Nuances of Repetition

Image by Shabinh from Pixabay

I stumbled across a little nuance in how we talk about repeated actions. I stumbled across a little nuance… ok, too obvious.

When we use a noun (Esperanto O-word) that names an action, we usually talk about a single instance of that action, and we can talk about several using the plural form.

Let’s roll with eĥo (echo), because ĥ is an under-appreciated letter (pronounced like the ch in Scottish loch).


A single echo


Echoes – more than one echo

But in Esperanto, we also have access to the suffix “ad” (click to see related posts), which implies that an action is repeated or continual:


A long echoing, or several echoes together at a time.

What if we went full-on and pluralised that too? What then?


Several long echoes, or several times when echoes were repeated.

What happens is that we talk then of several long echoings or several points when echoes were repeated! Makes sense. I’d never really thought about comparing plurality with repeatedness, so I thought that was interesting! (check out the inspiration source at PMEG).

And I hope you’re enjoying as much as me the fact that an “echo” in itself is also a repeated sound, so we’ve got repeats inside repeats…

Whenever I talk about a word I tend to do a dictionary dive, and I wanted to also share something I found when reading up on eĥo:



An example usage might be:

La krio seneĥe velkis

The cry echolessly faded

It’s just a joy to pronounce 🙂

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!

Sexy J

I do like a pretty language. I just can’t help it. And I’ve always had a thing for the letter ‘J’, a simple and cute letter. But a variety of sounds across languages, it has a different sound in each of English, French, Spanish and German for example.

In Esperanto, the ‘J’ is similar to the English ‘Y’. I don’t think I’ve seen it immediately after a consonant, so I doubt you’ll see it in contexts such as ‘Shy’, where it becomes a vowel in its own right.

When it occurs after a vowel, it lengthens the sound to something else. Like this:

‘a’ sounds like the one in ‘father’

‘aj’ sounds like the ‘ai’ in ‘aisle’

‘e’ sounds like the one in ‘echo’

‘ej’ sounds like ‘ay’ in ‘lay’

And so on…

Such letter combinations (aj, ej, oj, uj) seem so quirky and odd. Interesting!

And thankfully they aren’t a rarity. In Esperanto, one makes a word plural by adding a ‘J’!

I think it makes for very beautiful sentences!

“Ili estas grandaj ruĝaj pomoj.”

“They are big red apples.”