The word zinena-un is actually two words: zinen a-un. (Pronounce zee-NAYN-ah-OON.) It has, however, become such a common and meaningful phrase that it is now frequently considered a word unto itself. Let’s examine its constituent parts.

Nen is a person (a thinking, living creature). The prefix zi- indicates “that” or “this”, instead of “the” or “a” (which has no prefix and is the default/understood form of most nouns). Un means I or me, and a- is a prefix that indicates possession. Literally translated, zinena-un is “this person belonging to me.”

Historically, the declaration of zinena-un was made in verb form: Zinen unari. (lit. “that-person I own”, roughly “I claim that person as mine.” Ari as a verb, roughly translated as “claims,” “owns,” or “take possession of,” has the pronoun of self as the subject, which is the reverse of what we’d say in English: “That belongs to me.”) Over time, the word zinena-un began to hold such weight in tahori culture that the verb was no longer necessary, much as we in English might stop saying “I own this!” and simply state “Mine.”

Having never had slaves or servants in their cultural history, tahori have a very special emphasis on the statement that a given person is “theirs.” To claim a person is to declare a relationship, with or without that person’s prior knowledge or any established or expected mutual agreement. It establishes a social structure between the tahori and zinen, that person, and as intensely social people, that is very important to inlanlu tahori.

Declaring someone zinena-un has saved many lives; the statement of social bond indicates that a tahori will defend their person, violently if necessary. The word is rarely used in situations with romantic or sexual implications; stronger and more explicit words are used for courtship and one’s chosen mate. In terms of physical and emotional protection, however, zinena-un indicates a tahori’s willingness to intervene and to side with their person.

“Zinen dudari?”

“This-person you-know?”

“Do you know this person?”
“This person is mine.”