Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi involves an ameboid species which communicate among themselves by smell. Points are made that there is no easy translation between smells and spoken language.

Where then do the various words of Yherjak origin come from?

This includes "Yherjak", "Gwediff", "iyencio" and "teebee" among others.

  • Someone please fix my spelling. I listened to the audiobook and can't find much information online to get the spelling right. – ThePopMachine Jul 31 '15 at 22:23
  • Why the downvote? Just because the book is not popular enough or I don't know the spellings?! – ThePopMachine Aug 1 '15 at 14:45
  • 1
    Looks like Welsh. – Chris B. Behrens Aug 5 '15 at 20:45

It's made explictly clear that the Yherajk (the aliens) have self-translated their language into something that we can understand:

"Okay," I said. I looked over at Carl. "The....Earjack --"

"Yherajk," Carl said, pronouncing it yee-heer-aahg-k.

It's not our real name," Joshua said, "but you couldn't pronounce what we're actually called."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Well, for one thing, it's a smell," Joshua said

One assumes that when we say the words, they're somehow able to back-translate the words into something approximating a smell in the same way that a human could translate a visual word into something approximating a sound (Eeeek!, for example).

  • My problem is with the 'one assumes' part. I don't think this excerpt answers the question, because all kinds of other discussion in the book seem to say they cannot translate between smell and words. So I'm not really satisfied with the assumption, unless there's more to back it up. For example, maybe they've had contact with other aliens who named them and that's the name they use. So I don't think your assumption is the only possible explanation. – ThePopMachine Aug 5 '15 at 20:53
  • @ThePopMachine - The first part of my answer specifically answers your question (where do the words come from - They come from the aliens). The latter part is mere speculation on my part. – Valorum Aug 5 '15 at 21:00

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