Sounds Good to Me (solution)

by Seth Schoen and Vera Yin, with input from C. Scott Ananian and typographic help by Michael Constant

The text given is in toki pona ( phonetically transliterated into hiragana, except for the first line, which is Latin phonetically transliterated into Greek (to give hints both about the use of foreign phrases and about the use of transliterations). The transliterations back into Roman letters and translations of everything are given below.

Introductory text

nota bene: non sequitur lingua Iaponica!
note well: Japanese language does not follow!

toki! pona a. tenpo ni ra shina sona e ni:
ni ri toki niyon ara ri toki pona.

Hi! Oh good. Now you know this:
this is not Japanese and it is toki pona.

shina ken ara ken rukin e nimi pi toki pona kepeken shiteren niyon ni? o rukin! mi shiteren e nimi pi kure are pi toki pona: roye, yero, raso, waro, pimeya. mi shiteren e nimi pi nanpa are pi toki pona: wan, tsu. pona a! tenpo ni ra shina sona rukin e toki pona... o mushi!
Can you read words in toki pona using these Japanese symbols or not? Look! I am writing the names of all the colors of toki pona: red, yellow, blue, white, black. I am writing the names of all the numbers of toki pona: one, two. Oh good! Now you know how to read toki pona. Have fun!

To give an extra clue about what language is used, the first two words of the hiragana text are “toki” and “pona” (though in this context they mean ‘hello’ and ‘good’.) Google correctly returns pages about toki pona if you search for とき! ぽな even though the name of the language, as a foreign term, is normally spelled in Japanese with katakana as トキ ポナ.

The purpose of this text is to make sure that people are comfortable with the transliteration used. In particular, the syllable /ye/ does not exist in hiragana, so we have to write it as いぇ. Also, /tu/ is written つ tsu, /si/ is written し shi, and /l/ is written r. (Although they aren’t used in this introductory text, /wi/ is written うぃ and /we/ is written うぇ, which, like the いぇ combination, are hiragana versions of the modern Japanese orthographic conventions for writing these syllables when they occur in foreign words. For example, sitelen pi soweli jelo tu ‘a picture of two yellow cats’ would be written してれん ぴ そうぇり いぇろ つ shiteren pi soweri yero tsu.)

soweri yero mute
してれん ぴ そうぇり いぇろ むて (たん してれん に)


Each of the 21 clues describes how a particular foreign word or phrase is used in English. At the end of the clue, the literal translation (into toki pona) and source language are given. The blanks show how many words are expected.


tomo moku ri ken yo e moku mute ante. moku ri ken kama tan ma mute. moku are ri ron poki suri. yan ri ken rukin e moku are. yan ri wire e moku ra ona ri toki e nimi pi moku. yan pari ri pana e moku tawa yan. tomo moku ni ri         . ni ri “moku pi pona mute” ron toki toshi.

A restaurant* can have many different foods. The food can come from many countries. All the food is in a big box. A person can see all the food. When a person wants food, they say the name of the food. A worker* gives food to the person. This restaurant is         . This is “very good food” in German.


meri riri ri awen ron tomo ri pari sama mama. taso ona ri mama ara ri kama tan ma ante. ona ri                  . ni ri “ron sama” ron toki kanse.

A small woman lives in a house and acts like a parent. But she isn’t a parent and she comes from another country. She is                  . This is “on same” in French.


yan are ri yo e nimi. taso yan ri shiteren e shiteren ra ona ri ken wire ara e ni: yan ante ri sona e nimi ona. yan ri ken kepeken ara e nimi ona ri ken kepeken e                           . ni ri “nimi pi iro shiteren” ron toki kanse.

Everyone has a name. But when a person writes a writing, they may not want this: other people know their name. A person can not use their name and they can use                           . This is “name of writing tool” in French.


yan pi nashin sewi juta ri ken moku e moku wan ra yan ri toki e ni: “moku ni ri         .” yan pi nashin sewi juta ri ken ara moku e moku ante ra yan ri toki e ni: “moku ni ri          ara.” (soweri ri tsu e pini noka ri moku shin e moku ona ra ona ri         .) ni ri “pona” anu “ron nashin” ron toki iwishi.

When a person of the Jewish religious path can eat one food, a person says this: “this food is         .” When a person of the Jewish religious path cannot eat another food, a person says this: “this food is not         .” (When a mammal duplicates the foot tip and newly eats its food, it is         .) This is “good” or “on the path” in Hebrew.


ken ra ni ri ron: tenpo are ra yan ri nasa mute anu ona ri ike mute. yan ni ri ike tawa yan ante ri                  . ni ri “yan riri ike mute” ron toki kanse.

Maybe this is true: always, someone is very strange or they are very bad. This person is bad to another person and is                  . This is “very bad small person” in French.


ken ra iyo ike ri kama tawa yan ri pakara e ona.yan ante ri rukin e ni ri mushi tan pakara. pirin ni ri         . ni ri “pilin pona pi pakara” ron toki toshi.

Maybe a bad thing happens to a person and injures them. Another person sees this and enjoys because of the injury. This feeling is         . This is “happiness of injury” in German.


ma pi nanpa tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu tsu pi ma mewika ri yo e nena mute pi pona rukin. nimi pi ma ni ri         . ni ri “yo e kure” ron toki epanya.

Land number 38 of the United States has beautiful* mountains. The name of this land is         . This is “has color” in Spanish.


tenpo wan taso ra yan ri kepeken e nimi “ἐκβουτῠπόομαι” ron toki erena (nimi ni ri ‘kama soweri’ ron toki erena pi tenpo pini). yan ri kepeken e nimi ron tenpo wan taso ri kepeken ara e ona ron tenpo ante ra yan sona ri toki e ni: nimi ri                  . ni ri “tenpo wan taso ra yan ri toki e ona” ron toki erena pi tenpo pini.

Only one time, a person uses the word “ἐκβουτῠπόομαι” in Greek (this word is ‘becoming a mammal’ in Greek of the past). When a person uses a word in only one time and doesn’t use the word in another time, a scholar says this: the word is                  . This is “only one time, a person says it” in Greek of the past*.

Ἐκβουτῠπόομαι ‘to be transformed into a cow’ is a hapax legomenon from Sophocles that appears in the Revised Supplement to LSJ. It’s described (by me!) in the Wikipedia article about LSJ.


ni ri tero seri kashi sonko. nimi ona ri         . ni ri “akeshi suri pimeya” ron toki sonko.

This is a Chinese herbal hot beverage. Its name is         . This is “dark big lizard” in Chinese.


ken ra tero en kon ri kama seri ron tero suri pashipiko. ni kama ra kon ri ken kama ike mute ron ma ante mute. nimi pi tero seri ni ri                  . ni ri “miye riri” ron toki epanya.

Maybe water and air become warm in the Pacific big water. When this happens, air can become very bad in many different countries. The name of this warm water is                  . This is “male child” in Spanish.


yan ri pirin e ni: yan ante ri ike tan ni: ona ri kama yo e mani mute ra ona ri kepeken ike e mani. yan ri toki e ni: yan ante ri                  . ni ri “tenpo pini ra yo ara e mani mute, tenpo ni ra yo e mani mute” ron toki kanse.

A person feels this: another person is bad because of this: when they get a lot of money, they use the money badly. A person says this: another person is                  . This is “in the past*, not have a lot of money; now*, have a lot of money” in French.


yan Inu ri pari e tomo kepeken tero rete kiwen. taso yan ri ron tomo ni ra yan ri seri mute. tomo ni ri pona mute tan ni. kon ri rete ra yan ri ken awen ron tomo ni ri ken rape ri pirin seri. tomo ni ri         . ni ri “tomo” ron toki Inu.

Inuit people make a house using hard cold water. But when a person is inside this house, a person is very warm. The house is very good because of this. When the air is cold, a person can live in this house and can sleep and feels warm. This house is         . This is “house” in Inuit.


yan pi kurupu rawa ri toki e ni: “o kute! tenpo pini ra yan ni ri pari e iyo ike. ona ri ike!” yan ante pi kurupu rawa ri kute ri toki e ni: “yan o, shina pari ara pari e iyo ike ni? shina ike ara ike?” yan ri ken toki e ni: “yan ante pi kurupu rawa o, mi toki ara e ni: ‘mi pari ara.’ mi toki ara e ni: ‘mi pari.’ mi toki e ni taso: ‘ken ra mi pari. o pari e wire shina tawa mi.’” nimi pi toki ni ri                  . ni ri “mi wire ara utara” ron toki rashina.

A government* person says this: “Listen! In the past*, this person did a bad thing. They are bad!” Another government person listens and says this: “Person, did you do this bad thing or not do it? Are you bad or not bad?” A person can say this: “Other government person, I don’t say this: ‘I didn’t do it.’ I don’t say this: ‘I did it.’ I only say this: ‘Maybe I did it. Do your will toward me.’” The name of this speech is                  . This is “I don’t want to fight” in Latin.


yan ri mushi tan ni: ona ri ron. yan ni ri pirin pona ri yo e                           . ni ri “mushi tan ron” anu “mushi tan are” ron toki kanse.

A person enjoys because of this: they exist. This person feels good and has                           . This is “enjoyment from existing” or “enjoyment from everything” in French.


ken ra yan ri pirin e ni: “pirin en toki pi yan ante ri ike.” taso yan ri toki ara e ni: “toki pi yan ante ri ike.” yan ri toki e ni: “yan ante ri ike ri yaki a!” yan ri toki e ni ra ona ri kepeken e toki                  . ni ri “tawa yan” ron toki rashina.

Maybe a person feels this: “The thoughts and speech of another person are bad.” But a person doesn’t say this: “The speech of another person is bad.” A person says this: “Another person is super bad and gross!” When a person says this, they use                   speech. This is “toward a person” in Latin.


ken ra yan ri wire pana e shiteren tawa yan ante. taso yan ante ri awen ron ma ante. ni ra yan ri pana e ona kepeken iro tawa kon. yan ri shiteren e nimi                   ron sero pi shiteren ra shiteren ri tawa ron iro tawa kon. ni ri “kepeken iro tawa kon” ron toki kanse.

Maybe a person wants to give a writing to another person. But another person lives in another country. So, a person gives it using an air travel tool. When a person writes the words                   on the outside of a writing, the writing goes inside an air travel tool. This is “using air travel tool” in French.


tenpo pimeya ra yan ron ma ishiran anu ma kanata anu ma oseriya anu ma ante ri ken rukin e suno kure ron pimeya. ni ri ken yo e kure mute ante. tenpo mute ra ona ri yero raso. taso yan ron ma ripiya anu ma ekato ri ken ara rukin e ona. nimi pi suno kure ni ri         . ni ri “tenpo pi suno kama” ron toki rashina.

At night*, people in Iceland or Canada or Australia or other countries can see colored light in the darkness. This can have many different colors. Many times, it is green*. But people in Libya or Ecuador cannot see it. The name of this colored light is         . This is “time of sunrise*” in Latin.


yan parata ri seri e pan ripu         . (yan ri ken moku kepeken pan ni.) ni ri “pan” ron toki pashi.

An Indian person cooks          flatbread. (A person can eat with this bread.) This is “bread” in Farsi.
(It’s somewhat ironic in this context that the toki pona for “person from India” is transliterated “yan Parata”! The standard toki pona is “jan Palata” < भारत Bhārat.)


jan li moku lon tomo moku. ron ma mewika ra moku suri ri         . tenpo mute ra moku ni ri soweri. (taso ron ma inri anu ma oseriya ra yan ri kepeken ante e nimi ni. lon ma Inli la          li moku lili li moku pi nanpa wan lon tenpo moku.) ni ri “kama” ron toki kanse.

People eat in a restaurant*. In America, big food is         . Many times, this is a mammal. (But in England or Australia, people use this word differently. In England          is a small food and is food number one in eating time.) This is “coming” in French.


yan ri rukin e moku mute ri toki a ni: “pona a! moku are ri ron! ni ri         !” ni ri “supa moku pi moku ron pan ripu tsu” ron toki wensa.

A person looks at a lot of food and says this: “Oh good! All food is here! This is         !” This is “table* for food in two flatbreads” in Swedish.


kurupu utara ri ken pirin pona anu ike. pirin ona ri                           . ni ri “kon kurupu” anu “kon shiyero” ron toki kanse.

A fighting group can feel good or bad. This feeling is                           . This is “group air” or “bodily air” in French.

Vocabulary notes

* These glosses use a toki pona idiom consisting of more than one word. These idioms include: tomo moku ‘restaurant’, jan pali ‘worker’, tenpo pini ‘past’, tenpo ni ‘now’, supa moku ‘table’, kulupu lawa ‘government’, kama sona ‘learn’, ilo tawa kon ‘airplane’ (not attested on, jelo laso ‘green’.

† These glosses would be more idiomatic if they were rendered in the past tense, but nothing in the toki pona text explicitly says the verb is past tense.

Languages/ethnic groups not as given on Juta ‘Jewish’ (given as ‘Jawata’ on old; Wensa ‘Swedish’ (only given as a nationality, used here as a language); Inu ‘Inuit’ (only given as a language, used here as a nationality).


The answers that go in the blanks are all foreign words or phrases that are used in English:

  1. DELICATESSEN (German ‘fine food’)
  2. AU PAIR (French ‘on par’)
  3. NOM DE PLUME (French ‘pen name’)
  4. KOSHER (Hebrew כָּשֵׁר ‘fit’)
  5. ENFANT TERRIBLE (French ‘terrible infant’)
  6. SCHADENFREUDE (German ‘joy at injury’)
  7. COLORADO (Spanish ‘colored’)
  8. HAPAX LEGOMENON (Ancient Greek ἅπαξ λεγόμενον ‘spoken once’)
  9. OOLONG (Chinese 乌龙 ‘black dragon’)
  10. EL NIÑO (Spanish ‘the boy’)
  11. NOUVEAU RICHE (French ‘newly rich’)
  12. IGLOO (Inuit ᐃᒡᓗ ‘house’)
  13. NOLO CONTENDERE (Latin ‘I do not want to dispute’)
  14. JOIE DE VIVRE (French ‘joy of living’)
  15. AD HOMINEM (Latin ‘toward a person’)
  16. PAR AVION (French ‘by air’)
  17. AURORA (Latin ‘dawn’)
  18. NAAN (Farsi نان ‘bread’, via Hindi नान ‘naan’)
  19. ENTRÉE (French ‘entrance’)
  20. SMORGASBORD (Swedish smörgåsbord ‘sandwich table’)
  21. ESPRIT DE CORPS (French ‘spirit of the corps’)

The first letters spell DANKE SCHOEN IN JAPANESE, which is the answer ありがとうございます ARIGATO GOZAIMASU. (We exclude the possibility DOMO ARIGATO by specifying the number of letters in the answer, 7/9, in an annotation at the bottom of the page.)