That’s utterly unpocketable

Inspiration for a word hit me today whilst reading some text by William Auld (who wrote so well!). So we’re in the rarely visited territory of the Constructed Words category today!

The word is “poŝebla”, the simplest translation of which is perhaps “pocketable”. The meaning is a description of something which is shaped in such a way that it is possible to put it in one’s pocketses (possessed by the spirit of Gollum for a second there).

  • Ĝenerale, la melo ne estas poŝebla = generally, badgers are not pocketable (it is not possible to put badgers in one’s pockets)

And now for the derivation!

  • poŝo = (a) pocket
  • -ebl = suffix meaning “possible to <root>” or “<root> can be done”; “legebla” = “legible, possible to read”

See this post for more information on “-ebl”.

As you’ll learn from the post about “-ebl”, it expects to a verb at its behind. But “poŝo” is the noun form. So to get the proper interpretation of “poŝebla”, we must first interpret “poŝi”, the verbal form.

Check out this PMEG page, under the section “Verboj el ne-agaj radikoj” (“Verbs out of non-action roots”).

It shows a bunch of guidelines about interpreting the verb forms of naturally object type words (like pocket, stone, city).

I believe the most relevant examples are under this statement “Se la radiko montras ilon, aparaton aŭ simile…” (“if the root indicates a tool, apparatus/device or similar…”). It goes on to explain that the verb form then means “to use the tool in its usual manner”. So “to pocket” is to put something in your pocket, or keep something in your pocket.

Therefore “poŝebla” is “possible to put/keep in your pocket”.

I thought it was quite a cool word, sort of like a whimsical version of “portebla” (portable, possible to carry).

Note that you don’t need this word to talk about things like “pocket dictionaries”, those can just be “poŝvortaroj” not “poŝeblaj vortaroj”.

Brain cram

I’ve been buried under a mound of vocabulary! Forcing my brain to accept vocab any way I can. One particular method seems to be working so far:

It’s really neat, users submit wordlists and the website helps you learn the lists. Esperanto wordlists include the wordlists for the exams, the most common Esperanto words, vocab lists from various Esperanto books etc.

The website introduces new words to you, and asks you to select them from among words you’ve learnt so far. Every time you get something wrong, it remembers and presents that word more often. If you confuse it with the same words every time, it’ll pick you up on that. The better you are at getting a word, the more difficult the task gets (instead of selecting the word, you must type it), and the less often you get asked about it.

It’s basically managing my forgetfulness for me 😀

Another useful thing I’ve come across is “Traduku!”, a book found at the Esperanto Association of Britain. It’s a compilation of 56 English passages of text which appeared as translation tasks in The British Esperantist. Each passage has notes about the difficult to translate bits, and a model answer by William Auld. It’s really fun and challenging, if you enjoy being picky about language, then it’s awesome 😛

The traditional way to become

A little lexical musing for you today!

We have a perfectly good word for “to become”, which is “iĝi”. We can use it by itself, or use it as a suffix (as it was originally intended):

  • ŝi iĝis pala = she became pale
  • ŝi paliĝis = she became pale

But, according to the PMEG, a more traditional word for “to become” is “fariĝi”. Though apparently the use of “iĝi” is on the rise. I’m glad to hear this, because of how neat the smaller word is, and because I couldn’t figure out how “fariĝi” could actually mean “become”, when it has the word for “become” in it already!!!

Firstly, I’m gonna suggest a reason why “fariĝi” is more traditional, and why “iĝi” seems to be taking over. For this, just assume that it makes perfect sense for “fariĝi” to mean “to become”, then once I’m done, I’ll suggest a reason why I now think it kinda makes sense that it does.

In my previous post, I linked you to an article by Claude Piron on the evolution of Esperanto. In that article he reveals that it wasn’t always the done thing to use affixes as words in their own right; they were always attached to proper roots. But nowadays, affixes are proper words too! We can say “endi” = “to be necessary” (from the suffix “-end”), or “emi” = “to have a tendency to” (from the suffix “-em”)!

Given that affixes couldn’t be used alone, and “iĝi” is one of the most important affixes, it couldn’t have been used alone!

So an alternative was needed, a word to attach it to, which’d maintain the “become” meaning. So that’s my guess as to why “fariĝi” is more traditional! But now affixes can be used alone, so this is far more convenient!

So why the specific word “fariĝi”?

  • fermi = to close
  • fermiĝi = to become closed, to be(come) closing
  • fari = to do, to make
  • fariĝi = “to become doing”? “to become making”? “to become made”?

For some reason, my brain couldn’t think of anything else for a while. But here’s what I think now:

See this sentence:

  • la doloro faros lin viro = pain will make him a man

Look how “doloro” is the subject; it is doing the making.
See how “lin” is the direct object; he’s the one being made into something.
“Viro” is a complement, it shows the result of the action.

When you put “iĝ” on the end of a verb, the old direct object becomes the new subject, and we no longer care about the original subject (the reverse to suffix “ig”, which adds an object); it disappears. I may blog about this in more detail, but here’s what I mean:

  • Ŝi farbis la domon blua = she painted the house blue
  • La domo farbiĝis blua = the house was painted (lit. became painted) blue

“Blua” is our complement here; it’s the result of the action in both cases.

But notice how the original subject (ŝi) is overwritten with the object (domo) using our suffix. In the second sentence, “domo” is the new subject of the new verb (in evil speak: “iĝ” makes a transitive verb which takes a single object, into an intransitive verb). Read this section of Being Colloquial in Esperanto if you’re crazy interested and can’t wait for me to post more about it.

Back to fari:

  • la doloro faros lin viro = pain will make him a man
Which with “iĝ” becomes:
  • li fariĝos viro = he will be made (lit. become made) a man

The old object (lin) overwrote the old subject (doloro), which we now don’t care about, and we’re left with the complement.

Notice how “X is made Y” means “X becomes Y”!!!

  • He is made a man = he becomes a man

So this is why I think I now see why “fariĝi” pretty much equals “to become”. Still, I much prefer “iĝi”! 🙂

I had some real trouble explaining this, so if you need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask!

Ya mouth’s full o’ words

Found some really inventive words today! If you’ve been paying close attention to the Lernu forums since at least… December, maybe? Then you might have seen my source: an article by Claude Piron, because I think someone may have linked to it a while back.

Besides being an incredibly interesting article on the evolution of Esperanto, there are a couple of anecdotes about some pretty cool uses of the word building system.

  • jeskaze = if you (one) agrees, in the case of agreement
  • buŝpleni (pri)= to “constantly pay lip-service (about)”, constantly talk about, mouth full of speech (about)


“jes” = “yes”, and “kaze” is the adverbial form of “kazo” = “case”. So “kaze” is like “in the case”. “Kazo” apparently originally talked only about “case” in the linguistic sense (e.g. accusative case), but has since drifted to be like “affair/event”, more like “okazo”. A less risky version may well be “jesokaze”! Regardless, this word is like “in the case of yes/affirmation/agreement”. Pretty neat!


  • buŝo = mouth
  • plena = full/complete
  • pleni = to be full/complete (see this previous post for why, and this one for an interesting point about this transformation)

So “pleni” is “to be full”, and if we add a word to the front, is says that we’re full in a particular kind of way. By adding “buŝ” to the front, we’re saying that the manner in which we’re full, is characterised by “mouth” in some way.

  • Ili buŝplenas pri homrajtoj = They constantly pay lip-service to human rights / Their mouth is full of speech about human rights

Literally “they mouth-full about human rights”.

I think that’s pretty cool don’t you?

If you haven’t already, do take a read of that article; it really shows how our language has grown in some interesting ways!

“Buŝpleni” made me think up “plenbuŝe”:

  • Dum la tuta manĝo, lia koramikino parolis plenbuŝe!

Know what I mean by that? 😀

Make more tasty!

I’ve been playing around with making words in Esperanto recently. Been daydreaming in conversations with people. Every word they say that I don’t know in Esperanto, I try to make it, using what I do know in Esperanto.

Out of my playing, I’ve stumbled on a useful set of steps for making a particular kind of word (much like this previous post, check it out, it’s neat!).

So, do you by now know what I mean by a “quality” root? If not see this post.

Today we’ll be using quality roots, and these:

  • pli = more (see this post for more details)
  • malpli = less (“mal” is a prefix that reverses the meaning of things)
  • igi = suffix meaning “to cause/make <root>”, e.g. “boli” = “boil”, but “boligi” = “to cause to boil”
  • iĝi = suffix meaning “to become <root>”, e.g. “pala” = “pale”, but “paliĝi” = “to become pale”

Now, say you’ve got a quality root in its adjective form, like this:

  • bela = beautiful
  • longa = long
  • vasta = extensive, vast, wide

You can do a neat thing with them. Using this formula:


Things in brackets show alternatives! So you get a few choices here. The idea is, you’ve got some quality, like “beautiful”, and you want to make a verb which means: to become, or cause someone/something to be, more or less that quality:

  • beli = to be beautiful
  • plibeligi = to embellish (literally: to make more beautiful)
  • plibeliĝi = to grow/become more beautiful
  • malplibeligi = to make less beautiful
  • malplibeliĝi = to become less beautiful

Cool, huh?

This saves you some work:

  • Mi estas bela, sed… = I am beautiful, but…
    • ŝi volas igi min (esti) pli bela
    • ŝi volas plibeligi min

They mean roughly “she wants to make me more beautiful”. But look at the second one! So neat! So neat in fact, that I wasn’t sure on the structure of the above. I think the “esti” is optional. The long way around would be then “estigi min pli bela”. Also note that “beligi” would mean “make beautiful”.

Sometimes, all this adding of “ig” and “malpli” etc. makes the words really long, so sometimes we use shorter forms. Look at these two:

  1. plilongigi = (literally) to make more long
  2. longigi = (literally) to make long

There is a clear theoretical difference. 1 implies something is already long, and you are making it longer, and 2 says nothing about how long it was, but you’re now making it long (maybe like English, the omission of “pli” might mean that the thing wasn’t long or beautiful until you made it so). But in practice, this distinction matters little, and often the shorter word will be used. Especially when you get to “malplilongigi”, you might just say “mallongigi”. See this PMEG page for this note, and more “ig” examples.

Here’s a few more I like:

  • plilongigi = to lengthen (to make longer)
  • plivastigi = to extend (to make more extensive)
  • verdigi = to colour green (to make green)
  • plilarĝigi = larĝigi = to widen
  • malplivarmigi = to cool down/ to cool (something)