Uryuomoco

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The webcomic El Goonish Shive includes an alien language, Uryuomoco, spoken by the Uryuom alien race and selected other characters that have been taught the language by Uryuoms. This page details how to translate the language into English, and gives translations of the Uryuomoco text that has appeared in the existing strips (together with links directly to those strips).

Note that "Uryuom" translates to "Alien", and "Uryuomoco" to "Alienese".

Throughout the article below, square brackets are used to designate text that is in Uryuomoco.

Translating Uryuomoco into English

The basis for a translation is to use the following substitution cypher:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
UVSJOHTFYDPRNMEKWLCGABQZIX

(This substitution works in either direction, since letters are grouped in pairs; that is "A" in English is "[U]" in Uryuomoco, and "[A]" in Uryuomoco is "U" in English.)

Additionally some letter combinations are changed in order to make the Uryuomoco text readable. I have referred to these as digraphs (although some combinations involve more than two letters):

Uryuomoco English Notes
[AIS] SS No documented use as "UYC". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.
[CH] TH No documented use as "SF". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.
[GIS] TS No documented use as "TYC". Derived from strips with unknown plaintext.
[OT] ING No documented use as "EG". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.
[MJA] ND No documented use as "NDU". Derived from strips with unknown plaintext.
[QU] W Almost certainly true based on available text.
[QUO] WH No documented use as "WAE" or "WE". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext. Takes precedence over rule for "[QU]".
[RA] LL No documented use as "LU". Derived from strips with unknown plaintext.
[SE] CH No documented use as "CO". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.
[TUL] GR No documented use as "GAR". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.
[US] SH Note that "[US]" also appears as "AC"! Derived from strips with unknown plaintext.
[USP] ACK Solely to prevent conflict with use of "[US]" as "AC". Takes precedence over rule for "[US]".
[UYU] AY Takes precedence over rule for "[YU]". Derived from strips with unknown plaintext.
[YU] I No documented use as "IA". Confirmed from strips with known English plaintext.

Note that "I" has always been written as "[YU]", and "W" has always been written as "[QU]". This frees up all other combinations of "[Y*]" and "[Q*]" for use as digraphs, but this may also make the text difficult to read as Uryuomoco.

Sources of translation

Known plaintext

Certain Uryuomoco phrases are given with their English equivalents. These form the basis of the translation algorithm. In particular note the following strips:

Link to strip Uryuomoco text English translation
EGS:2003-05-19 [SEUMTO VUSP GONKELULYURI QUOYURO ACOT CHO LOCGLEEN] CHANGE BACK TEMPORARILY WHILE USING THE RESTROOM
EGS:2003-09-25 [SAGO] CUTE
EGS:2003-10-08 [SEYUNOLU] CHIMERA
EGS:2004-02-25 [ROAISOL SEYUNOLU, TULOUGOL SEYUNOLU] LESSER CHIMERA, GREATER CHIMERA

These provide sufficient information to give the following results...

Uryuomoco: [ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ]
English:    U S O T Y PRNMEK LCGAB    

digraphs:

  • [SE] → CH (no documented use of "[SE]" as "CO").
  • [CH] → TH (no documented use of "[CH]" as "SF").
  • [OT] → ING (no documented use of "[OT]" as "EG").
  • [QUO] → WH (no documented use of "[QUO]" as "WAE" or "WE").
  • [YU] → I (no documented use of "[YU]" as "IA").
  • [AIS] → SS (no documented use of "[AIS]" as "UYC").
  • [TUL] → GR (no documented use of "[TUL]" as "GAR").

Letters are organised into pairs in the translated alphabet (for example "[A]" becomes "U", and "[U]" becomes "A"). This observation allows us to complete more of the translation table:

Uryuomoco: [ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ]
English:    UVS O T Y PRNMEK LCGAB  I 

Unknown plaintext

Only those strips that have contributed further information to the translation algorithm are listed here.

Link to strip Uryuomoco text English translation (using results from known plaintext)
EGS:2003-09-24 [ROULM U RUMTAUTO CHUG... HUCG?] LEARN A LANGUAGE THAT... [H]AST?
EGS:2004-08-24 [JOUCH...] [J]EATH...
EGS:2004-08-26 [YUG YUC GYUNO HEL CHO OMJA EH NUM] IT IS TIME [H]OR THE ENDU O[H] MAN
EGS:2004-08-26 [CHYUC NUCGOL EH HYULO USURA YUMFOLYUG CHO OULCH] THIS MASTER O[H] [H]IRE ACALU IN[F]ERIT THE EARTH
EGS:2004-08-26 [NI BOLI KLOCOMSO OUGIS UQUUYU UG IEAL HROUS...] MY [B]ERY PRESENCE EATYC A[QU]AI AT YOUR [H]LEAC...

This immediately gives us the letter pairs B/V, D/J, and F/H. Using Q/W as a pair (although "W" appears always to be written as "[QU]"), the only remaining letter pair is X/Z. This completes the basic substitution cypher.

The words marked in bold in the above table require further digraphs to correctly translate:

  • [MJA] → ND (so that "[OMJA]" becomes "END"; no documented use of "[MJA]" as "NDU").
  • [US] → SH (so that "[USURA]" becomes "SHA[RA]" and "[HROUS]" becomes "FLESH"; but "[US]" also appears as "AC"!).
  • [RA] → LL (so that "[USURA]" becomes "[US]ALL"; no documented use of "[RA]" as "LU").
    • This handling of [US] and [RA] together allow "[USURA]" to become "SHALL".
  • [GIS] → TS (so that "[OUGIS]" becomes "EATS"; no documented use of "[GIS]" as "TYC").
  • [QU] → W, [UYU] → AY (so that "[UQUUYU]" becomes "AWAY").

The only inconsistency so far is that "[US]" appears as the digraph "SH" for two words in EGS:2004-08-26 but also appears as the direct letter-by-letter translation as "AC" for one word in EGS:2003-05-19. One possible fix is therefore to add the additional rule [USP] → ACK (although obviously this does not cover other words containing the digraph "AC").

All translations

Link to strip Uryuomoco text English translation
EGS:2003-05-19 [SEUMTO VUSP GONKELULYURI QUOYURO ACOT CHO LOCGLEEN] CHANGE BACK TEMPORARILY WHILE USING THE RESTROOM
EGS:2003-09-10 [GUYUR] TAIL
EGS:2003-09-24 [ROULM U RUMTAUTO CHUG... HUCG?] LEARN A LANGUAGE THAT... FAST?
EGS:2003-09-25 [SAGO] CUTE
EGS:2003-10-08 [SEYUNOLU] CHIMERA
EGS:2004-02-25 [ROAISOL SEYUNOLU, TULOUGOL SEYUNOLU] LESSER CHIMERA, GREATER CHIMERA
EGS:2004-03-10 [LESPUKO] ROCKAPE
EGS:2004-08-24 [JOUCH...] DEATH...
EGS:2004-08-26 [YUG YUC GYUNO HEL CHO OMJA EH NUM] IT IS TIME FOR THE END OF MAN
EGS:2004-08-26 [CHYUC NUCGOL EH HYULO USURA YUMFOLYUG CHO OULCH] THIS MASTER OF FIRE SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
EGS:2004-08-26 [NI BOLI KLOCOMSO OUGIS UQUUYU UG IEAL HROUS...] MY VERY PRESENCE EATS AWAY AT YOUR FLESH...