[tlhIngan Hol] Klingon Word of the Day: yoHwI'

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Mon Jun 13 11:05:37 PDT 2016

mayqel qunenoS:
>> yoHbogh matlhbogh je SuvwI' Say'moHchu' may' 'Iw 
>> The blood of battle washes clean the warrior brave and true. (Anthem)
> is the {yoHbogh matlhbogh je SuvwI'}, grammatically correct?
> I know we can say :
>    matlhbogh SuvwI' yoH
>    yoHbogh SuvwI' matlh
>    matlhbogh 'ej yoHbogh SuvwI'
>    yoHbogh 'ej matlhbogh SuvwI'
>    matlhbogh SuvwI' 'ej yoHbogh
>    yoHbogh SuvwI' 'ej matlhbogh
> but the {yoHbogh matlhbogh je SuvwI'}, is something I have never seen.

It's a line from the "Warrior's Anthem".  The English lyrics written by Hillary Bader first appeared in the Klingon CD-ROM (KCD) and was later sung twice (with subtitles) in the DS9 episode "Soldiers of the Empire."  KCD executive producer Keith Halper explains how the song was written: 

(KCD novel, 212):  The way that was that Hilary [Bader] wrote something in English, then she faxed it out to Mark Okrand. Then Okrand translated it to Klingon and put his literal translation below the Klingon verses. The literal translation is always skewed a bit, so if you send him "Row, row, row your boat," you'll get back "Propel, propel, propel your craft." 

Oddly enough, the anthem does not appear in Klingon for the Galactic Traveler but is featured (I'm told) somewhere in the four-book Day of Honor series.  I found this version of the "never-before-published lyrics" in English and Klingon at Simon & Schuster's Day of Honor page back in 1997:
Another copy, plus a literal translation by Okrand, is at:

Here are Hilary Bader's original lyrics, c1997:

  Hear! Sons of Kahless.
  Hear! Daughters too.
  The blood of battle washes clean
  The Warrior brave and true.
  We fight, we love, and then we kill.
  Our lives burn short and bright,
  Then we die with honor and join our fathers in the Black Fleet where
  we battle forever, battling on through the Eternal fight.

Okrand's translation:

  Qoy qeylIS puqloD.
  Qoy puqbe'pu'.
  yoHbogh matlhbogh je SuvwI'
  Say'moHchu' may' 'Iw.
  maSuv manong 'ej maHoHchu'.
  nI'be' yInmaj 'ach wovqu'.
  batlh maHeghbej 'ej yo' qIjDaq vavpu'ma' DImuv.
  pa' reH maSuvtaHqu'.
  mamevQo'. maSuvtaH. ma'ov.

Okrand's literal back translation:

  Hear! sons of Kahless.
  Hear! daughters.
  The battle blood perfectly cleans the warrior who is brave and loyal.
  We fight, we're passionate, and we kill perfectly.
  Our lives are not long, but they're very bright.
  We certainly die, and we join our fathers in the Black Fleet.
  There we always really continue fighting.
  We won't stop.  We continue fighting.  We compete.

> Is this construction grammatical?

This has long been a problematic line.  My view is that yes, it's grammatical (after all, Okrand carefully translated the lyrics) but that it's either 1) an example of poetically bending of the rules intentionally:

TKD 23:  It should be noted, however, that Klingon poets often violate this grammatical rule in order to evoke particular moods in their poetry. Thus, forms such as {tlhonmey} "nostrils scattered all about" do occur. Until the subtle nuances of such constructions are firmly grasped, however, it is suggested that students of Klingon stick to the rules.

(st.klingon [3/23/1998]):  If I understand Maltz correctly, it works like this: The general plural suffix {-mey} is not used with body parts (except by poets, of course).

KGT 176:  A common way to create these constructions is to bend the grammatical rules somewhat, violating the norm in a way that is so obvious that there is no question that it is being done intentionally. To do this is expressed in Klingon as {pabHa'} ("misfollow [the rules], follow [the rules] wrongly")."

or 2) it was grammatical in an earlier stage of the language (it may well be a very old song) but not in the "modern" 24th century language.  The modern form of two closely-linked {-bogh} forms may be:

  romuluSngan Sambogh 'ej HoHbogh nejwI' 
  Romulan hunter-killer probe.  KCD

which also appeared in KCD.  Either way, I think we should follow Okrand's advice about such constructions:

KGT 181:  No one accepts such constructions as grammatical; their inappropriateness, the way they grate on the Klingon ear, is exactly what gives them elocutionary clout. A visitor may hear one of these odd suffixes occasionally, but, as with other intentionally ungrammatical forms, it is best to avoid using them until one is extremely comfortable with the nuances of Klingon style.

tlhIngan ghantoH pIn'a'
Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

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