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[Saga] Translating (and nitpicking) the language of Cleave


Murder Time Fun Time!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So, I'm sure plenty of folks here are reading Saga, and being the would-be Esperanto nerd that I am I was pleased as punch to find that the language spoken on Marko's homeworld is actually Esperanto. I mean, not everyone has the budget to hire a linguist to develop a custom language, am I right?

So Brian K. Vaughan wrote his dialogue and headed for Google Translate (I'm guessing, since Google Translate turns up a lot of the same incorrect word choices that show up in the comic). For the most part, I think the gist of what's being said is probably pretty clear to non-Esperanto speakers, given how many of its root words were taken from Latin and other pre-existing languages. Nevertheless, I have taken it upon myself to offer up translations (and nitpicks about grammar and inaccurate word choices).

Apologies if the page numbers are a little weird, chapters 1-6 were taken from the digital version of the trade paperback, and the rest were taken from digital versions of specific issues. Comixology numbers the pages with Page 1 being the cover, so if you're following along in the physical books, the page numbers I provide might not be totally accurate. Anyway, here goes:

Chapter One

pg. 12

panel 1: " It's just,'Pico' means something kind of... filthy where I'm from."

Sort of? Since "pico" (pronounced like "pizzo") means "pizza," I'm guessing he means "piko" which means "prick," but not in the way he's suggesting. "Piko" is a prick like a sting, the prick of a needle. "Kaco" is probably the word he wanted, which means "penis".

pg. 16

Panel 2: "(High/Lofty/Tall) Soldier Marko!"

Panel 3: "Stop! I'm warning you, don't touch me!"

Pg. 17

Panel 1: "You are pitiful!"

Chapter Two

pg. 56

Panel 2: "to fade/wither" (infinitive)

Chapter Three

pg. 80

Panel 2: "Fuck yourself." (though it's a bit proper for such an insult. "Forfikigu vin" is how they'd probably actually say it.)

pg. 82

Panel 4: "Marko is a traitor."

Chapter Six

pg. 164

panel 4: "Where is my boy!"

pg. 165

panel 4: I think he's trying to call her a slut bitch, but "malkompakta" means "loose," as in "not firm" — the opposite of "kompakta," or "compact." "Hundino" means "female dog," but it's not used as an insult.

Also, I'm not sure why there's an "n" on the end of "malkompakta." N is added to the end of a word to designate the object of sentence, since the order of subjects, verbs, and objects in a sentence aren't firmly fixed in Esperanto. He may be trying to express that he's going to turn this bitch into a loose pile of body parts, but in any event it's not remotely correct grammar and/or vocabulary choice.

pg. 166

panel 1: "Dad, no! Don't hurt her!" or possibly "Dad, no! She's not hurt!" depending on exactly how the grammar is incorrect.

"Father" in Esperanto is "patro"; "paĉjo" is the more informal version, like "dad" or "daddy," which works perfectly.

The verb is conjugated incorrectly here; "dolori" is "to hurt," but -is is the past indicative ending, so what he's technically saying here is "didn't hurt her."

panel 3: "Is that really you?"

Panel 4: "That's my wife! This is our baby!"

Chapter 7

pg. 2

Panel 2:

"Leave the dog and come here!"

"Yes, mom."

Technically, she's saying "Leave the dog and come over there!" If she said "Forlasu la hundon kaj venu ĉi tien!" that would have been correct.

panel 3:

"Be right back, Rumfer!"

Both word choices are incorrect; "pravi" is the infinitive meaning "to be correct," and "dorso" is the word for "back" meaning the body part. Something like "Mi reiros rapide" would have been more accurate.


panel 3: "Holy shit."

"feko" means dung or excrement, and "fek' " (with an apostrophe at the end) is the vulgar exclamation form. "Merdo" would have been technically more accurate.

pg. 23

panel 3: "To sleep."

I'm tempted to say this is incorrect, because really "dormu" would have made more sense, but it lines up with Marko's use of "velki" as a magic word earlier. It may be a magic thing that their spells use the infinitive form of the verb.

Chapter 8

pg. 6

panel 1: "please"

literally, "be so kind as to..." but translates as "please."

panel 2: "Please give me my rings!"

literally, he's saying "please to give to me my rings." Using the jussive "donu" instead of the infinitive "doni" would be correct. And if he's using the -n suffix on "mia" ("my") he should also use it on "ringoj" ("rings") since "my rings" is the object of the sentence. You'd also want to pluralize "my" so "miajn ringojn."

(Pluralization in Esperanto, as you may have noticed, is done by adding -j to the end, which makes a "y" sound. "Ringo" is "ring", "ringoj" is "rings".)

panel 3: "I need to talk with you!"

panel 4: "I..."

pg. 12

panel 4: "SLAVERY!"

Chapter 11

pg. 20

panel 5: "I hate this thing!"

pg. 21

panel 1:

"And I hate you, too!"

"<Ouch.> I'm going to pretend you didn't say that, <pal>."

Esperanto has words for "ouch" ("aj") and pal ("kamarado") but the intent might have been lost for people not willing to go to google translate or who'd like to but don't know what language it is.

panel 2: "I can't do this! I'm not good enough!"

panel 3: "Marko, listen very carefully(lit. "attentively"). You need to (lit. "ought to") be brave before you can be good."

panel 4:
"Okay, but I'm only going to try one more time..."

"That's my boy!"

pg. 22

panel 1: "Go!"

panel 2: "Fast!"

panel 3: "Jump!"

panel 4: "I'm doing it! Father, I'm doing--"
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Murder Time Fun Time!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Note: I have embarrassed myself by saying "subject" every time I meant to say "object."

EDIT: Fixed that.
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Geek Visionary.
Validated User
I have nothing to add but since I absolutely adore Saga (my best new book of last year) I want to thank you for doing the homework on this. I'll have to look at it more closely with the issues in hand.
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