Archive for March, 2013

straight is zeura

Friday, March 22nd, 2013
zeura = straight (adjective) (some things Google found for "zeura": a uncommon term; user names; Zeura Brotherhood on EVE Online game; Zeura Network of Spain; name of a World of Warcraft character; a rare last name; a rare old-fashioned feminine first name; in Basque similar word zeure is a strong genitive pronoun meaning your)

Word derivation for "straight (adjective)" :
Basque = zuzen, Finnish = suora
Miresua = zeura

This is the adjective straight, meaning not crooked or bent, direct. The word straight occurs in paragraph 5 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but as an adverb: "The rabbit-hole went straight". The adverb straight will be similar, with a added suffix almost certainly ending in n.

Bird Myths, Pt.3: The Jewish Ziz (continued)

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

The Ziz
Illustration from "The Princess of the Tower,"
Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi (Gertrude Landa) (Public domain )
        When I was writing The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, (see the Prologue and first six chapters here), I made Capt. Robbin Nikalishin a birder. What better qualification for the man who will head up the mission that encountered the first intelligent lifeform known to humanity -- and who happened to be big birds? During the mission out, there was a lot of boring downtime and one way the crew entertained itself was by telling bird myths, each crewmember telling tales from his or her own culture. Now, this section will be cut or drastically emended if I ever get that monster ready for publication, but I did too much research and had too much fun writing it to let it all disappear, so what better place to display it than on a blog devoted partially to myth in literature?
       This passage is a continuance of the previous post in this series, so to get an explanation of the characters and circumstances, go to that post.  The following is adapted from Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi (pseud. of Gertrude Landa), New York, Bloch Pub. Co., 1919.  The footnote to this effect is meant to have been supplied in the 28th century by the person who is writing Capt. Nikalishin's fictionalized biography.


Avi continued, "But that’s not the whole story of the Ziz.  He appears in several later tales meant especially for children.  I’ll tell just one of them.  And I’ll abbreviate it, because when Uncle Ely would tell tales to Ziv and Daniel and me after school, he would stretch them out so they usually went two or three sessions.  He’d turn them into cliffhangers and use the installments as a reward for buckling down to our lessons.”[1]
 “Once there was a princess who was very beautiful and accomplished and smart and well-educated, but suddenly she got very depressed.  Her father the King sent for all kinds of experts to try to figure out what was wrong with her, and finally one who was a bit more savvy than the others decided that the only thing wrong with her was that she was pining for someone to fall in love with.
“So the King brought all the princes and nobles of his realm to court her, but she rejected every one of them, saying they were all self-centered botbrains … well, I doubt she used that word, but you know what I mean … and she would never marry any prince who thought himself to be the only person in the world who mattered, or who loved himself more than the people that he ruled.  The King could grasp the wisdom of that, but when the wise men told him that it was obvious the princess would never fall in love with anybody but a commoner, he lost patience and imprisoned his daughter in a fortress tower by the sea. 
“The people missed their kind princess, although the King took a funny turn.  It seems that, annoyed as he was with his obstinate daughter, he took what she had said to heart and began to take more of an interest in the welfare of his people.  So it happened that they began to hope for better things and that included a certain young cowherd. 
“One day he was out in the field watching his cattle.  As he was pondering the state of the world, he fell asleep and was awakened by the piteous bellowing of an ox in pain.  He jumped up to see that an enormous bird had seized the ox in its talons and was trying to lift it from the ground!  He realized that it could only be the Ziz, and yet, with no thought for his own safety, the cowherd rushed to seize the ox by the forelegs at it was rising into the air.  He wound his own legs around a tree to try to hold the bird back, but to no avail.  The Ziz, its huge eyes glowing with rage, struck at the cowherd, but fortunately its wicked beak sliced the tree in two instead.  Then, freed from any restraint, it rose up from with ground with the ox dangling beneath him and the young man dangling from the ox!
“He clung on for dear life as the bird rose higher and higher above the trees and then soared away over the ocean.  It soon became night, with a great moon glimmering on the water below, and the cowherd was about to give up in despair and let go and accept his death, when the bird reached a tower on the seacoast and swooped down to drop both the dead ox and the cowherd in a nest at the top.  Above them towered the Ziz, glaring ferociously as it prepared to strike the young man with a death blow.”  Again Avi grinned broadly, surely remembering the antics with which his beloved mentor must have illustrated this tale.
“But the resourceful cowherd pulled out his field knife and struck at the tongue in the gaping beak just as it was darting down.  A pierced tongue can’t feel so good even if you are as big as an elephant, and the Ziz gave a shriek, leaped out of the nest, and flew off.  The exhausted young man soon fell asleep, and when he awakened it was morning and a beautiful young woman was standing before him.  Naturally, she asked him how he had gotten there and he related his astonishing tale.  So the princess – for that was who it was, of course – took him down into her tower and gave him food and clothing and a place to rest and bathe, all the while not telling him her identity.  She found him very attractive and he was likewise smitten, but he felt that only members of royalty could be so beautiful, and here he was nothing but a common peasant.
“The princess told him that every morning she went to the top of the tower and looked forth to see if her future husband might to coming to rescue her, and the cowherd in his naïveté asked her who that might be.  And she said that she didn’t know – in fact, she had often felt moved to make a vow to marry the first man who came to her.
“Emboldened, the cowherd said, ‘I believe I am that man, then, and certainly in my heart I knew it was love at first sight.  I would be honored if you would allow me to marry you.'  And she agreed without the slightest hesitation.
“But she said, ‘I will happily marry you, but first you must think of a way for us to escape from this place.’  And so he devised an ingenious plan.
“In the evening the Ziz returned to feast on the remains of the ox, and while it was thus occupied, the cowherd and his princess attached to its legs ropes and a large basket.  They provisioned the basket with a supply of food and water and then climbed in.  They had no idea where the bird would carry them, but their hope was that it would come to ground in occupied lands and they would be able to escape.
“But what happened was better than that – it flew across the sea to the capital city of the realm!  Then, seeming to notice for the first time the extra weight on its legs, it dashed the basket against a tower of the King’s very palace, and the princess and her lover tumbled out.  Only when guards appeared and recognized the princess did the cowherd discover the true identity of his intended bride.  The King was overjoyed – it was surely fate that this handsome prince among commoners had found his daughter.  He gave his consent to their marriage, and … Captain, you knew how this kind of old tale is supposed to end!  So I’ll say, they all lived happily ever after – even the Ziz, I presume!”  And Avi bobbed a comically childish bow and sat down, suddenly going red in the face.  Vigorous clapping and a spurt of animated conversation followed.
 Robbie stood up, still applauding.  “That was a highly entertaining tale, Lieutenant!  And I would love to hear Rabbi Kohn tell it!  Now, who wants to go next?”

[1]Rabbi Kohn appears to have drawn this tale from a 20th-century children’s narrative (Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi [pseud. of one Gertrude Landa]) that is known to exist in only two copies, one in the Bodley Library in the Historical Preserve of Oxferd and one in the Ostrailien Archives.  One suspects that a third copy might be held somewhere in the IJE.
Coming Next ...
Mythical Birds from Greece and the Middle East

Game of Thrones Season 3 Premiere Event

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The past two Game of Thrones premiere events have been pretty incredible, but this was something different. Going all the way back to the 1920s, if anyone mentioned a big Hollywood premiere, the first place that would come to mind was Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. And lo and behold, that’s where we were.

Of course, I was late, though. I guessed the traffic correctly, for the most part, but I guess when they do a premiere like this, the traffic around the theater is a bit crazy (as I learned when I got there and saw they had lanes blocked off to accommodate the premiere). So we kind of rushed in (it was already dark), and the first thing we saw was this:

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Big old line. That was the first indication that things would be different this year. And, indeed, it appears that the “cast and crew” premiere event has outgrown its former venue by leaps and bounds. The theater was packed.

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Originally we were escorted to the wrong seats and I ran into Bryan Cogman, who got to sit next to Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (lucky chiftik). But it’s all good. My wife Erin and I had a lot of fun taking a look at the renovated Chinese Theater (I’d been there once before pre-renovation/restoration. Looks great now.)

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After some speeches, we got to see the first episode of season 3…about which I’ll have much more to say come April 1st.

Afterwards we got to get our picture taken out front (thank you Sharon!).

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Then we walked over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the after party (the Dothraki vitteya [props to the HBO folks who got the word right!]). This was my first ever encounter with actual paparazzi. Not that they were looking for me, but we were all walking from the theater in a big group, and there was actually a barricade with police and a whole bunch of guys with cameras shouting at the crowd (the names I heard as I was going by: “George!”, “Nathalie!” [and, in fact, George R. R. Martin did go over to the barricade to sign a few autographs, which I thought was charitable]). It was really bizarre. I really should’ve taken a picture of them (kicking myself now. If there’s a next time, anha astak asqoy: I will get a picture of a wall of paparazzi!).

The party at the Roosevelt was, in a word, opulent. There were a string of performers (a juggler, a belly dancer, two guys doing a sword fighting display, musicians) in the main hall, a place where you could get your fortune read with tarot cards—oh, in fact, I took a picture of the little program they had printed up:

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I did, indeed, shoot some arrows (unfortunately the picture was too dark; not worth posting), and my wife got her nails done (and of the choice, she notes: “The dragon has three heads!”):

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And to keep an old tradition going, here’s a picture of my dinner:

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A quick aside: Are there such things as freshwater shrimp? Is that a modern phenomenon (with shrimp farms)?

Anyway, one thing I was extremely glad of is I got to meet both Nathalie Emmanuel (who plays Missandei) and Dan Hildebrand (who plays Kraznys) at the after party. I saw their work for the first time tonight, and, as I told that, I was extraordinarily impressed. They’re both new to the show and new to working with a constructed language, and the language itself is brand new, so, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Their performances far exceeded my expectations. I could barely sit still in my seat, thinking to myself, “My god! They’re nailing it!” I’ll have some more specific details after the official premiere, but suffice it say they both put a lot of effort into getting the Astapori Valyrian down (for which I’m grateful), and their hard work more than paid off. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better.

Oh, and they were both gracious enough to take a picture with me. Here’s me and Nathalie:

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And here’s me and Dan:

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Oh, and before I forget, this was the main banquet hall. I couldn’t get a picture to do it justice, but there was a gigantic map of Westeros and some of Essos draping the far wall (more than a story tall). You can see it in the background here:

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Probably the number one moment that many are going to wish I was videotaping but which I didn’t occurred when they started playing “Billie Jean”. George R. R. Martin was sitting at a table with most of the child actors (Arya, Sansa, Bran, Hot Pie), when Maisie Williams decided to start singing along, using Sophie Turner’s hand as a microphone. As it moved into the chorus, they all joined in. It was priceless.

My strangest moment was when Dan Weiss’s father and mother came up to introduce themselves to me. They recognized me, and said they were big fans of the show. The show they meant, though, wasn’t Game of Thrones: It was CNN’s The Next List. I guess they watch it all the time, and they’d seen the episode with me on it and they recognized me from it. (Tracey Dorsey, if you’re reading this, you’ve got fans in high places! They love the show!)

But I think the highlight of the night for me was when I achieved something I failed to last year. Jason Momoa was at the premiere again this year, and, like last year, he brought his wife, Lisa Bonet. And though it didn’t happen last year, this time I got a picture with her:

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If I could tell you what The Cosby Show meant to me as a kid growing up, it’d take months to read this post. In short, let’s just say I can die happy.

I know there are a lot of fans out there that can’t wait for March 31st—and, believe me, it’ll be worth the wait; they did a terrific job. But now having seen it, I have to say: I can’t wait for April 7th.

Fonas chek!

well (noun) is puvo

Monday, March 18th, 2013
puvo = well (noun) (some things Google found for "puvo": an uncommon term; puvo is a German illustrator and cartoonist with website puvo productions; user names; a rare last name; name of a World of Warcraft gaming character; Rio Puvo is an intermittent stream in Mozambique)

Word derivation for "well (noun)" :
Basque = putzu, Finnish = kaivo
Miresua = puvo

This is the noun well, not the adverb or adjective or interjection. This is well as in a hole sunk into the ground from which water can be drawn. It appears in paragraph five of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice found herself "falling down a very deep well".

The Basque word is derived from the Latin word puteus.

Announcement on Schedule Change

Monday, March 18th, 2013
Conlangery is going to become a fortnightly podcast.

cup is kaipu

Thursday, March 14th, 2013
kaipu = cup (noun) (some things Google found for "kaipu": an uncommon term; Kaipu is an Israeli line of natural cosmetics; an unusual last name that can be from India; street name in Ewa Beach, Hawaii; a rare first name; Nee Kaipu Chupulo is a song in Telugu film (Tollywood) titled Vijetha; Hangzhou Kaipu Electronic Technique Co., Ltd of China; name of a place in Papua New Guinea)

Word derivation for "cup" :
Basque = katilu (cup, bowl), Finnish = kuppi
Miresua = kaipu

This is new word, one that I was somewhat surprised I didn't have defined. It appears later on in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Conlangery #86: Himmaswa

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Apologies for posting this so late.  Technical difficulties. In this episode we explore the curious Himmaswa and its Chinese-inspired writing system. Top of Show Greeting: Swiss German (Zurich dialect) Links for Himmaswa: KneeQuickie ZBB Fkeuswa Feedback: Hi dudes…      I’m still loving the podcast I’ve got a question for you guys this time. I was […]

Run Like a Stallion

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

I’ve just recently come back from ConDor (which was wonderful), and ran into a wall of work. While I negotiate that, though, I’d like to do a couple of things here.

First, Dothraki regular Esploranto has started translating posts on this blog into Spanish! I can’t tell you how excited I am (and, by the way, if anyone else is interested in translating these posts, go for it!), but I’ve run into a technical issue—specifically, how to add these translations to the blog. It’d be odd to post them as new posts (since they’re translations of old posts), and odder still to post them directly after the posts they’re translations of (if I get more translations, there could be, e.g., a single day with like eight posts). What I think would be ideal is if I could add a button to each post that would automatically swap out the original content with the translation. Anyone have any idea how I might accomplish this?

If I can’t come up with a clever solution, what I may do is assign all these posts to some older year (say, a hundred years prior to the original post) and provide a link on each post to the other, plus a note on the translation telling readers when the original post was posted. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll allow me to host the content without cluttering up the original run of posts.

Oh, and as a note, I really wouldn’t like to maintain two blogs with the same content, if I can avoid it. I’ve been having enough trouble keeping all my WordPress blogs up to date; I’m loathe to start another.

Second, I got a comment a while back from Aniko asking for the Dothraki translation of the following phrase: Dare to live; it’s easy to die. Let me take some time to translate that.

Step 1 is taking care of the word I didn’t have: dare. Turns out, the English word “dare” goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European with its meaning mostly in tact (not many words do that). I would’ve been on solid footing to simply coin a new root for Dothraki meaning “dare”, but it didn’t feel right. Right now the word I’d use for “brave” or “courageous” is vezhven. The word has other uses, but it also covers those areas of English’s vocabulary. The idea behind “dare” is to invest one’s courage (whether wise or not) in some enterprise. Many languages have a word related to “brave” they use for “dare”. I wanted to include that tie with Dothraki, but could have done it in a number of ways.

While vezhvenat is a verb, it’s really stative in nature. “To dare” is more of an activity, and I didn’t like any of the options available to me to make vezhvenat more active. In browsing the vocabulary, I came across one item I’d use before to turn vash, “stampede”, into a verb: lanat ki vashi, “to stampede”. I really like this construction, and want to use it more. Thus was born: lanat ki vezhi, “to dare” (and also “to be brave”).

I’m not sure quite how to explain it, but ki is used here to mean “like” or “as” instead of ven, which we’d ordinarily expect. Ven seems more utilitarian, more concrete (it’s certainly a younger preposition), while ki makes the connection seem closer. I think one could actually say lanat ven vezh, to literally say something like Me lan ven vezh, “He ran like a stallion”, but lanat ki vezhi means “to dare”.

Having settled that, this is how I would translate the phrase:

  • Lanas ki vezhi thirataan; me disie, jin drivolat.

Obviously do what you will with the punctuation. That said, there are different options here, so let me walk you through them one by one:

  • The first verb (lanas) is in the informal imperative. If you’d like it to read more formally, you can change lanas to lani.
  • The first clause is “Dare to live”. You can change it up, though, and say Lanas ki vezhi athiraraan, which is saying the same thing in a slightly different way (maybe something like “Dare to go towards life”?). Either construction is acceptable.
  • There are a number of ways to say this last bit. One way is to say Athdrivozar disie, which is literally “Death is easy”. (Note: In the original, you can switch out drivolat for athdrivozar if you like the original construction but prefer the verbal noun.)
  • Another way to say that same thing is to use the infinitive: Drivolat disie. That would be like saying “To die is easy”.
  • And, of course, there are two slightly different words for death at play here. Drivat (and its verbal noun form athdrivar) means “to be dead”. This is a stative verb and describes the state of being dead. Drivolat (and its verbal noun form athdrivozar) means “to die”. So which verb or verbal noun you use depends on what you want to say: Is being dead easy, or is dying easy? Now that I look at it, it’s probably the former, not the latter, in which case you’d want to switch to drivat/athdrivar.

That, though, should give you an idea of what the issues are, and should help you decide what direction you want to go in. Either way, when your tattoo is done, take a picture and send it my way! I’ll put it up here on the blog.

Fonas chek!

ANGLO: A System for Transliterating English to Hebrew Script

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
This is not strictly speaking a CONLANG, but it is a constructed script. It's an attempt to systematically render modern English into Hebrew letters. I have tried to keep it logical and precise without being pedantic or overly geeky. The intent is to make it easy for people who know some amount of Hebrew and English to learn.

Details at the links:

Publishing Update on The Storm-Wing!

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Finished cover for The Storm-Wing
       This post is partially brought over from Ruminations of a Remembrancer.  I thought that since the current blog was originally meant as a vehicle for publicizing The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series, and since it probably has a different readership from the termitewriter blog, I ought to post it here, too.
       I've been completing the formatting of The Storm-Wing (v.2 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head) and I've uploaded it on CreateSpace. I had a couple of dinky but pesky problems that took a good bit of the weekend to solve. One involved pagination (sigh -- the eternal flaw in Word). There are quite a few preliminary pages and I wanted them paged a certain way, with small Roman numerals. And I couldn't get "ii" off a blank page without causing the numbers to disappear from some of the subsequent pages. Blank pages are not supposed to have numbers on them. I finally solved the problem -- don't ask me how.
       Then CreateSpace told me my little title page drawing (shown below) didn't have enough DPI. I was puzzled, because I thought that the t.p. drawings on The Termite Queen were simply copied over from Word and not even put in .jpg format. It turned out that the problem was the eyes. I have used a fill containing little dots for the eyes in my cover drawings, but the strange thing with the fill is that it doesn't change size if you change the size of the drawing. After a couple of unsuccessful adjustments I just deleted the fill with the dots and made the eyes solid gray. Then it took the plain drawing without a quibble.
       I got the approval to publish this morning, but I've decided to order a printed proof copy this time.  It was hard to tell in the online mock-up whether the t.p. drawing is going to look right. I'm not in any hurry to publish, anyway, so I don't mind waiting the 10 days or so that CS requires to get the proof shipped. In the meantime I can work on the Kindle and Smashwords editions -- I haven't even begun that formatting. However, it's pretty easy once you've done it a few times. The only time-consuming aspects are embedding the footnotes in the text and linking up the ToC. Then, once all three are available, I'll put up some kind of celebratory special offer! So stay tuned!