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Me Reki Driva Laz Vo Drivoo Avvos

That was not an easy one to translate (and for ingsve: I used me there so that reki wasn’t stranded; I’m ambivalent as to whether to stick with reki, or jump to animate with rek). But no more of that: We have a lot to work to do! Episode 3 of the second season is in the books, so let’s jump right into all that Dothraki dialogue!

Oh, wait. Who wrote that episode? Oh, yeah: Bryan Cogman. What’s that mean? No Dothraki.

Heh, heh. I’m sure it’s just happenstance, but for the second year in a row, Bryan’s episode doesn’t have any Dothraki in it. That guy’s all right, though—a real rhaek—so I must give him a pass. (More on that later.)

If I may talk about the episode a bit, I think I’ll join the chorus in saying the whole bit with Theon was great! When you read the books, there’s this sense of disorientation you get with certain characters (and I’m sure this was done on purpose) when GRRM takes a non-point of view character and turns them into a point of view character. This happened with me with Theon—kind of like, “Who is this guy?!” The way Theon was developed in the show, though, you can see hints of the treachery coming early, but I think it’s fantastic to see him struggling—personally—with the decision he’s making to turn his back on Robb. It was a good overall choice, and the scenes in this episode were wonderfully written. Excellent job, Bryan!

Now let me detract from the chorus in talking about Shae (I’m looking squarely at you, Honestly, hearing all this talk about how Shae is nothing like the books, I feel like Toph watching The Boy in the Iceberg. The show nails Shae. Here’s what WiC has to say about Shae:

I think out of all the TV show versions of characters, Shae has suffered the most. In the books she didn’t come off nearly this unlikable. I don’t really get why Tyrion is risking everything by having her around. In the book, Shae came off as sweet and totally in love with Tyrion, so it made sense for Tyrion to want her around. But on the show, you don’t see that sweetness nor does she have any chemistry with Tyrion. At this point, I’m ready to say that the Shae character has been botched.

Not nearly as unlikable? This is the prostitute that (spoilers) and (spoilers), and then when Tyrion confronts her (more spoilers)? We reading the same book series? Shae doesn’t come off as sweet: She comes off as a whore who’s playing her part very well. And by the time she gets to King’s Landing, the only thing we ever hear from Shae is, “I’m bored!”, “I want more jewelry!”, “I don’t want to be a handmaiden!” Whine, whine, whine. That’s all she does!

Now the question of why Tyrion wants her around can be asked not only of the show, but of the book, as well. In fact, I’d say that’s rather a central question—one of the more important questions to ponder when it comes to understanding Tyrion’s character. Just why does he want her around? Why does he keep making all these sacrifices for her? Why does he bend over backwards to accomodate her when (and let me italicize this to emphasize it) all she does is get in the way and screw up his otherwise brilliant plans?! No, they’ve done well with Shae—mark my words. Once her arc has played out, I say we will look back and say, “Good show, writers.”

Anyway, since there was no Dothraki in this episode, I thought I’d use this space to respond to some of the requests I’ve gotten in the past week. Shae-enthusiast WiCnet asked on Twitter:

Is there a Dothraki equivalent to “rest in peace”?

The answer when they asked was “no”, but that really got me thinking. If there was an equivalent (whether uttered sincerely or in a threatening manner), what would it be?

As we’ve seen, the preferred method of corpse disposal for the Dothraki is a ritual cremation on a funeral pyre. The Dothraki believe that when they die, their souls join the great Khalasar in the sky led by Vezhof, the Great Horse God. The stars are the fiery khalasar of Vezhof, and it’s a Dothrak’s greatest wish to join the herd. Given the method of cremation, it’s reasonable (not set in stone, mind, but reasonable) to assume that they believe this allows the spirit to transcend the terrestrial plane and reach the heavens (the body is broken up and becomes lighter—transformed into ash—and the winds take the remains and swirl them upwards).

Given that state of affairs, it’s possible that the following phrase might actually serve:

  • Vod chafaan.
  • “Dust in the wind.”

Or, more literally, “dust to the wind”, but ha! How about that! Our old friend from the Kansas song enjoys a new life with a different meaning. In the song, the phrase is meant to be kind of a downer (nothing lasts forever, so no use attaching meaning to anything, for “all we are is dust in the wind”, emo tear, etc.), but this phrase is rather hopeful—more like “May you become dust in the wind, that you may join the Great Horse God’s fiery khalasar in the sky.” I like it!

In our last post, John Erickson asked for some more Mortal Kombat translations. Since I don’t think it’s showed up anywhere yet, the word for “scorpion” is shiro (animate noun). But more to the point:

  • Annakhos mae!
  • “Finish him!”

Annakhat is “to stop” and nakholat is “to finish” (intransitive), so annakholat I think gives the sense of it (more like “Put an end to him!” as opposed to “Stop him!”).

Next, if I may, I’d like to tie the current translation back into what we were talking about when we started. I’ll kid around about Bryan cutting all my juicy episode 3 Dothraki lines (I translated the entire scene between Renly and Loras into Dothraki! Why didn’t you use it?! They’re secretly fluent Dothraki speakers! It makes sense, dammit!), but really, I can’t say enough about this guy. From the beginning, he’s been the one working directly with me as I’ve been translating stuff for Game of Thrones, and has been the go-between while, at the same time, he’s been doing just about everything else. Those who watch the show will know he wrote episode 4 from the first season and episode 3 this season, but he’s also the keeper of the lore (making sure everything on screen makes sense with everything that’s come before and jives with books), he’s my “Dothraki wrangler”, he wrote an entire book—he pretty much does everything. And, on top of that, he’s an all-around good guy—and a husband and father.

So for quite a while, I’ve wanted to give Bryan a Dothraki word, but, of course, his first name is just about as non-Dothraki as you get, and his second is odd-looking, at least—until I remembered the suffix -men, which is kind of like “-less”, in English. I cogitated for a bit, and I came up with something good.

To get things started, we need a noun, so I came up with koge. Koge is an inanimate noun of class B, and it means something like “nick” or “blemish” or “imperfection” or “flaw”. As a class B noun, this one happens to end, phonologically, in a consonant (the only reason the e is there is because words can’t end in g in Dothraki). That means when you add the suffix -men to it, you disregard the final -e, and you get: kogmen “flawless”. And there we have Bryan’s word! Hajas!

Now back to our translation, if kogmen is “flawless”, then…

  • Iffi kogmen.
  • “Flawless victory.”


Thanks for stopping by! If my birds haven’t betrayed me, there should be some Dothraki for us next Sunday. Fonas chek!

Valshe Vinesera

Kisha ray essash!

For those who were able to watch the season 2 premiere of Game of Thrones, I hope you enjoyed it! (And for those who have yet to watch it in their home markets, I hope you enjoy it!) I saw the first episode about a week ago, and everyone there (myself included) was mightily impressed.

In fact, I think it’s worthwhile to meditate on that experience a little bit. For each of the first two seasons, HBO had this premiere event for cast and crew and their +1’s, and the events were pretty much the same in structure, but the atmosphere was quite different. The first time around, of course, George R. R. Martin was there, which was awesome, but overall, there were fewer people in attendance. The crew, of course, knew the show, but outside of that, I got the impression that a lot of folks there didn’t know what the books were all about, and didn’t know what to expect. They were there to support their friends and families, and to get a glimpse of a new show.

For the second premiere event, the place was packed. Not only that, but you could tell that everyone there was a fan of the show. We were allowed to invite one person, and I’m sure the first time around, guests were probably like, “Well, I’m not doing anything else, so that could be neat. Sure, I’ll come.” This time they were fighting over who would get to go. Plus, everyone knew every character, and knew all the ins and outs of the first season, and reacted appropriately to the action on screen. It was like going to a midnight showing for a blockbuster movie—not with Hollywood types, but with actual fans. That was really cool.

Back to the show, I love how the first thing we see is Peter Dinklage’s name—and his entrance is wonderful (as is his quip about Cersei’s cheekbones [which is true!]). Before his return, though, I wonder: Did anyone else think of the pit stage on Mortal Kombat seeing the Hound topple Ser Red Shirt over the edge? Because that’s the very first thing I thought of.

Other favorite bits of mine: The scene where Maester Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre; Cersei playing Simon Says with her guards at Littlefinger’s expense (“Power is power.” Ha!); Grey Wind menacing Jaime; and, of course, Joffrey getting slapped.

But, of course, we’re here to talk Dothraki, so talk it we shall!

First, a new character is introduced: Kovarro. As mentioned before, this was a name that the writers came up with (or perhaps Bryan Cogman specifically…?) based on the information I included about how to come up with Dothraki names (which, by the way, is a post that’s seriously overdue. Remind me if I forget). Dothraki makes a distinction between single and double consonants (e.g. ige “bowl (accusative)” vs. igge “bucket”), but I decided very early on that this wouldn’t necessarily be the case with names. Instead, consonant doubling is stylistic. It can also be functional, because a trisyllabic name like Hadoro would be stressed on the first syllable, even though the word hador, “gust of wind”, is stressed on the last. By doubling the last consonant, we get Hadorro, which keeps the stress on the same vowel as the original word, making the tie between the name and word more recognizable.

Our new name Kovarro, then, derives from the verb kovarat, which means “to stand”. Kovarro, then, is kind of like “stander (who is male)”: a tough guy who stands his ground. Of course, the name always reminds me of the wedding episode of Home Movies, which features one of Brendan’s films Landstander, with the main character, Landstander, whose key ability is that he can “stand on the land”.

Oh, and, of course, we also see Bitey! (I’ve named the little shoulder-standing dragon “Bitey”. Seems appropriate.) That’s really exciting. Can’t wait to see more dragons!

Back to Dothraki, we find Dany and Jorah et al. wandering the Athasar Virzeth, the Red Wastes, looking mighty dusty and bedraggled. And then, sadly, we lose another horse: Dany’s present from Drogo, her silver. To honor the poor horse’s memory, here’s a line from season 1 that never saw the light of day, but which readers of the book will remember:

  • Vizhadi vizhadaan norethi shafkoa. “Silver for the silver of your hair.”

This is what Drogo says to Dany on giving her his present. In the show, Drogo ends up not really saying anything to Dany until, like, episode 3, so, naturally, this line had to be cut—and, quite frankly, it’s a good thing it was, because in the original script I sent, I made a mistake: I wrote shafki when I should have written shafkoa. Oops! I was still a beginner when it came to Dothraki grammar at that point, though, so I hope the gaffe can be overlooked.

As things become more desperate, Dany gathers her bloodriders together (Zhey Rakharo, zhey Aggo, zhey Kovarro), and says the following:

  • Fichi hrazef zinayi kishi. “Take our remaining horses.”

A short bit, but we see a couple of rare things in here. First, if the form zin looks familiar, it’s probably from a sentence like the second one below:

  1. Anha adakhak. “I’m eating.”
  2. Anha zin adakhak. “I’m still eating.”

Zin is one of those post-subject particles that acts like certain auxiliaries do in English. Now we see a bit of its history in the word zinay, which is itself in a rarely seen form: the Dothraki active participle. (In case you’re wondering, no, there is no [longer a] verb associated with this word.) And, also a bit rare, the adjective zinay agrees with the inanimate noun in plurality, even though the inanimate noun can’t display number. And rarer still: the sequence yi, which is quite rare in Dothraki (e.g. no word begins with yi). So a small phrase, but some fun stuff going on.

Once Dany has her bloodriders’ attention, she tells them what to do:

  • Ma yer adothrae tith; ma yer heshtith; ma yer valshtith. “You ride east; you southeast; and you northeast.”

Never thought the ordinal directions would ever see the light of day. Glad I’d already coined them, though! After this, it’s Rakharo, I believe, who asks:

  • Fin kisha fonoki, zhey khaleesi? “What do we seek, khaleesi?”

Fonat means “to hunt”, and by adding the suffix -(s)o, you get fonolat, which focuses on the beginning of the event: the event’s inception. This translates in various ways in English (e.g. “to track”), but in a non-hunting context, it means something like “to seek” (i.e. to search for with an uncertain chance of success).

After this, Daenerys delivers one of her longer Dothraki speeches—perhaps her longest to date. Here’s the whole thing:

  • Vaes, che thiri che drivi. Ma verakasaris ma voji. Che ashefaes che tozaraes che Havazzhife Zhokwa. Ezo athchilar Athasaroon Virzetha hatif kishi, ma reki vekha yomme moon. “Cities, living or dead. Caravans and people. Rivers, or lakes, or the Great Salt Sea. Find how far the Red Waste extends before us, and what lies on the other side.”

In fact, there was actually one more line after this that got cut. I looked at that the first time and thought, “Are you sure? That’s pretty long…” And, indeed, it was. Better to have more to choose from than less, though.

I had to ponder what the Dothraki might do with the concept of “caravan”. Certainly caravans would be known to them: they travel all over and caravans exist. I came up with verakasar, which ultimately derives from the root e (heh, heh) which is used in the verb elat, which means “to go”. Through regular derivation, we get verat from elat, the former of which means “to travel”. One who travels, then, is a verak, and a group of them is a verakasar. And, ultimately, that’s what a caravan is: a group of travelers. Many are commercial in nature, but the Dothraki don’t trade, so probably would have little interest in that aspect of it (well, save that a traveling merchant would probably make a good target for sacking and pillaging).

In the third sentence we see two of my favorite words that I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day: ashefa “river” and tozara “lake”. Both were created at around the same time, and were created very early. I was looking to create vocabulary sets that fit together, and so both of these (bodies of water, trisyllabic, ending in -a) helped to establish a semi-regular pattern for animate nouns. There are a number that fit this description, and it also says a little bit about the Dothraki worldview (i.e. the agency present in natural forces like a river or the wind).

The last sentence was actually quite difficult. I had to think for quite a bit how it would make sense to express that sentence in Dothraki. A more literal translation will give you a better idea for how exactly it works:

  • Ezo athchilar Athasaroon Virzetha hatif kishi, ma reki vekha yomme moon. “Find the extent of the Red Waste before us, and that which lies beyond it.”

Athchilar there might also be translated as “limit”. It derives from chilat, a verb that means “to be prostrate”. A closer English expression might be “the lie”, in…huh. Having trouble coming up with an English expression. Well, there’s also “the lay”, as in “the lay of the land”, but I’m sure you can also say something like, “Give me the lie of your proposal and I’ll tell you what I think of it”. We also see an indefinite relative clause in the second part of this sentence (I mentioned these initially here, but never discussed them—and there’s certainly no room to discuss them here. I’ll get to it, though). That single example may be enough to help the folks to figure out the rest.

Finally, Dany approaches Rakharo individually and says:

  • Yer athzalar nakhoki anni, zhey qoy qoyi. “You are my last hope, blood of my blood.”

Or at least that’s what I have written down. Thinking back, doesn’t she start out with zhey qoy qoyi? I need to hit up HBO GO and watch it again (though maybe someone will remember). Whichever order it is, athzalar should look familiar. The verb zalat is both “to want” and “to hope”, and here it’s fulfilling the latter function. The word nakhok is actually very similar to an ordinal number in its behavior. It derives from the same stem that gives us nakhat, which means “to stop”, and nakholat, which means “to finish”. In order to modify a noun with an ordinal like “first”, “second”, etc., you put the ordinal after the noun and put it in the genitive. That’s what you see here.

Finally, Rakharo replies with:

  • Anha vos oziyenek shafkea, zhey qoy qoyi. “I will not fail you, blood of my blood.”

The verb there is ziyenelat, derived from the same stem that gives us yeni, “failure”, which features in the Dothraki translation of “WTF?” (i.e. Ki fin yeni?). The circumfix zi(r)- -(s)e is something like “mis(o)-” in English (borrowed from Greek), and indicates some sort of a value judgment—i.e. that whatever happened happened and it was bad. That seemed appropriate for this type of failure.

And, there you have it! Just a short scene in episode 1, but a good chunk of Dothraki. I can’t at present recall if Elyes Gabel’s ad lib made it in (it was such a short thing), but perhaps those who have it fresh in their minds can let me know. Did you hear the mysterious word gwe?

Great to have Game of Thrones back on a weekly basis! There’s some really cool Dany/Dothraki scenes on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Update: Whoops! Missed a line. Nice catch, zhey ingsve!

2011 Conlang Card Exchange

For the past three years, a number of conlangers have participated in the Conlang/Concultural Card Exchange. I participated the first year with Kamakawi, but missed the deadline the next year, so I wanted to be sure to participate this year (though I still almost missed the deadline). For this year’s exchange, I decided to use Dothraki, and I thought this would be as good a place as any to post the translation info for my card.

First, here’s what the front of the postcard looks like:

A picture of a donkey.

Click to enlarge.

And here’s a shot of the back of the postcard:

The back of my Conlang/Cultural Card Exchange card (2011).

Click to enlarge.

(Note: That’s the LCS’s address, not mine. Don’t send mail there unless it’s accompanied by a $35 membership check made out to “LCS” [by the way, with the holidays around the corner, why not give the gift of LCS membership! Okay, plug over].)

Now, when I made these up with Costco, they gave me a character count, and I swear I came under that character count! But, as you can see, the text got cut off—literally. In fact, there was one more line after what you see there (I’d signed it Devvo ki Drogosi. Oh well). So you don’t have to go squinting, here is the entire text (plus the missing line):

Aheshke ray jad, majin anha vazhak yeraan azh, hajinaan m’anha chomak yeraan sekke. Jin vezh hrazef avervenanaz drogikhoon anni. Yer laz tihi mae mra jerve she hatif. Me drozhak! Tihas vorsaes tihoa ma charas tem fogoon! Ma me lana ven chaf! K’athjilari: Vo cheyi ven mae vekho vosecchi. Ma me yeri! Vezhof gora ha yeraan. Me nem nesa.

Fonas chek!

Devvo ki Drogosi

Now, I don’t want the card recipients to jump through too many hoops, so here’s an interlinear (though this won’t be pretty. Does CSS do small caps yet…?):

/winter already come.PST and 1SG.NOM FUT-give-1SG 2SG.ALL gift.ACC because COMP-1SG.NOM respect-1SG 2SG.ALL very. this stallion horse SUP-wild-SUP herd-ABL 1SG.GEN. 2SG.NOM can see-2SG 3SG.ACC in cage at front. 3SG.NOM killer! see-IMP fire-ACC eye-ABL.PL and hear-IMP thunder.ACC hoof-ABL! and 3SG.NOM run-3SG like wind! truly: NEG bay-GEN like 3SG.GEN exist-3SG.NEG NEG.EMPH. and 3SG.NOM 2SG.GEN! horse.god charge-3SG for 2SG.ALL. 3SG.NOM PASS know-3SG./

/hunt-IMP well!/

/Dave by Drogo-GEN/

Or better yet: Have they made a WordPress plugin for interlinears yet? Any conlangers out there who are big into WordPress and coding? (Think that’s what we need to get this done…)

Anyway, there you have it! Translation shouldn’t be tough (remember that the ablative expresses inalienable possession and that it’s only optionally expressed). Feel free to post your translation in the comments, and I’ll tell you how you did.

Also, I ordered 10 cards, since I thought that’d be a good round number, but I have three leftover. I thought I’d have a contest and give away the remaining three, but that would involve you giving me your address, so I thought I’d better make it voluntary. So! If you would like a card, and if you’re comfortable giving me a mailing address you have access to, e-mail me at “dave” at-sign “” and let me know. I’ll send them out to the first three people that e-mail me with addresses, and I’ll personalize them somehow in what little space there is left on the card.

Fonas chek, zhey lajaki!

Update: All the cards have been claimed. Perhaps there will be more next year, or for some other holiday (do the Dothraki celebrate Flag Day…?). Who knows? These, though, are being sent out to stud. But let me tell you: If there is a next time, ain’t nothing getting cut off—I’ll make sure of that!

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.