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Today’s Blood

The time has come to call a close to this year’s Dothraki haiku competition. Nice job this year! Too good, in fact. It was really hard to choose a winner. I’d feel more conflicted if winning came with any sort of prize. Thank goodness it doesn’t!

I received eleven haiku, all intriguing. Since there were so many, I’m going to choose one from each author to discuss. First, from our newest Dothraki reader, Meghan, we have a haiku from which came the title for today’s post. Here it is:

Qahlan karlina.
Oqooqo oskikhi
Ez qoy asshekhi.

Which translates to:

The palomino gallops.
Yesterday’s heartbeat
Found today’s blood.

Very, very nice! Meghan basically just started working with Dothraki, like, a few weeks ago, and already she’s putting together long strings of text—and using one of my favorite words (qahlan) that rarely sees the light of day. Athdavrazar, zhey Meghan! The best haiku paint a picture, and this one paints a good one.

Next we have a haiku from Hrakkar:

Hrakkari hethke
Fonat ma adakhalat
Hrazef ivezhi.

And the intended translation is:

The lions are ready
To hunt and to eat
Wild horses.

This is close, but there are two issues (one my fault. Sorry!). Here the verb hethkat should be used, in which case it should be hethki not hethke. Next, though I gave everyone the adjective hethke, I never gave the verb, and never said how you’d say “ready to” or “ready for”. That’s my bad there. In fact, you say hethkat ki. So if you wanted to say “they’re ready to hunt and eat”, you’d say hethki k’athfonari ma k’athadakhari. Of course, the last three words would be way over seven syllables, so that wouldn’t work. I really like this idea, though. After all, the Dothraki Sea is a place where horses and lions roam. It stands to reason that the lions would hunt those horses the way lions in our world hunt zebras. That’d be pretty cool to witness.

Next we have a poem from ingsve:

Asto charoki
“Hethkas she oakah” ma
“Hethkas she khado”.

And my attempt at a translation is:

The scouts’ motto
“Be ready in your soul” and
“Be ready in your body”.

Very clever! It took me forever to figure out what was intended by the first line, and I eventually needed to seek out ingsve’s help. Turns out he was using an off-brand word for “scout”. I’ve got tihak for “scout” (in the literal sense: someone who serves as a lookout), and I’d probably use that for the “boyscout” version of “scout”. Using oakah for this version of “mind” is interesting (I translated it as “soul”, but the original calls for the English word “mind”). Nice work!

Next is a haiku from Zhalio, which is brilliant:

Vo sanneyos vort
Zhavvorsoon fin nem azh.
Astas “kirimvos”.

And this is the translation:

Don’t count the teeth
Of the dragon that was given (you).
Say “thank you”.

In High Valyrian. Ha! I gathered he’d try to work that in, and he did it well. This is a great version of the English phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and works perfectly. I was also quite pleased to see the correct usage of the negative imperative. And, adding to its worth, I think it sounds better in Dothraki than any translation I can muster in English, which is just awesome. You can hear Zhalio reading it aloud here (brother got some bass in that voice! Nice reading!).

Alas, there can be only one winner, and this year, as with last year, our winner is Qvaak. He did it again. Here’s his winning haiku:

Rhaesh ath hethka.
Oqoe ven vash memof
Asavvasoon.

Audio

And my translation:

The dry land is ready.
A great noise reverberates like a stampede
From the sky.

Worthy of Eliot. An initial draft of this poem had a grammar error, and when he fixed it, it called for a radical reorganization of the syntax of the second line. The result harkens back to the old days of Dothraki, with the verb in initial position. Furthermore, by putting memof, the subject of the sentence, at the end, there’s a curious type of enjambment (if that’s even the right term in this case) which allows one to read memof asavvasoon as a single noun phrase. In fact, memof is the subject, and the phrase asavvasoon modifies the verb phrase. Semantically, though, the great noise (memof) actually is coming from the sky (asavvasoon), so it’s still semantically felicitous. Just awesome. There’s been a decent amount of material written in Dothraki, but this may be the best thing ever composed. And for that, Qvaak has earned this year’s Mawizzi Virzeth: The Red Rabbit!

The 2013 Red Rabbit Winner: Qvaak!

That’s two years in a row, zhey Qvaak! I think we’re going to need to start giving you a handicap of some kind…

Thanks so much to everyone who submitted haiku! It was a tough choice this year, and you did incredible work. I’m already looking forward to next year. I also think that (regarding the experiment) I’m going to keep the challenge word as optional only. If it were a requirement, we wouldn’t have seen some incredible haiku (e.g. Zhalio’s), and I wouldn’t want to inhibit that. So I’ll include a challenge word as a possibility to get folks jumpstarted, but it won’t be a requirement. Thanks again for the incredible work!

Asshekhqoyi Anni Save

It’s been a year, and I’m now 32 years old. Among other things, this means I’m halfway to 64. It certainly has been a heck of a year, and I feel physically sound, so I can’t complain.

Enough about me, though. It’s time for the annual Dothraki haiku competition! Last year, Qvaak took home the coveted Mawizzi Virzeth: a prize which comes with no money, no reward, and next to no recognition. Who will take home the prize this year!

But first, in keeping with the semi-tradition I semi-started last year, here’s a haiku of my own:

Kolver ovetha
Oleth rami hoshora
Khadokhi choshi.

Audio

All of those words should be either available in the Dothraki.org dictionary or figure-out-able (if ramasar is a collection of plains, then ram would be…?). Post your translation in the comments, and we’ll see who can get it right first!

As for your haiku, I have an idea, but it is just an idea. For those who might have trouble coming up with a topic, I have a challenge/suggestion: In your haiku, use the word hethke, “tight” (adjective) or “ready, prepared” (adjective). If this works out well, I may start having a challenge word for all successive competitions, and only considering those with the challenge word for the prize. For this one, though, just try it out, and let me know if we should consider making this a permanent change. To repeat: The winning haiku for this year’s competition will not need to use the word hethke.

Otherwise, entries need to be in Dothraki, and I’ll call the competition when it looks like I’ve stopped receiving entries. Leave your entries in the comments, or e-mail them to me at “dave” at “dothraki” period “com”. Below are some instructions I wrote up for last year’s competition which I will repeat here verbatim. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Guidelines

For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7 and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.

Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.

If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.

Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!

Update: Added audio for my haiku.

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?
Athastokhdeveshizar!
Anha dirgakof!

Which translates to (translating loosely):

I’m a big idiot?
Nonsense!
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
Lekhmovekaan.

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
Dirgakofaan.

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
rhaesheseri.

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.

Next!

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.

Asshekhqoyi Anni

Today is my 31st birthday, which seems like a much more frightening prospect than my 30th… But at least I have two years until my 33rd. If you’re wondering about the featured image for this post, the explanation is quite simple: Since I’m writing this post before my actual birthday, I don’t have any pictures from my birthday, which led me to go back to photos from my previous birthday, when my wife took me to Vegas, where many hotels featured displays inspired by Chinese New Year (at the time, the Year of the Rabbit), and, as a big fan of rabbits (and topiary), I, naturally, had to take some pictures. And, yes: I do have more pictures. Many more.

I was trying to figure out something fun to do for my birthday, and then…I figured it out. (I couldn’t think of a snappy way to finish that sentence. Then I started writing the last one. And now this…) Back on December 17th, I did an interview with Monique Stander for a South African radio station. The interview was at midnight, and I got a call from a station assistant a half hour beforehand to make sure I was there and ready. Once that had been ascertained, he also asked if I’d write a haiku, since they were talking about haikus on the show that day. I asked him if he wanted one in English or Dothraki, and he said English, so we hung up and I started writing a haiku in English (kind of tough to come up with a good one, but I did my best).

He then called back at 11:55 p.m. and said that, in fact, it was in Dothraki they wanted the haiku, not English. He asked how much time I had, and he said three minutes. So we hung up again, and in three minutes, I came up with this:

Sajo anni ma
Haja ma ivezhofa.
Sek. Me nem nesa.

Which is (approximately): “My horse is / Strong and fierce. / Yes. It is known.” It’s not Bashō, but at least it has the right number of syllables in the right places (something I wasn’t sure of when I went on the air!).

Since we’ve got all the time in the world here on the internet, I thought a Dothraki haiku might be a fun (and relatively manageable) translation challenge! So the gauntlet is cast. If you’re interested, write a haiku in Dothraki. For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7 and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.

Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.

If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.

So, there it is! Good luck! Feel free to post responses in the comments to this post, or e-mail them to “dave” at “dothraki” dot “com” (feel free to include audio!). I’ll discuss the responses in a future post, and will possibly give my favorite some sort of (likely virtual; definitely rabbit-related) prize. If you need any help, head over to Dothraki.org, and you should find what you need.

Fonas chek!