dothraki khalasars met with traders, caravans and cities around the edges of the Dothraki Sea, they encountered new products, new types of clothing, new dyes, and found a need for new terms. As they prefer native terms to borrowings, they would often derive terms from Dothraki words, such as:

Dothraki Word Color Term Image

Color Swatch
rea “internal organ” reaven A human heart.
theya “nipple” theyaven A human male nipple.
shiqethi “iron” shiqeth An old radiator made of iron.

The two words ending in -ven should be self-explanatory (-ven is used to mean something like “-like” or “-ish”). Shiqeth is actually a backformation. The original word is shiqethi, which is the word for “iron”; shiqeth was formed on analogy with virzeth (and the other CV(C)CVC color words thelis and veltor).

That explains everything except nozhoven thus far, but that one’s going to lead to a whole other topic: horse breeds (or colorings). There are quite a number of terms for specific types of horses, but the only ones that got used in the show were the generic “horse” (hrazef), and the word for “mount” (sajo). (Hmmm… Though now that I think of it, maybe vezh, “stallion”, and lame, “mare”, made it in, too.) It seems to me that words for the type of horse would be used more commonly, but that would require seeing the actual horse being referred to (and who knows if it would change from shoot to shoot, episode to episode). So I never managed to use any of the words for particular breeds of horse in the first season (we’ll see if any make it in in the future).

Anyway, the word nozho is the word for a chestnut horse, which is brown (anywhere from a reddish brown to a light brown), with a mane that is mostly the same color (sometimes lighter). Nozhoven, then, is a word meaning “like a chestnut horse”—or, in this case, “similar in color to a chestnut horse”. Most horses have a color term associated with them in this way, but since chestnuts tend to be largely one color all over (and since there was no other term for “brown”), nozhoven was adopted as the word for “brown”.

There are dozens of horse coloring types, and also related terms having to do with horse coloring, and there’s no time to go through all of them. I did want to introduce some, though, since the horse color terms are used in another unique way. In English, we’ve taken words from a number of places to describe skin color: actual color terms (white, black…); plants or food (olive, mocha…); light descriptors (light, dark…); and other sources (tan, pale, splotchy…). In Dothraki, all such descriptors come from horse colorings. Here are some common ones:

Horse Term Color Term Image

messhih “perlino” messhihven A perlino-colored horse.
ocha “dun” ochaven A dun-colored horse.
qahlan “palomino” qahlamven A palomino horse.
nozho “chestnut” nozhoven A chestnut horse.
cheyao “dark bay” cheyaoven A dark bay horse.

The way I figure it, if the Dothraki refer to you with a horse term, it’s a sign of respect, as horses of all types are to be respected. If they refer to you as some sort of lesser animal, though (like oqet, a sheep), then it’s time to worry.

Now just a few words about how to use them. Color terms are all stative predicates, and so can be used postpositively as adjectives, or as verbs, e.g.:

  • Haz rhaggat virzetha. “That cart is red.”
  • Anha vavvirsak haz rhaggat virzetha nakhaan! “I’m going to burn that red cart to the ground!”

The word for “color” itself is visshiya, which derives, ultimately, from vish, which means “forehead”. For different qualities of color (to make finer distinctions), one uses words that would translate to “light” and “dark”, but they’re not actually the words “light” and “dark”. The Dothraki conceptualize color value in terms of water depth, darker colors being deep (ao), and lighter colors being shallow (dei). Then each of those terms can be modified to delineate further. Here’s an example:

Dothraki Term English Translation Color Swatch
virzeth adein shallower red
virzeth dei shallow red
virzeth red
virzeth ao deep red
virzeth asaon deeper red

That’s a basic introduction to color terms in Dothraki. There’s more to be said, certainly, but this should be enough to allow one to use some color terms in writing and in speech.