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What exactly does game of thrones mean? It is being translated into my native language (Czech) as a game in which one might win one of the many thrones, but to me it sounds more like a game in which different thrones play against each other.

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"Game of thrones" means just that: a game in which there are some thrones. That's all the phrase has to offer. It doesn't say anything about the role the thrones play, how many of them are there, etc. All these things can only be inferred from further context, such as looking at the actual rules. (And in fact, if you use the capitalized version it's even less clear, because then for all we know Thrones could be a proper name, similarly to Chronos, Zeus, or Midas.) –  RegDwigнt Apr 2 '12 at 23:18
    
You may try asking this on movies.stackexchange.com –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Apr 2 '12 at 23:19
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I don't think it's stupid at all - sometimes prepositions can be the trickiest part of a language! –  Mark Beadles Apr 2 '12 at 23:27
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@MehperC.Palavuzlar, Game of Thrones could refer to a book, to a series of books, or to a TV series. The one thing it could not refer to is a movie, so I'm puzzled about why you're recommending the movies stackexchange site. –  Marthaª Apr 3 '12 at 0:00
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@Marthaª Despite the deceptive name, Movies actually handles TV shows as well. –  waiwai933 Apr 3 '12 at 0:06
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6 Answers

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I think part of the confusion is: if there is only one Iron Throne (as there is in the series), why is "thrones" plural in A Game of Thrones. The answer is that "A Game of Throne", "A Game of a Throne", and "A Game of the Throne" all sound really terrible to native English speakers.

Here you should interpret "thrones" as a generic noun, meaning thrones as an abstract concept rather than referring to any particular one. In English, if you have a countable noun, the generic must be expressed as plural (with no article). Possibly, the translation into Czech should have been a game in which one might win the (only) throne, if that phrase can be expressed reasonably succinctly in Czech.

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Oh, i see. Now that i think about it, maybe that's what the authors of translation tried to express as well, although I might be giving them too much credit :) I will accept this answer (unless even better one emerges :), as it explained the meaning of the phrase the best (for me anyway). Thanks! –  Arg Apr 3 '12 at 20:29
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In English the title is ambiguous as to whether the Game is among Thrones, by Thrones, about Thrones, or for Thrones. "Of" is a preposition with very little lexical meaning in English, and in this case it lends a bit of ambiguity. A direct translation to another language might lose that particular nuance.

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It could also mean a game whose name is Thrones. Or a game in which some of the pieces are thrones, like chess. –  John Lawler Apr 2 '12 at 23:31
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Thanks for good answer! –  Arg Apr 3 '12 at 16:59
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I'd suspect that for the book and show, some of the ambiguity is intended, depending on the particular goal of a character. The Game of Thrones can be the struggle to gain the throne, to destroy it, to protect it, to prove its legitimacy, or simply to stay alive during the upheaval. –  Hannele Apr 3 '12 at 18:53
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I suspect that you are seeing it now because of the popularity of George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" book and its release as an HBO miniseries.

The use of the phrase 'game of thrones' is similar to the phrase 'game of chess' but the stakes are much higher- this is a dangerous game played by various people each vying for the throne i.e., competing to be the King and gaining the right to sit on the throne. One thinks carefully before declaring entry into such a game because the consequences of losing is usually death in one form or another.

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Thanks, the analogy to the 'game of chess' is quite interesting. –  Arg Apr 3 '12 at 17:00
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As others have mentioned, it can be a game either for or played by people sitting on thrones. There is one memorable phrase in the series which might help you understand it: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."

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The Game of Thrones is such a beautiful turn of English phrase partly because of its ambiguity and imprecision. I believe the phrase has several intended meanings, none of which are mutually exclusive.

  • Read as the Game of Thrones, it refers to a singular game being played by the Houses of the Seven Kingdoms. In this context it refers to the Houses collective scheming and machinations as they seek to maintain, consolidate, and grow their power, influence, and wealth--at each other's expense. So in this sense it's the game played by the Kingdoms, which are represented by their respective thrones.
  • It can be read as a Game for Thrones, which is more specific about the goal of the game: to acquire power (as represented by thrones), and ultimately control of Westeros (as represented by the Iron Throne).
  • It is an homage to a similar term from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, where the various houses and nobels of a particular city play Daes Daemar, or the Game of Houses, which although smaller in scope than the battle for Westeros has several thematic parallels.
  • Lastly, game has meaning in relative isolation. Superficially it seems inappropriate, as English typically uses game to refer to contests with lower stakes than death, as in sporting matches or board games. But its use in this context provides insight into the perspective of those who play it. To Cersi, for example, or Lord Frey, the Game is so integral a part of their lives that it does not seem especially violent or brutal. Game in this context is meant to convey the level of desensitization these characters have to situations that we might find shocking or abhorrent.
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The Great Game is a real-life term which was used for a "game" whose stakes were just as high as the Game of Thrones'. –  Peter Shor Oct 6 '12 at 23:40
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In the George R.R. Martin novels, I know that the Game of Thrones is mentioned by a character Storm of Swords (and possibly by others in other novels). Here, it refers to the scheming and warmongering that the lords of the Seven Kingdoms engage in. Each throne symbolizes a particular authority.

So what does it mean to play the game of thrones? Well, as the story shows, in order to rule the Seven Kingdoms (to sit on the "meta-throne" that is the Iron Throne) a Lord needs to plan marriages, plot schemes, forge alliances, trick enemies and think of proper strategies. While the rules are not always clear, all the Lords are playing a game, each using the other thrones as pawns.

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Very interesting way to look at it, and makes a lot of sense, too. (I'm about to start reading Storm of Swords, finished Clash of Kings yesterday :) This would mean that the translation, as i suspected it, is kind of wrong. –  Arg Apr 3 '12 at 18:55
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protected by RegDwigнt Apr 10 '12 at 10:18

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