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

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Mon May 21 08:27:39 PDT 2018

Klingon word: rIlwI'
Part of speech: noun
Definition: thumb
Source: HQ (10:2 p7)

(HQ 10.2:7-8):  the word {nItlh} "finger" means any finger, including the thumb. A hand has {vagh nItlhDu'} (five fingers), not {loS nItlhDu'} (four fingers) and a thumb. There is a specific word referring to each of the five fingers, and these words are nouns derived from verbs by means of the suffix {-wI'} (thing which does); there are two pairs for thumb. The Federation Standard translation of the verbs is a little strained, but they mean something like use (the specific finger). The associated 'finger nouns' would be literally, though quite awkwardly, "thing which is used in a thumb-like manner" or perhaps "thing which thumbs" or even "thumber" ... The two sets of words relating to thumb are pretty much interchangeable, though small children usually use {rIl} and {rIlwI'} rather than {Sen} and {SenwI'}. Similarly, adults speaking to or about children tend to use {rIl} and {rIlwI'}. Both words are used together in an idiomatic expression meaning "everybody, everyone": {SenwI'Du' rIlwI'Du' je}, literally "thumbs and thumbs". This expression is often heard without the plural suffixes: {SenwI' rIlwI' je}.

(HQ 10.2:7-9):  When used with nouns with the locative suffix {-Daq}, the finger verbs mean "point (with a specific finger) at or towards" ... There are some special uses of the reflexive forms of the finger verbs. For example, while {ghIchwIj vISIq} means "I touch my nose with my index finger" and {ghIchwIjDaq jISIq} means "I point at my nose with my index finger", the phrase {ghIchwIjDaq jISIq'egh} (with {-'egh} oneself), literally "I use at myself my index finger at my nose", is used for "I pick my nose with my index finger". Similarly, {nujDajDaq rIl'egh ghu}, literally "at his/her mouth, the baby uses at him/herself his/her thumb", is used for "the baby sucks its thumb" .

Okrand provides another example of {Sen}:

  nISwI' HIch Sen 
  fire the disruptor pistol (HQ 10.2)

lit. "use the thumb in the way it's most appropriately used on a disruptor pistol", "use the thumb to activate the disruptor pistol", "thumb the disruptor pistol" (HQ 10.2:8).

Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

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