[tlhIngan Hol] “What color is it?”

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Mon Mar 11 06:34:11 PDT 2019

On 3/11/2019 8:58 AM, Will Martin wrote:
> Basically, humans don’t develop color words for natural colors. As 
> they invent artificial colors, they invent words to describe them. 
> Before there was blue paint or dye, the sea was described as the color 
> of dark wine and the sky was white. Helen of Troy’s eyes were grey.
> Apparently, Klingon kids grow up with two crayons, a dark pencil and a 
> white page.

While your history of the invention of the color-word /blue/ is 
essentially correct, it does not apply to every language. There are 
languages that exist which do not have dedicated words for certain 
colors, and yet the native speakers of those languages can make use of 
those colors just fine.

English, for instance, has eleven basic color terms, but that doesn't 
stop Crayola from producing a box of 120 different crayon colors. We 
create compound terms to describe various shades of a basic color. When 
your language has fewer basic color terms, you don't see fewer colors; 
you just classify them differently. You can recognize all the same 
shades of colors; you just need to use more compound terms to zero in on 
them. And speakers of languages with fewer color terms have one 
advantage: when they don't need to be exact, they don't have to be. 
Klingon poets, for instance, can see the sun in the sky and describe a 
*jul SuD* in a *chal SuD,* a parallel no English-speaking poet could 
make. They recognize that it's a *SuDbogh jul 'ej wovbogh* in a *chal 
SuDqu'* (the skies of Kronos are usually depicted as green — and the 
fact that I have to clarify this demonstrates my point perfectly), but 
they don't need to say all that. They're both*SuD.*

> And since there are so few color words to choose from, why bother with 
> a generic word for “color”? Just ask it like the joke: “Doq’a’?”

(A) Because Okrand told us how they do it: *chay' nguv?* (B) Because 
sometimes you do care about shades, and *Doq'a'* doesn't allow you to 
drill down that far. (C) Because receiving a wink and a joke answer to a 
serious question is irritating.

> You don’t have to ask {SuD’a’}. If it’s not {Doq}, it must be {SuD}, 
> right? And if it’s neither, then it isn’t really a color. It’s just 
> dark or light or it looks like something in nature for which there is 
> no color word.

*qIj* and *SuD* are color words too. Shades of black and white are 
colors. Those four words apparently cover the entire range of the 
Klingon visual spectrum, and anything in nature will fall into one of those.

> This might be why the joke is considered funny to Klingons. Klingon 
> armor, weapons, and blood are not red, so how could a warrior be red? 
> It’s such a silly idea. Mwahahahahahahahahah...

The joke is not asking if warriors are red, but if warriors are *Doq.* 
Klingon blood is *Doq,* as are "nearly all Klingon bodily fluids" (KGT).


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