[tlhIngan Hol] height, length, width

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Wed Jul 25 14:27:36 PDT 2018

So apparently there's a lot of confusion about the verb {'ab}, which I
learned about from the Duolingo message board, and this was discussed at
the {qep'a'}. Since I wasn't there, I don't know exactly what was said, but
the claim was made that {'ab} can be used to measure either the height or
the length of a spaceship, and that to disambiguate, another verb (like
{woch}) has to be used. It's apparently also believed by some that {'ab}
always measures the longer dimension.


I don't believe the above is true. I think {'ab} refers unambiguously to
height, {'aD} to length, and {juch} to width. Furthermore, canon shows that
{'ab} can be a shorter measurement than {'aD} on the same object,
specifically a spaceship.

I think the confusion stems from the definition of {'ab}, which was given
in a msn newsgroup message dated Oct. 22, 1997:
<There are two words used for length: {'aD} and {'ab}.  Both of these can
be translated "have a length of," but they are used somewhat
differently. {'aD} is used in contrast with {juch} "have a width of" in
measuring, say, a tabletop. {'ab}, on the other hand, is used for
(potentially) longish, skinnyish things (for example, spears) and also for

The message then goes on to give the following examples:
{jav 'ujmey 'ab SuvwI'} "the warrior has a length of six ujs" (about
6'10")... This might sound a little more natural as "the warrior stands six
ujs" or"the warrior is six ujs tall."
{vagh 'ujmey vI'ab}  "I have a length of five ujs" (about 5'8") or "I'm
five ujs tall"
{wej 'uj 'ab naQjej}  "the spear has a length of three uj" (about 3'5") or
"the spear measures three uj" or "the spear is three uj long"

We also have the following examples from the Klingon Bird of Prey poster:
{loSmaH jav vI' Soch loS 'uj 'ab meH} "Bridge Height: 16.28M"
{HIvtaHvIS toQDuj cha'vatlh wejmaH Soch vI' vagh chorgh 'uj 'ab 'oH}
"Attack Formation Height: 82.75 M"
{qughtaHvIS toQDuj HutmaH vI' jav wa' 'uj 'ab 'oH} "Cruise Formation
Height: 31.56 M"
{SaqtaHvIS toQDuj wa'vatlh loS vI' jav chorgh 'uj 'ab 'oH} "Landing
Formation Height: 36.46 M"

On the same poster, we also have this one example of {'aD}:
{wejvatlh loSmaH loS vI' vagh wej 'uj 'aD Duj} "Length: 120 M"

Note that the Bird of Prey is much longer than it is tall. Nevertheless,
{'aD} measures its length, and {'ab} measures its height (which varies
depending on the flight mode, but is always less than its length). Though
it's not given, presumably {juch} measures the wingspan.

There's also this from SkyBox card 32:
{wej 'ujmey 'ab 'oy'naQ.} "Painstiks are a little over one meter long."

So we have the following:
height: {'ab} (head to toe of person, top to bottom of starship or table,
tip to other end of spear or painstik)
length: {'aD} (one dimension of tabletop, fore to aft of starship)
width: {juch} (other dimension of tabletop, wingspan of starship)

The way I think about this is that height is always {'ab}, length is always
{'aD}, and width is always {juch}. However, Klingons think of stick-like
things as having height (i.e, as if they were being held upright by a
person), rather than having length (as English-speakers do). I think the
way Okrand gave the definition of {'ab} by putting "length" first (but only
of longish, skinnyish things) is confusing. This is made worse by his
examples, which says that the warrior has a length of six ujs. I think the
way it should've been explained is in the other direction: that a spear or
painstik is so many ujs *tall*. Nevertheless, the examples make clear that
{'ab} refers to the height of a spaceship, {'aD} to its length, and {'ab}
can be used even if it refers to the shorter dimension.

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