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).

Building words from phrases

I’m a little stunned that I’ve not come across this PMEG page before… I think not anyway… Though feel free to correct me if you’ve seen me mention it before.

It’s all about making words out of phrases (rather than just shoving roots and affixes together). It’s a goldmine of inspiration for word building, and gets you thinking about how to really play with your words.

I’ll probably write a couple posts over time on it, and today will be concentrating on the section entitled “Vortigo per A-finaĵo aŭ E-finaĵo”, which, as you may know, means something like “making a word with an A-ending or an E-ending”.

Now, you may recall that A-words (adjectives) are used to describe O-words (nouns). So if you’ve got your O-words (which shows a thing or concept), you can describe the kind of thing using an A-word:

  • melo = a badger
  • blua melo = a blue badger

E-words, describe everything else, and you’ll mostly see them describing actions.

  • ŝi kuris = she ran
  • ŝi rapide kuris = she ran quickly

So, what this section of the page talks about, is taking a phrase of some sort, and smooshing it into a single word, and then using it to describe something where that original phrase would apply.

A simple example is the first one.

  • sur tablo = on a table
  • surtabla lampo = a table-top lamp, a lamp which is on the table

You can even make an adverb version, if you’d rather describe an action:

  • Ili sidis surtable = They sat on the table (literally like: they sat on-table-ly)

Instead of:

  • Ili sidis sur la tablo

Just look at the flexibility of those examples on that page though!

This one’s really cool:

  • kun blanka ĉapelo = with a white hat

You could be boring and start a sentence as below, which is going to be slow starting and lengthy despite the simple property you’re trying to express:

  • La homo kun blanka ĉapelo… = The person with a white hat

Or you could set yourself up for a more interesting/complex yet succinct sentence with:

  • La blankĉapela homo… = The person with a white hat / the white-hatted person

Ain’t that grand?

Here’s one that I just thought of:

  • en la dorsa poŝo = in the back pocket
  • La endorspoŝa telefono… = The back-pocketted phone… / the phone in the back pocket…

Written out long you’d have to go for:

  • La telefono, kiu estas en la dorsa poŝo… = the phone which is in the back pocket


House found to be haunted by ghostly badgers.

Today, you get a couple of words I’ve come up with!

Firstly, we have:

malinformadi = to keep uninformed

  • mal : prefix which reverses the meaning of a word
  • informi : to inform
  • -ad : a suffix which implies repeated or continual action (read more about ad)

Example sentence:

  • Kiel antaŭzorgo, la sciuroj malinformadas la melojn = As a precaution, the squirrels keep the badgers uninformed.

It’s very much an active thing to be doing. When you are “malinformi” you are doing the very opposite of informing. Not simply just “not informing”, you are actively putting someone in the dark. The “ad” bit in the full word, stresses the ongoing, repeated process.

Next up, we’ve got:

feliĉigaĵo = something that makes you happy

  • feliĉa : happy
  • -ig : suffix which means “to make/cause <root>” (read more about ig)
  • -aĵ : suffix which shows we’re talking about a concrete thing, which is somehow characterised by the word that comes in front of it. (read more about aĵ)

Example sentence:

  • Ĉiu serĉu la feliĉaĵojn = Each person should look for the things that make them happy

At risk of blowing my own trumpet, I thought those words lend themselves to quite neat sentences 🙂

Also, please do excuse the title… I found myself giving this post a very boring title and decided to spice it up with a little strange. In future, I might use slightly more odd titles, but also try to translate them into Esperanto, you know, for kicks. 😀

Title: Domo troviĝis hantata de fantomaj meloj

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? 😀

Word-building Formula

Today we play with a neat little formula for building certain types of word!

If you aren’t familiar with viewing Esperanto root words as having an inherent type (“object”,”quality”, or “action”), then have a quick read of my previous post.


Imagine you are talking about a word: W. Let’s say that W is “virino” (“woman”).

And imagine you don’t just want to say “a woman”. You want to call attention to a particular aspect of W (the woman). We’ll call the aspect: A.

Let’s say A (the aspect) is “haro” (“hair”); we want to make reference to the woman’s hair.

Now, there’s some property of A (her hair), which distinguishes her from some other people. We’ll call this property: P, and let’s say that P is “bruna” (“brown”).

So, we want to call attention to the fact that the woman has brown hair.

In other words: we want to refer to W, making a reference to A, which is distinguished by being P.

In English, we’d say:

  • The brown-haired woman

In Esperanto, we’d say:

  • La brunhara virino

In general, this is:

  • P-A-a W-o

This is simply saying that we make the aspect A into one word with its property P, and give it the adjective ending “a” (so it can describe a noun), and we put W after it with the noun ending “o”.

This will always be talking about some word W, which has an aspect A, the distinguishing feature of which is P.

  • P should be a “quality” root (it describes a property of something)
  • A should be an “object” root (it is a particular thing with a property P)
  • W should be an “object” root (it is a particular thing, with a distinguishing aspect A)

Here’s some examples of “P-A-a”:

  • Saĝokula = wise-eyed
  • Ruĝlipa = red-lipped
  • Rapidlanga = quick-tongued

Isn’t that nice?

Sometime soon I show you what happens if P is an object root!

(2018 edit: wow didn’t expect it to take 6 years to give an example with an object root!)

Mopping and Finger-showing

I happened upon a word meaning “to point” today! It was “fingromontri” (pronounced “fin-gro-MON-tri”; IPA: fingro’montri). It’s made up of the components “fingro” and “montri” (“finger” and “to show/indicate” respectively). I love how it is literally just “to finger-show”, it neatly expresses “fingre montri” = “to show with a finger”, exactly what pointing is.

I also found a word that I just love pronouncing over and over, “ŝvabri” (pronounced “SHVA-bri”; IPA: ‘ʃvabri). It means “to mop/swab”. Again, I think the “ŝ” plus consonant combo at the beginning is what gets me going!

And… Have you been lurking around lately? In one of the English threads one of the users pointed out a funny word “intimo”… Does it mean intimacy, or fear of women? 😀

Changing, whether one wants to or not

I was looking up a few words in the dictionary when I came across a little gem: “vole nevole”, it means “whether one wants to or not”. Such a neat little construction! It comes from the action root “vol-“.

“Voli” means “to want/wish”. Its adjective form (“vola”) means “willful, desired”, and so the adverb “vole” means “willfully”. And just like we use “pli malpli” for “more or less”, “vole nevole” is used for what is essentially “willfully or not willfully”.

Also! I’ve noted down another word. I came across it on one of my usual strolls around the ole PMEG. You’ll find it near the bottom in the “Vortfarado” (word building) section! It’s “tiama”, it’s an adjective derived from the table-word “tiam”. “Tiam” means “then/in that time”. But “tiama” is able to describe a noun (0-word). It usually translates as something like “of that time” or “then”:

  • En 1872, mi renkontis la tiaman meloreĝon= In 1872, I met the badger-king of that time

Seems pretty neat!

A very touching nostril

Many apologies for such a long and unexpected absence… Slowly pulling myself together! Hmm, how would you express that in Esperanto… Is it very idiomatic English? Or do you see it in other languages?

We do have “tiri” = “to drag,draw,pull, tug”, and so “kuntiri” = “to draw/drag/tug/pull together”. So, could one use “sin kuntiri” = “to pull oneself together” do you think?

  • Mi malrapide kuntiras min = I’m slowly pulling myself together

I quite like the metaphor of being all in pieces, and tugging everything back in place. So given that the metaphor in itself makes sense, then perhaps it’s permissible.

Anyways, before I got sidetracked, I was about to put a couple words all up in your faces!

The first of which is “kortuŝa” (pronounced: “kor-TOOSH-a”; IPA: “kor’tuʃa”), which means “moving/touching” (as in a thing that evokes emotion). This word is mojosa for two reasons!

The first being that in my opinion the sound is pleasant, and oddly matches how I think “touching” should sound. The “tuŝa” is just really gentle and pleasant, and with the addition of “kor” it’s like a strong starting note.

Secondly, its construction is pretty damn cool. “Tuŝi” means “to touch”, and “koro” is heart. Lump them together, and make it an adjective with an “a”, and you get a description of something that touches your heart!

The next word is “naztruo” (pronounced: “naz-TROO-o”; IPA:”naz’truo”), which means “nostril”. I simply found this word incredibly amusing because it’s literally made up of “nazo” = “nose” and “truo” = “hole”. So we have “nose-hole”!

Baby branch

Fewer posts this week I’m afraid! Tough week. Hopefully I’ll have some ideas sorted out for next week!


I found an awesome usage of word building today: branĉido = sprout/shoot

  • Branĉo = branch
  • -id suffix means “offspring of <root>”, “born of <root>”.
  • Pronounced “branch-ID-o”

Now, there is a word “ŝoso” (pronounced “SHO-so”, quite pretty itself), which means “sprout/shoot”. But I like the logic of “branĉido”!

The “-id” suffix can also be used metaphorically. There is a another constructed language called “Ido” based off of Esperanto, short for “Esperantido”, offspring of Esperanto! 🙂

Ahead of before

I think this letter is very pretty: ŭ

Maybe even as pretty as “j”s… 

I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. You will most often find it after an “a” or an “e”. It’s somewhat like a “w”.

  • Antaŭ is like “ANT-ow”, like “ow” in “cow”.
  • Eŭropo is like “Ayw-ROP-o”, like “ayw” in “wayward”.

It’s sometimes used to spell foreign words with “w”s in them, or in onomatopoeic words.

Today’s post is about “antaŭ”. Both it’s prettifulness, and how it makes some pretty varied words in word building.

  • Antaŭ = ahead of, in front of, before (in terms of both time and space)

So without further delay, here are some combinations I found interesting:

  • Antaŭe = ahead, formerly, previously
  • Antaŭa = previous, last, prior, former
  • Antaŭvidi = to foresee (vidi = to see, so somewhat like “to see beforehand”)
  • Antaŭsento = presentiment, an intuition about the future (before-feeling)
  • Antaŭzorgo = precaution (zorgo = care, so like “care beforehand”
  • Antaŭdiri = to forecast, to prophesy, to foretell (diri = to say,tell)
  • Antaŭparolo = foreword (parolo = speech)
  • Antaŭlasta = the one before last, penultimate (lasta = last)
  • Antaŭsigno = indication, omen (signo = sign,signal)
  • Antaŭdecidi = to decide in advance
  • Antaŭjuĝo = prejudice (juĝo = judgment, so “judge beforehand”)
  • Antaŭafero = a preliminary (afero = thing, a before thing)
  • Antaŭtempa = premature (tempo = time, before-time)
What a variety!

I love the sound of the first two. The “ŭe” and “ŭa” sounds I think are the ones to blame!

Do comment if you know of any other interesting words made from “antaŭ”!

Hmm… Maybe…

A delightful little root/affix today: “ebl-” = “can be done”

A word of possibilities. It’s very simple but useful. First I’ll talk about its use as a word by itself (with the grammatical endings only), then it’s use in word building.

  • Ebla = Possible

This is the adjectival form, used to describe nouns (o-words).

  • La konversacio estas ebla = The conversation is possible.
  • La ebla konversacio = The possible conversation
  • Ebli = To be possible

The root “Ebl-” I think is quality like, which is why “Ebli” is “to be possible”. So you can use it to avoid the “estas” bit:

  • La konversacio eblas = The conversation is possible.
  • Eblo = Something which is possible (a particular thing)
  • Mi ne konsideros la eblon = I will not consider the possibility
  • Eble = maybe,possibly,perhaps.

I quite like how “eble” can be used to get a “might” construction using future tense:

  • Mi eble laboros = I maybe will work (=I might work)

I think this is nice too:

  • Ebligi = To make possible

Which uses the “-ig” suffix “to cause <root>” see previous posts 1,2,3,4.

When used as a suffix, I think it always has to be at the end of a verb. Because, it makes the idea of the root “possible”.

  • Legi = to read
  • Legebla = readable, possible to read, legible
  • Legeble = readably, legibly
  • Legebli = to be legible

Notice how most of the time the verb will have to be transitive (see previous posts on transitivity: 1,2). This means that it can take a direct object: how can something be readable if you can’t read something? The something is the object. If the verb was “to sleep”, “sleepable” doesn’t make sense. Because you don’t “sleep something”.

However the exceptions are intransitive verbs whose indirect objects or prepositionally related nouns can sometimes take the accusative.

E.g. the PMEG gives:

  • loĝi = to live (dwell)
  • loĝebla = liveable, place that can be lived in
  • loĝi ĝin = loĝi en ĝi = to live in it

Did you know that you can make 3 different words for “possibility” out of this suffix (see this post!)?

To suddenly know!

I was reading “Gerda Malaperis!” (Gerda disappeared!) by Claude Piron and came across this word: ekscii

Remember that “c”s are pronounced like “ts”s and those two “i”s are pronounced separately! Like:

  • ekst-see-ee

Not only does the word look bizarrely cool, but I thought the meaning was pretty nifty too.

“Ek-” is a prefix usually put on the front of an action, that makes a new word that emphasises the start, or sudden beginning of the action. See my previous post talking about it.

“Scii” (which in itself is a pretty interesting word, it’s the word I have most trouble pronouncing fluently in a sentence, especially when a word ending in “s” comes before it…) means “to know”.

So the result is literally something like “to suddenly know”. More usually translated as “to find out”! I’d been wondering how to say that in Esperanto, given that translating “find” and “out” together makes no sense… Find outside?

Off to Edinburgh!

I’m afraid that I shall be away for a week! Going to Edinburgh. I shall endeavour to make some posts if I get time between events! However, there is indeed the chance that I will not have the time!

Today, I’ll leave you with an amusing colloquial word I came across reading some Esperanto material:

  • maltrinki = to pee

It is made up of: the prefix “mal” and the root word “trink-” and the verb ending. “Trinki” means “to drink”. “Mal” when attached to a word, renders the opposite meaning. Similar to “un-” in English. So if “bona” = “good” (which it does), then “malbona” = “bad”. So here “maltrinki” means “to un-drink”, therefore, “pee”!

Certainly made me giggle. And of course there are far more clinical terms for the action… but who needs those with gems like these? 🙂

“About” working hard

I saw some, what I perceived to be, odd uses of the word “pri” today.

Loosely, by itself “pri” means “about/concerning”, but it turns out this little word is a hard worker! You can do some interesting things with it in word building.

So, drawing mostly from what I understand of the PMEG pages (a, b, c) on the topic:

Firstly, when used by itself, it’s simple enough!

  • Mi parolas pri kameloj = I’m talking about camels
  • Mi legas libron pri la urbo = I’m reading a book about the city

When used to prefix a noun or adjective, the meaning is also simple enough! It then relates to a concept about the root:

  • priama = that which concerns love, about love (from amo = love)

When use to prefix a verb, things get a little more interesting! It always makes the verb transitive (means that the verb takes an object). If the verb is already transitive, it makes the verb’s object about something else!

“silenti” = “to be quiet”. It is intransitive, it cannot have an object. Being quiet doesn’t happen to anything, only the subject of the verb is doing something (being quiet). So you might say:

  • Mi silentas pri la hundo = I’m being quiet about the dog.

Notice how the dog has to be introduced by a preposition “pri” because it is not the direct object of the verb. See this though:

  • Mi prisilentas la hundon = I’m being quiet about the dog.

So, often by prefixing “pri” you allow whatever would normally follow “pri” in this context, to become the object of the verb (now it’s got the “n” ending). So an intransitive verb is made transitive. So what happens when you prefix a transitive verb?

  • Li pensis maldecajn pensojn pri ŝi = He was thinking dirty thoughts about her
  • Li pripensis ŝin per maldecaj pensoj = He was thinking about her with dirty thoughts.

Notice that the original object switches its grammatical role as the direct object, with what, again, normally comes after “pri”. Now “her” is the direct object!

I like this, it allows stylistic variants that are easily understood. I like there being a simple way for the object to be something else. What if I like the sound of “maldecaj” a little more than “maldecajn” in this context? It can be done!

Sometimes when used as a verb prefix, the changes are a little harder to get (there’s some trickier usages basically) it serves to change the role of the object of that verb still, but sometimes doesn’t change it with what normally follows “pri”:

An example the PMEG gives is the verb “semi” = “to sow”.

When using “semi” the object of the verb is whatever (seeds) you’re sowing. So:

  • Li semas tritikon en la kampo = He is sowing wheat (object) in the field

Notice how the wheat is the object of the action, but the place in which seeds are sown (about) is introduced with the preposition “en” = “in”.


  • Li prisemas la kampon per tritiko = He is sowing (about) the field with wheat

Notice now that the place is the direct object (receiving the “n” ending), and the seeds must be introduced with a preposition!

Interesting huh? An entirely different slant on the verb with a simple prefix. Love it.

There are a few slightly more sneaky examples on the PMEG pages if you’re interested in knowing what the usages are!

Root problem

Recently I made a post about the word “surhavi” meaning “to wear” or literally, “to have on” (made up of the words “sur” = “on” and “havi” = “to have”). I mentioned that there is a good reason why “sur” appears before “havi”, even though in a literal translation “to have on” (in the other order) makes sense.

It’s for the sake of logic when building words in Esperanto. See, fundamentally, the word “surhavi” is about having in some way, it is the having of something on you. So “have” is the main concept, and “on” is modifying it, by saying that the having is done in a certain kind of way: “on”.

This is how it works when word building. The main concept is the last word, and the root which modifies this word goes before it. Longer words can be built by repeating the process.

Therefore, “mortodoro” is some kind of death smell, whereas “odormorto” is not… maybe it’s a death characterised mostly by smell? A smelly death?

To on-have!

I almost made a new category today… Yes, yes I know I already have failed to distribute my posts fairly among them… It was going to be for constructed Esperanto words I find in use that seem particularly cunning in their creation. But I think I’m going to use the “alluring words” category for them, and simply state the reason for their noteworthiness!

Today is “surhavi”. It mostly seems to be translated as “to wear” (clothing). It is made up of:

  • sur = on
  • havi = to have

So a vaguely sensible literal translation might be “to have on” (so why is the word made so that “on/sur” comes before “have/havi”? I know the answer, and will post about it in the near future 😀 EDIT: here) . I quite liked its simple yet obvious construction!

There is another word “porti” which means “to carry/wear”. I wonder whether “surhavi” would be used to emphasise that you mean you are actually wearing something, if that thing is usually carried rather than worn?

Joy of Numbers

Mmm numbers. So there are two angles to today’s post, but both concern numbers. Firstly take a gander at the numbers 1 to 10:

  1. unu
  2. du
  3. tri
  4. kvar
  5. kvin
  6. ses
  7. sep
  8. ok
  9. naŭ
  10. dek
The first angle falls under the “alluring words” category. I think they are so simple and cute. They seem like the bare minimum, and yet still smack of what makes me think “three” or “nine” or “eight” from the various languages I’ve looked at. This is exactly what numbers should be: not cumbersome.

Next, for what’s interesting. I think the Esperanto number system is very nicely laid out (in terms of making the numbers greater than ten), but that’s a story for another day. Today I’m marvelling at the ease with which one can construct the different types of number. I’ll explain.

The above numbers are “cardinal” numbers, the numbers we use to count things, to state how many things  there are:

  • Estas du kameloj = There are two camels
  • Estas kvar viroj = There are four men
In order to make the “ordinal” numbers (the numbers we use to order things in a list e.g. first, second, third, fourth…), we simply add “a” :
  • First = unua
  • Second = dua
  • Third = tria
  • Fourth = kvara
  • Fifth = kvina
You can also change these to other parts of speech like “unue” or “trie” = “firstly” or “thirdly” respectively.

In order to make multiples, we simply use “-obl-“. Then the correct part of speech ending. So, the multiple made from “two” is “double”. If used like an adjective in “double shot” we use “duobla” (“a” the adjective ending). If we use like an verb “The slime doubled in size” we would use “duoblis” (“is” the past tense verb ending).

  • Single = unuobla
  • Double = duobla
  • Triple = triobla
  • Quadruple = kvarobla
Note that you can easily use these endings on ANY number, unlike English where I start to not be able to think of what comes next…

In order to make fractions, we use the “-on-” suffix. Specifically, this makes the reciprocal of a number. So if you add it to 4, you get 1/4 (quarter), if you add it to 8 you get 1/8 (eighth).

  • (A) half = duono
  • (A) third = triono
  • (A) quarter = kvarono
In order to make repetitions, we use the root “foj” = “time,occasion”. Remember from the word “iufoje” = “sometimes”?
  • Once = unufoje
  • Twice = dufoje
  • Thrice = trifoje
And you can keep going: kvarfoje, kvinfoje… I have no idea if we have English equivalents, other than just saying “four times”, “five times”.

In order to make groups, we can play with the suffix “-op-“. Again, depending on the part of speech ending, we can get interesting different effects:

  • du = two
  • duopo = a group of two, duet
  • duopa = is an adjective that describes something that is made up of two members
  • duope = by/in (groups of) twos
Look at all the different English changes you have to learn for just a few (a,op,obl,foj etc.) simple Esperanto ones! And you can’t even reliably permute all different types of number with English! Esperanto saves us again.

Revisiting an old flame

So, a while back I posted about a word “iafoje”, in the category of “alluring words”, because it is a very, very pretty word. But it’s also sneaky! It has a hidden depth that I did not quite notice at the time, when I translated it as “sometimes”. Which is fine! Don’t worry! There’s just a nuance to it beyond that.

So, in the time since that post I’ve found other words to mean “sometimes”, made by adding different words to the root “foj” meaning “time,occasion”. With also the “e” ending for adverbs (“sometimes” is an adverb because it describes verbs, action words, you do some action “sometimes”).

  • iufoje, which is made with “iu” meaning “some, any, someone”
  • kelkfoje, which is made with “kelk(a)” meaning “some,several”
Compared to:
  • iafoje, which is made with “ia” meaning “some kind (of)”
So can you start to see where the nuances might be? I wasn’t too sure about the differences myself at first, but chatted with a couple folks at to make sure they said the same things I was wondering:
  • iufoje: suggests some indefinite time(s), any times, some times. A good phrase used by one of the Lernu folks was “sporadic events”
  • kelkfoje: simply suggests some bunch of multiple events/times
  • iafoje: suggests definite types of events.
I think it’s so interesting how you can express these different nuances of meaning in such simple ways, by building with these blocks of meaning.So in the original post I was saying how I found the word used alot in the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko. So why do they use this kind of “sometimes” instead of the others?I’ll tell you what I think. It’s often used in the context of explaining the usage of a word, concept, affix or suchlike. “Sometimes X is used in this context… Here it conveys….” etc.

This “sometimes” is talking about specific occasions when X is used in a specific way. Therefore, the obvious choice is iafoje!


Today marked a return to course material in Esperanto. For a week or so now I’ve been indulging various linguistic whims concerning Esperanto. Browsing the forums at, getting knee-deep in various issues of the language that are probably far beyond me at the moment, but it was certainly interesting!

But as I said, today I returned to the Esperanto learning material I was working with, from where I left off. In doing so, I came across the prefix “ek-“.

Alone as a word, it means something like “let’s go!” or “let’s start!”.

However, when you put it at the beginning of a word, it gives the feeling of a ephemerality, or suddenly starting:

  • dormi = to sleep; ekdormi = to fall asleep
  • vidi = to see; ekvidi = to catch sight of
  • aŭdi = to hear; ekaŭdi = to get wind of
  • flugi = to fly; ekflugi = to take flight
  • brili = to shine; ekbrili = to flash
  • kanti = to sing; ekkanti = to burst into song
  • rigardi = to look at; ekrigardi = to glance at
  • bati = to hit; ekbati = to lash out
  • ridi = to laugh; ekridi = to burst out laughing
  • rigardo = a look; ekrigardo = glance
Seems to make some awesome meanings that you need entirely new words or phrases for in English, and it seems to naturally imply them without much thinking required. Quite an interesting little word! I’m having fun making a few slightly less innocent words with it…

Useful building blocks

There are a bunch of useful and important words, which take the place of words or phrases and answer the questions: who, what, where, when, how, how much, why, whose and what kind. In Esperanto, these words a constructed from two parts. One part indicates the type of question  (e.g. are we talking about why, or where, or who?), the other part indicates how the question is being addressed.

Here’s some examples:

  • “Ki-” is a first part (indicates how the question is being addressed), it shows that the question is being addressed with a question!
  • “I-” is a first part too, it shows that the question is being addressed with an indefinite answer.
  • “-e” is a second part (indicates the type of question), it indicates a question of place (where?).
  • “-el” is also a second part, it indicates a question of manner (how?).

Having learnt these four, you can make various different words.

“Ki-” shows the actual question, so putting it with the second parts we get:

  • Kie =  where
  • Kiel = how

But “I-” shows an indefinite answer to the question.

So “ie” answers “where” with “somewhere”, and “iel” answers “how” with “somehow/in some way”.

  • Ie = somewhere/in some place
  • Iel = somehow/in some way

Say we learnt just one more second part “-al” which indicates a question of reason (why?). Now we can make another two words!

  • Kial = why
  • Ial = (for) some reason

Take a look at the table forming all the possible words:

Esperanto correlatives

Where to keep your objects

“Skribi leteron” means “to write a letter”. In the interests of exploring Esperanto’s word building mechanisms, what happens if we do: “Leterskribi”? Is this allowed? What does this mean?

We sort of have something similar to this in English, “to letter-write”, meaning to perform a writing action where the writing is formatted like a letter. It is in fact allowed in Esperanto, and does have a slightly different meaning than keeping the words separated.

“Skribi leteron” implies the definite writing of a letter. Whereas “leterskribi” simply defines the type of writing one would perform if one were to perform that action. Whether that means you write one or several, or never finish the letter is not clear without an object.

To agglutinate or not to agglutinate.

So, with the delights of Esperanto word building, one might be tempted to shove meaning together without a care for who gets hurt. I’m thinking of a specific type of example today.

Is it ever appropriate to shove a quality or attribute type word onto a noun with that quality?

E.g. “blua” (blue) is a quality or attribute (just like angry,sexy,powerful). “Floro” (flower) is a noun we might be interested in. Should we use, “blufloro” or “blua floro” when talking about a  blue flower? Should we always separate out the adjective?

From what I can tell, there is a distinct usage of both approaches. If we simply want to talk about an arbitrary blue flower, we should just describe it with the adjective “blua floro”. However, if there is a particular type of flower, a singular idea of a flower, a flower characterised by being blue, then we can speak of it as a “blufloro”.

In the same way that we have “blackberry” in English to specifically refer to a species of berry, but if we happen to find any old berry, and that berry is mostly coloured black, but may not be a blackberry, we may describe it as a “black berry”.

The magic of the verbal ending

We can tell a verb infinitive apart with the ending ‘i’:

helpi = to help

kuri  = to run

marŝi = to walk

As with the other endings, you can make a word a verb by exchanging its current ending for the verbal ending “i” (Similar to what I did with blua in a previous post):

diro = statement, remark

diri = to say, to tell

What’s great is that the created verb takes on the most useful sense of verb from the type of word it is given.

Here’s some examples:

1. If the root is an action, like “kur-” (kuro = a run), then its verbal form will mean “to do the action”, in this case “kuri” = “to run”.

2. If the root is a description, or quality, like “blu-” (blua = blue), then its verbal form will mean “to be in the state”, in this case “blui” = “to be blue”.

3. If the root is some kind of tool, or apparatus, like “bros-” (broso = brush), then its verbal form will mean “to use the tool (in usual manner)”, in this case “brosi” = “to brush”

4. If the root is a substance, like “akv-” (akvo = water), then its verbal form will mean “to provide with the substance”, in this case “akvi” = “to water, to provide water”.

5. If the root is a person, or type of person, like “tajlor-” (tajloro = tailor), then its verbal form will mean “to act in the manner of the person”, in this case “tajlori” = “to tailor”.

Disaster Has Struck

I ran out of my favourite tea a little while ago. THE HORROR. Then suddenly inspiration for a new Esperanto word accosted me:

“La senteosentaĉo.”

Which means:

“The terrible feeling of being without tea”

“Sento” is a feeling or sentiment.

One can make a word have a feeling of awfulness or contempt by inserting the suffix “-aĉ”.

“Sentaĉo” = “Awful/terrible feeling”

The word “teo” means “tea”, and the word “sen” means “without”. Often when you combine it with a word, it adds something like the English “-less” suffix.


“helpa” = helpful

“senhelpa” = helpless, without help

Therefore “senteo” = “tea-less, without tea”

So “senteo” + “sentaĉo” = an awful feeling characterised by being without tea!

Simple but Expressive

For the most part, it seems that Esperanto tries to ensure that there is only one word for one particular sense, instead of having endless synonyms for words.

A friend, having discovered this trend declared that Esperanto must be the most dull language, with only one way to express things. They said it’s too simple.

But this is not the case! Yes, while there may only be one listed canonical form, there are many ways the same or similar idea can be expressed, through word building. It can also often introduce subtleties of meanings or emphasis to further enhance the text.

I’ll give you a simple example. The word for “pen” is “plumo”, plain and simple. However, I also know that the verb “skribi” means “to write”. And that the suffix “-il” added to a root word means “tool for <root>ing”. So “skribilo” as tool for writing, also means “pen”!

Word Building

Esperanto is a wonderful language for building words. So many neat little ways of making words, words that can represent concepts that often require a much longer explanation in another language.

I’ve decided to start recording interesting words that sprout from my thoughts. They are all obviously going to be of utmost importance when communicating with other Esperantists!

I thought I’d share with you the first one I’ve come up with. Hmm… Perhaps I will keep record of them on here from time to time! Yes… They shall have their own category “Constructed Esperanto Words” so that they can be filtered out.

Without further delay… Mortigodoro! It means “A smell that causes one to die” or simply: a killing odour.

Here’s your explanation:

The verb “morti” means “to die”. There is a special suffix “-ig” that one can apply, which loosely translates to “cause <root>”. “Mortigi” means “to cause to die” (i.e. “to kill”). The adjective (mortiga) of which would loosely mean “killer” as in “killer ants”

The word “odoro” means “odour/smell”, slap them together and you get mortigodoro! I would appreciate any feedback if I have got the construction process of any words incorrect.


Keep it simple.

No unnecessary complications. Complexity should be the result of complex expression, not arbitrary forced complexity. I love the idea of a language being a simple set of tools, but that can be combined in infinitely different simple and complex ways.

Esperanto is just that. With a base vocabulary far smaller than any language I can think of, it provides tools in the form of a few suffixes and prefixes (and the ability to stick word roots together) in order to build words in a sensible regular way.

For example, “-il” is a suffix that adds the meaning of a tool to perform the root word. So given the word “razi” which means “to shave”, without knowing beforehand, I can determine that “razilo” means “razor” i.e. a tool for which one can shave.

The prefix “mal-” when applied to a word, reverses it’s meaning! So if I know the word “bela” (meaning “beautiful”) I also know the word “malbela”, which means the opposite: ugly!

So if you can master the prefixes and suffixes, then every new word you learn isn’t just one new word, its a new word for every suffix and prefix you know! Efficient huh?

My name is Andy, and I have an addiction.

I admit, I have a weird attraction to Esperanto. We met properly a couple of months back, but we’ve flirted for years. And now I’m addicted. So instead of estranging my friends and family by subjecting them to more tales of the wonderful language, I’ve decided to pollute the interwebs with my rantings.So for the unfortunate uninitiated, Esperanto is a constructed language. It is a gorgeous and strange but familiar language. It has a vocabulary with its roots in european languages, and a mostly familiar grammar but with some significant (and interesting) quirks. It is entirely regular, rules have no exceptions. It is an easy language to learn, but yet so expressive, due to some nifty features of the language. However, the aim of this blog, at least to start with, is not going to be a introduction to Esperanto, nor a tutorial. I just want to discuss those aspects of the language that tickle me, and make me want to learn more. So here’s a last note about learning Esperanto before I continue:

The best guide I’ve found for actually sitting down and learning the language is:”A complete grammar of Esperanto” by Ivy Kellerman. You can read for free here,  or buy on Amazon or something. It’s not a set of grammar rules. It teaches you vocabulary and provides exercises, as a part of a way of introducing the grammatical concepts in a digestible way.The best website for discussions of aspects of Esperanto, a dictionary, exercises, and courses is

Lastly, if I get any fact, linguistic or otherwise, about Esperanto wrong, if there’s someone who knows the right answer, let me know!