Archive for January, 2011


• Monday, January 31st, 2011

Glyph of the word 'maka'.


  • (n.) crab
  • (nm.) a boy’s given name

A male liki maka ie tinitié li ia.
“And a crab shall hold your sword.”

Notes: And a charming crab at that! Take a look at this picture of the interior of a typical medieval Japanese house at the Huntington:

A crab statue in a house.

What a helpful little crab! I think it is a sword-holder (why would the pincers be upturned thus?), and if so, well done! It’s the most unique sword-holder I’ve ever seen.

I’ve still got a lot more pictures from the Huntington; I’ll eventually get to them all.

Today’s iku is a pretty standard ikuiku, but the line in the middle there has two duties: (1) to fill up the space, and (2) to remind one of the glyph for ka, giving this iku a slight phonetic component. This was one of the first iku I designed for Kamakawi. It’s an old friend.

For more information about the name Maka, see its corresponding entry in the baby names section.


• Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'notu'.


  • (v.) to hunt
  • (n.) (a/the) hunt
  • (adj.) hunting

A notu lea i ue…
“He’s hunting us…”

Notes: I just saw Predator for the first time. I have much to say. But that will have to wait for another time (and another venue)…

Speaking of hunting, there was a new Dothraki post on the Making Game of Thrones Blog on Friday. In this one, we encounter a Dothraki hunting party.

(Oh, and in my opinion, the Dothraki would’ve been decimated by the Predator. That thing is way, way too powerful. The only way it’s defeated in the movie is by basically letting itself be defeated.)

The iku for notu features the characteristic triangle of no, along with the box from tu inside the triangle. In order to recognize it as tu, though, the two little bubble lines come out on the right and left sides of the triangle. Good fun!


• Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'lawake'.


  • (n.) bruise
  • (v.) to be bruised
  • (adj.) bruised
  • (v.) to be banged up, to be beat up, to look beat up
  • (adj.) beat up, roughed up

Ka eteateamu o’e, io a lawake ei.
“The swelling’s gone down, but now I’m bruised.”

Notes: Know ye that the following picture is not for the faint of heart! And yet, I don’t have “cut” technology with WordPress, so here it is!

My bruised foot.

Man, that’s ugly! So, yes, the ankle sprain was high, but that line you see there near my heel is approximately where I planted when I was cutting. So that dark, black-purplish line is where I pushed off of when I made my move towards the basket. :oops:

The word for “bruise” is derived from the word for “black”, lake. A bruise, then, is kind of a “bad blackness” (seems about right to me). It uses the old “negative” w infix which is no longer as productive as it once was.

The English word “bruise” is apparently related to the old PIE word for “crushing” or “pounding”. In Dothraki, I actually derived it from the word for “black”, just like Kamakawi (but forgot I did so until I checked it right now). This reminds me that looking at a conlanger’s work can tell you quite a bit about the conlanger, much the way looking at a writer’s body of work tells you a lot about the writer. One day maybe someone will be interested in conlangs the way people are interested in works of fiction. In my lifetime, probably not, but perhaps someday.


• Friday, January 28th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'hata'.


  • (n.) thigh

Au male neneoko hata o ia ie elenetiá li’i.
“Your thighs will serve as my bed.”


The other day, I was on the computer checking e-mail in the morning, and then I was going to go brush my teeth, take a shower, etc. Keli was sitting next to me just meowing and meowing. I didn’t know what she wanted (usually when she meows she’s downstairs and wants me to come down to [or she’s upstairs and wants me to come up]; she rarely meows right next to me), so I scooped her up and put her on my lap and petted her a bit.

Usually when I do this, she purrs for a little bit, but she’s impatient, so after a minute or two she wants to do something else, and hops down. This time she did this instead:

Keli sleeping on my lap.

Yep. That’s her asleep on my lap. She never sleeps on my lap—ever. She’s generally not that type of cat. And yet, there we were.

So instead of getting up to brush my teeth and shower, I was sitting in my chair, my chest perpendicular to the computer, with nothing to do but sit there. I tried to kind of twist around and at least do a little internet surfing, but that proved cumbersome. So I just took a picture and waited.

Eventually, my legs started to get tired, and she noticed that her bed wasn’t as steady as it had been. Finally when she felt she couldn’t sleep comfortably anymore, she turned her head towards me to give me a reproachful stare, and she hopped off.

Then I brushed my teeth and showered.

Hooray cats! :D


• Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'teteyu'í'.


Ka ale teteyu’í ko!
“January has arrived!”

Notes: …and is almost gone. I forgot to do the word for January this month (and I’m really busy with the torch right now), so here it is!

This is a really strange sounding word in Kamakawi. In Zhyler, it’s ðezyuğÿ—or, in the orthography, fezyu©h). Almost none of those sounds can occur in Kamakawi in the positions in which they occur in Zhyler, so the end result bears little resemblance to the original word.


• Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'okia'.


  • (n.) torch

Kakavamu okia i’i!
“The torch burns for me!”

Notes: I’m taking part in the 18th Conlang Translation Relay, and I just received the torch today! :D Nothing better to do when you’re sick and have a swollen ankle than participate in a good ol’ conlang relay. I’m looking forward to it!

Of course, I promised my wife I’d do something four days ago, and I have to go to sleep in 13 minutes, so I actually can’t get to it right away…

Oh, but I can’t resist! I have to at least look at the torch. Give me one second…

Dang. That looks long. That’s all right; I’ve got time.

I think. Oh wait, no I don’t… I never do. No, but I do have time for a relay. There’s always time for a relay!

And ice cream.

Now! Off to do those things I was supposed to do.


• Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'o'e'.


  • (v.) to be swollen
  • (adj.) swollen
  • (n.) swelling

O’e epi o ei.
“My ankle is swollen.”

Notes: Rather badly. Take a look:

My swollen ankle.

Yeah, human ankles ain’t supposed to look like that.

The story is I was at my birthday party on Sunday, and me, a few of my friends and my little sister decided to play basketball. I was in jeans and semi-dress shoes; one of my friends was in flip-flops; we were using a tiny ball playing on an 8 foot rim (at night [while I was sick])—suffice it to say that these were not ideal conditions. Nevertheless, we decided to play.

Things were going pretty well (my team was up 9-8) when I drove to my left, and apparently planted on the side of my foot (that must have been what happened), and totally messed up my ankle. It swelled up to the size of a tennis ball. Currently it’s the size of a lopsided tennis ball, so that’s improvement. But, yeah, not one of my best ideas.

Regarding Kamakawi, awhile back I talked about modern conlangers having a different experiential basis from the culture their conlang is attached to. The word “swell” is one of those that brought that point home to me.

Most of my languages, for awhile, didn’t have a word for “to swell” (in fact, the concept itself seems kind of strange to me). A word for “to swell” (or “swelling”), though, is often one of the oldest words that exists in any given natlang.

Just like everyone else, I’ve experienced plenty of swelling in my life, but I never would have thought of “swelling” as a basic concept if I hadn’t learned that it was. To be honest, television seems more central to my personal human experience than swelling. That, of course, isn’t so for folks that don’t have television (or electricity).

And the problem is all languages come from somewhere. Unless one has decided on a fantasy setting where a group of beings with 20th/21st century human technology start the seed of all the languages which follow, one has to account for a very old, very ancient state of the language upon which the modern language is built.

So, something to think about: Check your conlangs for a lexeme dealing with “swelling”. One of the dilemmas I always have in coining new words is if (a) the culture should have a word for it, and then (b) if it should, should it be a basic term or derived in some way. It appears that, with greater than chance frequency, natural human (or human-like) societies will all have a word for swelling, and it will be a basic term. That should make coining a word for it pretty simple!

(Oh, note on the iku: That’s an iconic representation of swelling. Why is the limb there not swollen? Because it’s the violent action [i.e. those four short little lines] that’s happening to it that’s going to cause the swelling!)


• Monday, January 24th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'nanai'.


  • (n.) friend
  • (n.) friendship (archaic)
  • (v.) to be a friend (to)
  • (adj.) friendly

I nikula ie nanai oi’i Palene!
“Cheers to my friend Blaine!”

Notes: Today my best friend Blaine turns 30. He was born in the same hospital as me four days after me. Oddly enough, though, I wouldn’t meet him for seven years. Since then, though, we’ve been best friends, through thick and thin (and, indeed, there’s been plenty of thin [well, provided that “thin” is the bad one in that pair; that expression doesn’t really make sense]).

Though he’ll never read this, today I wish him good cheer! Of course, I’ll also call him on the phone (more direct that way), but cheer is cheer. May it speed him on his way into his next decade of life.


• Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Glyph of the word 'alea'.


  • (v.) to guide a boat or canoe (or other sea-going vessel) to shore

He alea ei i iko eneta.
“Let me guide this boat to shore.”

Notes: This would be one of those “Kamakawi has a word for it” words that would be quoted in some fake world version of the New York Times ad nauseam. Yes, indeed, Kamakawi has a word for this. I think it’s a good one. It’s a common action, and something that requires some knowledge and skill that’s different from navigating and piloting. (And, of course, the one piloting the boat doesn’t necessarily need to be the one that guides it into shore.)

This word features the iku for ale, which I, apparently, haven’t done here yet. I’ve done two words derived from ale, but not ale itself. Whoops! It’s a pretty common word, too. I’ll get to it; I promise.


• Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Glyph of the word 'elu'.


  • (v.) to be long
  • (adj.) long
  • (n.) length
  • (nm.) a boy or girl’s given name

Ale elu ei, e toko…
“‘Cause I’m long, and I’m strong…”

Notes: I’ll leave you to rememberate what song that comes from…

Elu seemed like a good word for “long” when I came up with it. And you know why? I’m guessing it has something to do with the English word “elongate”. Tellin’ you, man, it’s real!

Not that I’m too broken up about it. Elu‘s been around awhile, and it’s served me well.

It is also a name. I was inspired by the nickname “Stretch”, which I think I heard on some episode of The Simpsons, but I can’t remember which one… I haven’t named anyone Elu in my head ever, so I can’t picture what an Elu would look like, but they’d probably be tall (unlike me).