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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.