Archive for February, 2013

Bird Myths, Pt.3: The Jewish Ziz

Thursday, February 28th, 2013
In searching Google Images for the Ziz I found this modern
children's book making use of this rather minimal myth.
I can't believe the author would mind a little free publicity!
       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?
       I did no editing or abridging to the following passage, so some explanation may help.  Lt. Avi Oman is the ship's Communications Officer.  He's Jewish and at one point earlier in The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, I decided I wanted him to get married.  (You see how far off topic I got in this saga?)  I used that as an excuse to depict one of the self-governing Enclaves for particular ethnic or religious groups that have been set aside in my secular 28th century.  And since I didn't know much about Jewish weddings, I had to research them.  That was the start of my fascination with all things Jewish, which went on for some three months, far beyond the wedding idea, even prompting me to study a little Hebrew.  Rabbi Eliyahu Kohn, who is mentioned in the selection, was a character in that section of the book.  Avi's father is the Minister of Trade for the Enclave and he and Rabbi Kohn and Rabbi Natan Ben-Ari are very close friends.  Similarly, Avi and the sons of the two Rabbis were also close friends.  Daniel was the son of Rabbi Ben-Ari, but Daniel is dead.  So that's a bit of the background. (Parenthetically, I might say that someday I may extract the part with the wedding and the Rabbis and publish it as a novella.  The story of Rabbi Ben-Ari is very moving, while the depiction of the Istrian Judish Enclave and the story of what became of the Jewish people in future times is absorbing in itself.)


       Avi began.  “All of you should know by now that I was brought up in the Istrian Judish Enclave.  My ancestral people had legends about a bird called the Ziz.  Now, the term appears only once in our sacred writings, in a verse in the book called Tehillim, and even there the meaning isn’t very clear.  It just says, ‘I know all the birds of the mountains, and the ziz of the field is mine.’  It’s sometimes just translated as ‘wild beast’ because nobody knows exactly what animal God was referring to there.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to say, the speaker in that passage is God.”  Avi snickered, and Robbie found himself thinking how ill at ease it made people to openly discuss private cultural heritages.       “Later on,” Avi continued, “it was interpreted to be a big bird equivalent to some of the other fabulous giant birds of the Near East, like the Phenix or the rook.”       “Hold on,” said Robbie.  “Last time I looked, the rook was a real bird, and it’s not all that giant."
“Well, that’s the modern spelling of ‘roc’ or ‘rukh,’” said Linna.  “I’m going to hit a little bit on those stories later, if there’s time.  Go on, Avi.”
“The ancient Rabbis who wrote the interpretations of Judish scripture called the Talmud named the Judish version of the rook the ‘Bar Yokneh.’  But they also equated it with the Ziz, for no particular reason that I can see, but then I’m no scholar on such matters.  In our times it became a subject for nursery tales.  My father’s old friend, Rabbi Eliyahu Kohn – some of you met him at my wedding … ”  And Avi beamed, but whether at the thought of his wedding or at the recollection of the Rabbi’s funny, wrinkly grin it was hard to say.
Then Avi cleared his throat.  “It was from Rabbi Kohn, the man I call Uncle Ely, that I first heard about the Ziz.  You see, there are three great Judish beasts.  One of them is the lord of the ocean, the livyatan, or king of the fishes … ”
       “In Inge it’s ‘leviathan,’” said Linna.  “It just means a big sea monster.”
“Oh, it is?” said Avi, looking foolish.  “I’ve never heard the Inge word for it – thanks for enlightening me, Linna!  Anyway, besides this big sea creature, there was a monstrous ox – and I know the Inge for that – it’s ‘behemoth,’ which just means ‘cattle’ or ‘livestock’ in Hebru.  And so I suppose the Talmudists just decided to make this mysterious creature called a ziz into a giant bird to round out a trio of fish, beast, and bird. 
“On the Fifth Day of Creation God made the fishes out of water, and then he made the birds out of marshy ground, a mixture of water and earth.  On the Sixth Day of Creation, he made the land animals out of dry earth, and then that same day he went on to make human beings, but that gets us into a whole different story.  So while the … lev-AI-a-than? … was made to rule the fishes and the behemoth the beasts, so the Ziz was made to rule the birds – King of the Birds, like Garuda.  And he is every bit as fabulous as Garuda – he’s so big that his head touches the sky."
And Avi chuckled richly, pinching his whiskered chin.  “I’ll never forget the first time I heard Uncle Ely talk about the Ziz.  I was only five years old, and he and his wife had taken his three children and me down to swim at the beach.  His son Ziv is one of my best friends – some of you may remember he was one of my witnesses at the wedding.  Uncle Ely went in the water, too … ”  He broke off.  “Now, don’t look so skeptical, Captain!  Remember this was almost 25 years ago and Rabbi Kohn was only in his early thirties.  Anyway, he told the tale while he was standing in water up to his calves, and this is it.
“One time some people were sailing in a boat and they came upon this huge bird standing in the water, so tall that its crest brushed the sky.  And here Uncle Ely sort of pranced around and kicked up spray, and then settled down standing on one leg like a stork.  And he ruffled up his hair with one hand like a bird’s crest – he had more hair then, too.  Ziv and I and Ziv’s two sisters giggled our heads off."
 â€œWhat?  The Rabbi wasn’t wearing his kippah?” queried Robbie, who was enjoying himself tremendously.
Avi regarded his Captain with mock exasperation.  “Well, it’s kind of hard to keep a hat on your head when you’re swimming, so he made an exception.  Uncle Ely went on to say that since most of the bird’s legs were above the water line, the people on the boat thought the sea was shallow at that spot, and they decided to jump in and take a bath.  But then a voice came out of the heavens – and here Uncle Ely made his voice really deep and ominous … “Do not jump in!  Once a carpenter dropped his axe overboard at this spot and it did not reach the bottom for seven years!  This bird is the Ziz, and you will never see its like elsewhere!’”  Avi, too, made his voice unnaturally deep, wagging his head pompously.
“And then Uncle Ely stretched out his arms and announced that the Ziz had wings so broad that they darken the sun and hold back the winds from the south, which otherwise would have blown the Judish people away long ago.  And Uncle Ely flapped furiously … you remember how scrawny he is – his arms could hardly have darkened or held back anything!  Then he came back onto the beach and hunched down over a large stone as if he was incubating it and said that the Ziz had eggs so big that one time when one fell out of its nest and broke, 300 trees were crushed and the fluid flooded 60 cities.  Humanity is fortunate that normally the Ziz is very careful with its eggs!”
Avi paused to let everybody laugh and then he said, “I’ll always remember with pleasure what a cutup Uncle Ely could be when we were children.  He was so much fun.”
“Where was Daniel?” asked Robbie softly.
       Avi glanced at him.  Not many people in the room knew about Daniel.  "Oh ... he was only three at the time, you know -- not old enough for that kind of excursion.  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 ... "


Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m at TED in Long Beach right now, and that it’s not likely that I’ll get out three more blog posts before the month is up. That, however (as well as the title to my last post), got me thinking about months.

In the Universe of Ice and Fire, we know there are seasons, because we’re told that there are. Seasons can last months, years—decades, even. We don’t know why, but I’ve heard that there is an explanation, and we’ll learn what it is when George R. R. Martin is done with the series. In the meantime, though, I have absolutely no idea what to do with month names—or dividing up months—in Dothraki, and so I’m going to leave it alone. After all, though summer will be the same every time one experiences it, whether summer lasts three months or three years, there’s no guarantee that a single month (e.g. September) will be the same year in and year out. What, then, would distinguish it? Why even name it?

That, though, doesn’t change the fact that we have months in our world, and that those months have names. So if one were to use Dothraki, we could use the English names and Dothrakify them (though “February” is terrible in any language. What an awful word! I think I’d Dothrakify it as Fevyuweri, which will betray my accent), but I thought it might be fun to come up with Dothraki words for our months—and so I’m throwing it out to you. What would be some good names for our months in Dothraki? You might find it useful to refer to the extant vocabulary of Dothraki in coming up with words, but feel free to be creative. As a reminder, these are the terms for the seasons in Dothraki:

  • Spring: Eyelke
  • Summer: Vorsaska
  • Autumn: Chafka
  • Winter: Aheshke

You might also find it interesting to look at how other cultures have named their months. For example, in Ancient Egyptian, the months were called Growth, Harvest and Inundation followed by a number (I always found that amusing). If we can come up with terms we like, we’ll start using them out of world.

Oh, by the way, I think it’d be helpful to come up with a list of out of character Dothraki vocabulary (e.g. some of the modern terms we’ve come up with). Possible expansion for the language wiki…?

twice is baktin (revisited)

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
baktin = twice (abverb) (some things Google found for "baktin": a uncommon term; alias of the head of a Philippine carnapping gang; means piggy or piglet in Binisaya or Cebuano; Baktin Surf Camp on Siargao Island in the Philippines; user names; a rare last name; similar Bakhtin which is an unusual last name, notably of Russian philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin; similar Bakti is the name of a place in Indonesia)

Word derivation for "twice" :
Basque = bitan, Finnish = kahdesti
Miresua = baktin

My previous Miresua conlang word for twice was bakitin. This is a minor change. I changed the Basque word used for twice from birritan to bitan. Both Basque words apparently mean twice. But the shorter Basque word allows me to make a shorter, and perhaps sweeter, Miresua word. By the way, my word for two is baki.

This is a word from paragraph one of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Finishing up the Teach Yourself today, found this:

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
"Min ve donnix ai kar ben linpir lintha an olglipix ai menx mek, koi min mu ve simpix, kar lintha di.... -- Deg-Pat"
"I hope that sometime someone will understand all (of) this, but I don't know that anyone (ever) will... --Other-Pat"

I know that feeling so well! This is the same sentiment that I expressed with the poem "rerda", "difficulty", and I bet this is something that most conlangers feel in their own time.

We as conlangers are fated to build a wonderful party, set the tables and the plates, worry over the finest details to make sure everything is just right, and then must wait patiently for the guests; we cannot know who they are, or if they are even coming. It's a frustrating kind of feeling, to be sure.

Well, vorfon Feaster, wherever you are, min ve olglipix la min ve korkix ai ken taslepkar ken er ultix ai arangothek flar!

Some New Vocab

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
mylypu pony
malype unicorn
mylybshum pegasus (from mylypu ub usham, cloud pony)

pynce humor, silliness
pyncype funny, silly

Some New Vocab

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
mylypu pony
malype unicorn
mylybshum pegasus (from mylypu ub usham, cloud pony)

pynce humor, silliness
pyncype funny, silly

Na Apsinimil – Our Father

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Translated the "Our Father" into Arangothek today.  Just like with "the north wind and the sun", most (90%) of the vocabulary magically already existed, which makes me think that Feaster likely translated it for himself in the past.  I really wonder what his versions must have looked like!

Order of texts: English -- Arangothek -- Smooth English of Arangothek

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Na apisinimil, sintha ve tin degdrelth, 
tesset an ve vilki ne drelth, 
Gostet an ettix, 
Ultessa an ve pengovathet, 
Ben drelth an ve har tin degdrelth. 
Ne melin an sulix ai tispatinimil banhestek, 
la ai ultovathinimil ruk an emblix, 
har melin ve emblix ai delin, selintha ve ultix rukaxa ne melin, 
la mu an branthalix ne melin kar melin an pengix ai ultua ai ultovathil ruk, 
Lai ai melin an bobalix ker ruk.
An ve.


O our father, who is in heaven,
may your name be holy to the earth,
may your reign come,
may your desire be done,
on the earth as it is in heaven.
Give us our everyday* bread,
and forgive us (for) our bad actions,
as we forgive those people, who act badly to us,
and do not guide us into wishing to do bad things,
but shield* us from evil.
Amen. ("let it be".)


Notes on word usage:
*banhestek is formed from ban- (every) + hest (day)+ ek (adj), and is listed in the F.dictionary as "ordinary, everyday, usual".    I figured it could also mean "of each and every day", as this particular prayer calls for.  Figured I'd include it here in the notes, though, in case there are any objections.

Conlangery SHORTS #06: Borrowing Cultural Concepts

Monday, February 25th, 2013
George talks about how we borrow words for cultural concepts, even when the concept isn’t all that alien to our culture. Links: Xenia Guanxi (关系)

Mother of all things written in Arangothek

Monday, February 25th, 2013
A list of all things written in Arangothek.

Things written/translated into Arangothek by me:
11-02-13, Mother Carry Me
24-02-13, North Wind and the Sun
25-02-13, Pater Noster
30-04-13, Arangothek Question Song

Feaster's Arangothek works:
Teach Yourself Arangothek

Rastroth ul kaxbranth la Melxoth (“The north wind and the sun”)

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Translated "the north wind and the sun" into Arangothek. :)  I tried my best to stick to Feasterisms, but where it was impossible due to lack of information, I improvised or extrapolated from what already existed.

Order of texts: English -- Arangothek 


The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.


Rastroth ul kaxbranth la melxoth in quosuntalix ta sintha ul delin er gaglar, ketpir branissixist* in ettix, dan in pilbessa tin haxke sarmak*.
Delin in sisordix* kar sintha ve dasirethrix ne banissixist ai kaxkenond, kar dan di flaressa ve gaglar ker bedeltath.
Ketpir rastroth ul kaxbranth in suggix*har glarxa har gaglarxa ker keltedossanond, koi “ben sugguanond gaglar, ketsa goxettoxa* in pilbix branissixist ai haxkenond”; ben singrat* rastroth ul kaxbranth in rethesulix* ai arratoth*.
Ketpir in sarkix sarmaxa* melxoth, la mekpirxa* in dasirix ai haxkenond branissixist.
Ketsa rastroth ul kaxbranth in glirix* ai sisordua kar sintha ul delin ve gaglar ve melxoth.


Notes on new words and word usages:

*branissist is “traveler”, formed via parallel construction with F.telixist
*sarmak is formed from sarm-ua (“to be warm”) and +k, adjectivifier.
*sisordua is back-formed from “olsordua”, to disagree, which  is ol-sord-ua, “apart-stand-(verb)”.  Sisordua is analogue to this, formed as si(n)- “together” and sordua, stand.
*dasirua, “to take off (clothing)”, is formed from da- “off/away” and sirua- “to put”.
Dasirethrua, to cause someone to remove clothing.
*suggua, to breathe, was used here as “to blow (as wind)”, as there is no Feasterism for “blow”.
*goxetto, “proximity, nearness” is formed from gox-, a root which seems to denote proximity (possibly from the similar root goss-, which signifies royalty or prestige) and –etto, abstract nominalizer.
“nearby dog”, pex goxettok
*ben singrat, “ at the end” is here used as “finally”.
*rethesulua means “to relinquish, to give over”, but is there used as “concede, to give up”.
*arrua, to try, with nominalizer suffix +(a)t.
*sarmax, warmly
*mekpirxa, “right now-ly”, immediately.  Mekpir +xa 
*"ben... ketsa..."  In absence of a prescribed method of forming things like "the more, the merrier", I have done it this way.  "at/during.... thus..."
*glirua, "to need" is used here instead of "was obliged to".
*image found here.