Not a Blog

Klaatu Barada Nicto…

April 12, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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… or something like that.

Truth is, I suck at foreign languages. Always have. Always will.

That can be a real drawback for a fantasist working in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, who set the bar very high where imaginary languages are concerned. JRRT was a linguist of rare talent who invented not one but two Elvish tongues, not to mention dwarvish, Numenorean, the Black Tongue of Mordor, etc. etc. An astonishing feat of linguistic worldbuilding, and one that is never likely to be duplicated.

Certainly not by me. A few years ago, I got a very nice email from a reader who wanted to know more about the vocabulary and syntax of High Valyrian. I blush to admit that I had to reply, “Uh… well… all I know about High Valyrian is the seven words I’ve made up to date. When I need an eighth, I’ll make that up too… but I don’t have a whole imaginary language in my desk here, the way Tolkien did.”

The same was true of Dothraki. Lots of characters speak the language of the horselords in my novels, and I did pepper the text with a few Dothraki words like khal and arakh… but for the most part I was content just to say, “They were speaking Dothraki,” and give the sense of what was said, playing with the syntax and sentence rhythms a bit to convey a flavor.

That would obviously not work for television, however, where you actally have to HEAR what the characters are saying, even if you don’t necessarily understand the words. So when the pilot was filmed, HBO brought in a world-class expert to create a Dothraki tongue that went well beyond my “khaleesi” and “khalasar.”

His name is David J. Peterson, and here’s some more about him and the language he’s devising, straight from the good folks at Home Box Office:


David J. Peterson, an expert language creator from the Language Creation Society (LCS), has been chosen to create the Dothraki language for HBO’s upcoming fantasy series GAME OF THRONES, based on the book series !œA Song of Ice and Fire,! by George R.R. Martin.

When GAME OF THRONES executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss needed a language for the Dothraki, Martin’s race of nomadic warriors, they turned to the Language Creation Society. The LCS solicited and vetted a number of proposals for the Dothraki language from its pool of experts, with Peterson’s proposal ultimately being selected by the GAME OF THRONES production team.

Peterson drew inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili. However, the Dothraki language is no mere hodgepodge, babble or pidgin. It has its own unique sound, extensive vocabulary of more than 1,800 words and complex grammatical structure.

!œIn designing Dothraki, I wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the extant material in George R.R. Martin’s series,! says Peterson. !œThough there isn’t a lot of data, there is evidence of a dominant word order [subject-verb-object], of adjectives appearing after nouns, and of the lack of a copula [!˜to be’]. I’ve remained faithful to these elements, creating a sound aesthetic that will be familiar to readers, while giving the language depth and authenticity. My fondest desire is for fans of the series to look at a word from the Dothraki language and be unable to tell if it came from the books or from me !” and for viewers not even to realize it’s a constructed language.!

!œWe’re tremendously excited to be working with David and the LCS,! says producer D.B. Weiss. !œThe language he’s devised is phenomenal. It captures the essence of the Dothraki, and brings another level of richness to their world. We look forward to his first collection of Dothraki love sonnets.!

Did you know? (Hash yer ray nesi?)

The name for the Dothraki people !” and their language !” derives from the verb !œdothralat! (!œto ride!).

The Dothraki have four different words for !œcarry,! three for !œpush,! three for !œpull! and at least eight for !œhorse,! but no word that means !œplease! or !œfollow.!

The longest word in Dothraki is !œathastokhdeveshizaroon,! which means !œfrom nonsense.!

The words for !œrelated,! !œweighted net,! !œeclipse,! !œdispute,! !œredhead,! !œoath,! !œfuneral pyre,! !œevidence,! !œomen,! !œfang! and !œharvest moon! all have one element in common: !œqoy,! the Dothraki word for !œblood.!

Dothraki for !œto dream! !“ !œthirat atthiraride! !“ literally means !œto live a wooden life!; in Dothraki, !œwooden! (!œido!) is synonymous with !œfake.!

The word for !œpride! !“ !œathjahakar! !“ is derived from !œjahak,! the traditional long braid worn by Dothraki warriors (!œlajaki!).

More information about the Dothraki language (and their love poems) will be released over the course of the series.


I look forward to the day when someone translates Shakespeare into Dothraki. They’ve already done a Klingon translation, and probably an Elvish one as well, so what the hell.

Meanwhile, I need to find out the proper Dothraki for “it is known.”

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Off-Season Football

April 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm
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The Jets made another huge splash in the NFL offseason yesterday, trading for the talented but troubled Pittsburgs Steeler wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes comes to New York complete with a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, so the Jets don’t actually get him on the field until game five. He’s also in trouble for an incident down in Florida where he is accused of throwing a glass of juice in a woman’s face. If that one goes badly for him, it could well result in an additional suspension.

On the other hand, the Jets get Holmes incredibly cheaply. The Steelers will receive a fifth-round draft choice in this year’s draft, a bag of old footballs, and some used jockstraps. And when Holmes is actually on the field, he’s a damned good receiver. Witness the sensational catch he made in the waning seconds of the SuperBowl two years ago, which won the Steelers the world championship.

I really have mixed feelings about this trade. The Jets did need a major infusion of talent at the wide receiver position, no doubt of it. Mark Sanchez needs someone to throw to, if he is to avoid the traditional sophomore slump, and Gang Green’s league-leading rush attack can only benefit if they can improve their passing offense.

They did pick up Braylon “Ooops” Edwards last year in a trade, but so far he has not shown he is the answer. There have been persistent rumors of the Jets trading for Brandon Marshall of the Broncos, and even talk of them signing Plaxico Burress once he gets out of prison. Acquiring Holmes makes all that moot.

On the other hand, I am not crazy about the Jets being the new Oakland Raiders and filling up the roster with troublemakers and low-character castoffs from other teams.

This trade is going to impact the Jets long before Santonio actually takes the field in green and white. A whole bunch of mock drafts had Gang Green selecting Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate in the first round when the NFL assembles in NYC at the end of the month for their annual game of high stakes Pick’em. That’s looking a lot less likely this morning. Bad news for Tate, probably… but it does free the Jets to fill another area of need, now that we are set at wideout (kinda sorta).

Should be an interesting year.

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Cage Match Postscript

April 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm
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The Suvudu Cage Match final is over. Alas, Ser Jaime lost in the last hour when a sudden rush of votes for his opponent washed out what had been a razor-thin lead.

Congratulations to Rand al’Thor and his legions of fans and admirers, to Brandon Sanderson, to Tor Books, and of course to the late Robert Jordan, aka Lord Jordayne of the Tor.

For Brandon Sanderson’s amusing postscript to the finals, check out:

Thanks to the good folk at Suvudu for running this. It was certainly a wild ride. IMNSHO, some of the comments got a little overheated and rancorous toward the end, but for the most part it was a lot of fun. I hope they take my suggestion and do the Mainstream Cage Match next. I want to see how Little Dorrit does against Don Quixote.

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