Meloy: ilùi estoit nosay maystroy

Remember how last time I got utterly nerdy on yo asses? Well it’s only gonn’ get worse.

I think I’ve already mentioned that I’m ever so slowly writing a little Esperanto novella, a fantasy parody. In this book, there are ridiculous sorcerers, and exceedingly ridiculous spells, and I wanted magic to be associated with archaic language and full of mystery, as often one does.

Non-artificial languages are steeped in history, it’s easy to pick an ancestor, like Latin, and make such use of it for this goal. But what about Esperanto?

Well, we do have over 120 years of history, but we have the Fundamento, and we make a considerable effort to make sure the core of Esperanto stays the same, so everyone can always understand each other. Have you ever read Esperanto text by the creator of Esperanto himself? Not only was he incredibly eloquent with the language, but he’s also perfectly understandable from all that time ago. If you’re interested in how he responded to people’s questions about the language’s grammar, like I was, read the “Lingvaj Respondoj“. Esperanto has indeed changed over time (take a peek here for more info), but nothing like the difference between Spanish and Latin.

So what can be done? Well, of course someone way smarter than me has already thought such a thing would be bloody cool. Have you ever heard of Arcaicam Esperatom? Archaic Esperanto (AEo)? It’s like an Esperanto code, designed to make Esperanto like the difference between Middle English and Modern English or somethin’.

The best easy-access description of it I’ve found is the Esperanto-language wiki-page on the topic. It purposely adds complexity to the language, like more noun cases and verb conjugations, and gives it a slightly Latinesque feel. The title of this post is the Archaic Esperanto for the following:

Badgers: they will be our masters

Meloj: ili estos niaj majstroj

Sooo, all my sorcerers’ spells will be some lump of archaic obfuscation 😀 I’m thinking I’ll try to make spells be AEo tongue-twisters, or poems. Or perhaps in the realm of the more silly: food recipes, or instructions for electrical appliances, always spoken with great seriousness, because no sorcerer now knows the true meaning of the words!

See if you can translate the sentence below to archaic Esperanto!

The courageous fish, whom the badger had quietly killed, had been travelling from Paris to Shanghai.

La kuraĝa fiŝo, kiun la melo mallaŭte mortigis, antaŭe vojaĝadis de Parizo al Ŝanĥajo.

Boisterous Bajoran Buffoonery: badger disguised in costume crashes sci-fi convention

I’m a trifle nerdy, and that’s setting off my understatement-o-meter. But whether or not you are too, you’ve probably heard this quote before:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Your brain may even have read it in a commanding captain’s voice. Then a massive wind up, and POW; we’re in warp. Daa, dadada, dadada BOM BOM, dadadada da daa daa daaaa dadada daaa, –

Ahem. *lays down trumpet*

Anyway, I’ve always remarked, as I’m sure many before me have, that the ending line is so punchy.

To boldly go….

Some of you may remember certain school teachers of English language endlessly chastising you for splitting infinitives: this process of instead of keeping the “to” with its “go”, you split it with a word describing the action.

To ceaselessly battle.

To tirelessly study.

Many seem to consider it bad style. And often it can look clumsy. But I think there’s a place for it. It certainly feels at home in that Star Trek quote. And it’s that quote that fuelled me to ignore my English teacher! What if it were “to go boldly”?! Doesn’t that sound lame? Generally, the real way of getting around a split infinitive involves rephrasing completely. But dat ain’t needed nor wanted here, son.

ANYWAY. Why did I bring this up? You’ve probably realised that in many languages, you simply cannot split the infinitive, because it is only one word!

Take Esperanto: infinitives are the i-forms of verbs:

  • danci = to dance
  • ami = to love
  • iri = to go
  • tedanci = to do the tea dance (makes tea rain from the sky!).

I certainly can’t put “boldly” in the middle of “iri”.

So this got me thinking. How do we translate this? And is it as punchy? And is there anything we can do if it ain’t so punchy?

So the most naive translation I can come up with for that bit is this:

  • iri aŭdace kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: to go boldly where no one has gone before)

Now, you gotta admit, that iri aŭdace — iris antaŭe combo really does give it a nice rhythm. BUT, you may disagree, but it really does read like “to go boldly” to me; it makes sense, but the punchiness is gone. It’s like a normal utterance. The power of the boldness word is lost.

What are our options? Well, in Esperanto, given the slightly freer word-order, a common technique for applying emphasis is to bring the word requiring emphasis to the beginning of the phrase, if this is permitted:

  • aŭdace iri kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: boldly (to) go where no one has gone before)

Despite the unfortunate consequence that pronouncing “-ce” then “iri”  is a little less pretty, this really does bring back some umph, don’t you think? You get right to main point in the first word – BOOM, not even having to say a pesky “to”! (The thing that stops this starting to translate like “boldly going where…”, is how the paragraph begins: “it’s continuing mission: to X, to Y, to Z.” i.e. not “Xing, Ying, Zing”.)

There is another tool on Esperanto’s belt of course VORTFARADO!!! (or word-building…).

  • aŭdaciri kien neniu antaŭe iris (literally: boldy-go where no one before has gone)

Notice I change the order of “antaŭe” and “iris” to maintain the rhythm (aŭdaciri — antaŭe iris), purely poetic and unnecessary 😛

Now, what’s going on ‘ere then. “Aŭdaciri”? can I just go and do that? This is actually more than just just boldly going (as you may know if you’re familiar with this section of the PMEG). This is like a special kind of going, a kind of going that is by its very nature, daring and bold. Exploring the dangerous bits, inviting new trouble, poking your nose into the fresh-universe-snow. The going is defined by the daring.

Why? I’ll explain with the PMEG example. You can’t just go around sticking on adjectives and adverbs (a-words and e-words) to things and expect them to mean the same plain old thing:

  • dika = thick
  • fingro = finger
  • dikfingro = thumb
  • dika fingro = thick finger

Get my drift? If you join those words together, you are saying that its very nature is highly influenced by the attached property; we’re not talking about just a slightly thicker finger here; this finger is something else, it’s set apart, and one of its defining apartnesses is its thickness compared to a normal finger.

We’re not just being bold while we go through the universe; we’re bloody well pioneering for our species, our whole movement through the universe is about audacity and facing the new, the strange, the tough, and the scary head-on. THAT is how we are going through the universe.

How’s that for punchy?

(Note: an acceptable translation for “boldly” might have been “kuraĝe”, with more connotations of courageousness. But that is like boldness against fear. When what I think we really want here, is boldness in the face of trials of our morality, understanding, strength, etc. I.e. not necessarily things that make us afraid, but things that make us confront our own darkness and thought, and struggle to find the right path. A pretty lofty goal, hence audacity, intrepidity).

Pearls of wisdom

Recently, I bought a newly published book called “Star in a Night Sky“, which is an anthology of Esperanto literature accompanied by the English translations. The literature includes both original works and translations.

So, some posts may arise from what I find there! Today, for example, is about Esperanto proverbs.

Do you ever think about how peppered with proverbs and sayings general conversation is? Sometimes a simple one-liner proverb succinctly states a possibly complicated idea. Proverbs really enrich a language, and Esperanto should be no different!

Through reading the book I found that L. L. Zamenhof’s* father had created a collection of thousands of proverbs and their equivalents in Russian, Polish, French and German. He had also begun adding Esperanto equivalents, but unfortunately died before he could complete his work. It’s quite sweet that the father would undertake such a thing in the dreamt-up language of his son! Made me chuckle.

Fortunately, the younger Zamenhof took up the work, naming the completed project “Proverbaro Esperanta” (Esperanto proverb collection). A quick google search will give you numerous versions of this text.

Obviously, some national language proverbs can be very idiomatic, but Esperanto’s need to be fairly internationally understood. There’s nothing stopping them being colourful and neat though!

I picked out a few I liked, and gave them literal (more or less) translations. Leave me a comment if you need any explanation as to what wisdom they’re trying to impart:

  1. inter lupoj kriu lupe = among wolves, howl like a wolf
  2. mankas klapo en lia kapo = a valve’s missing in his head
  3. inter la blinduloj reĝas la strabuloj = among the blind, the cross-eyed is king
  4. ĉiu tajloro havas sian tranĉmanieron = each tailor has his own way of cutting
  5. troa petolo danĝera al kolo = undue frolicking is dangerous for the neck

* The creator of Esperanto, which you should probably know by now!

Strangers from distant lands… Friends of old

“La duonon el vi mi ne konas duone tiom, kiom mi volus; kaj mi ŝatas malpli ol la duonon el vi duone tiom, kiom vi meritas.”

The above may give away that I’ve been reading the Esperantisised version of The Fellowship of the Ring. If not, then perhaps this’ll jog your memory!

It’s brought to my attention neat words such as:

  • tremvoĉe = with a trembling voice
  • vetermakulita = weather-worn
  • taŭzi = to tousle, dishevel, jostle
  • pomŝarĝita = apple-laden
  • mukokula = mucus-eyed

Also, I’m beginning to notice the little tricks that a good translator uses to try to capture the original flavour of a text. Let me give you an example:

There is a hobbit surname “Proudfoot”. In his speech, Bilbo refers to them collectively as “Proudfoots”, and one loud hobbit corrects him to “Proudfeet”. The humour behind this comment relies on the irregular plural of the English word “foot” (feet). So how can this humour be transferred to Esperanto when in our beautiful language all words have their plural with the simple addition of a “j” (including the word for “foot”!)?

Well, this is the solution the translator opts for:

… [bilbo speech] … Bonkorpoj, Brokhusoj kaj Fierfutoj.
“Fierpiedoj!” kriis maljuneta hobito

Bilbo uses the wrong notion of “foot” (“futo” is an Esperanto word, but it isn’t the anatomical “foot”), and is subsequently corrected.

I think that’s kinda neat! I’m looking forward to comparing the rest of the translation to the original and gaining some insights!


Wow… So little free time lately. Mostly I blame work. Massive drive to get some thesis work done at the moment. A little to blame is a new computer game though…

Fear not, the Esperanto is still progressing. As soon as I find something to write about and get the time, I shall do so… I haven’t forgotten about this place! 😀

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 😛