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

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Tue Mar 26 09:28:43 PDT 2019

I agree that both "undo" and "do wrongly" are possible depending on the verb and the context, though I also think that for some verbs one meaning has become the default over time.  E.g. {jatlhHa’}:

bIjatlhHa'chugh qaHoH
qaHoH bIjatlhHa'chugh
If you say the wrong thing, I will kill you. TKD

After watching in horror as the Enterprise and his boarding party self-destructed, Kruge spun around and pointed his disruptor at Torg, who was about to make a suggestion, warning him (in English) not to "Say the wrong thing, Torg!" (ST3)

(KGT 186):  It is important for anyone visiting a Klingon settlement to be aware that saying the wrong thing or saying it in the wrong way may not only lead to communication difficulties but also may be detrimental to one's health.

(KGT 188):  Mispronunciation may turn dangerous, on the other hand, if one Klingon sound is substituted for another.

Using {jatlhHa’} as “unspeak” would probably be intended as a clever play on words and may not be immediately obvious to the listener.

AFAIK both {ja'} “tell,  report,  speak of” and {qol} “pronounce”  have never been used with {-Ha’} – though I can’t imagine the latter as meaning anything other than “mispronounce” -- but there is another verb of speech revealed at qep'a' 2013 that has:  {SorHa'} “speak metaphorically”:

(Qov, 7/29/2013):   [Okrand] appears to agree that this implies {Sor} means speak literally, and that this is connected to the expression {lugh: Sor rur} ["correct as a tree"].  The pun with sure appears from his reaction to be intentional.


From: Ed Bailey

On Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 2:55 AM De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com<mailto:de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com>> wrote:

On Tue, 26 Mar 2019 at 05:35, Ed Bailey <bellerophon.modeler at gmail.com<mailto:bellerophon.modeler at gmail.com>> wrote:
On Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 5:28 AM De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com<mailto:de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com>> wrote:

If you think about it, while {-Ha'} can mean both "undo" and "do wrongly", it doesn't really make sense for it to be possible to have both meanings on the same verb. If it did, then how would I know if you meant "be unmotivated" or "be wrongly motivated" (be motivated but in a bad way, or for the wrong reason)? How would I say that the judge has commuted ({wuqHa'}) my sentence, rather than that he had wrongly decided upon my sentence (a rather important legal distinction)? Of course, language *can* be ambiguous, but in this case, I think the dozens of examples from canon strongly suggests a pattern. I think this is one of those cases where TKD offers a bare sketch, but we actually have a lot of canon examples to justifiably derive something which is almost a rule.

I like your inferred rules for -Ha', but allow me to suggest a qualification. Perhaps, rather than an unambiguous interpretation, a verb plus -Ha' has a strongly preferred interpretation that follows the pattern you lay out. The listener who isn't being deliberately obtuse will reject any other interpretation unless the speaker gives cues to indicate it. This would be rather like intentional ungrammaticality. Wouldn't it make more sense to understand mu'mey Dajatlhpu'bogh DajatlhHa'laHbe' as "You cannot unspeak words you have spoken" rather than misspeak?

Yes, that would be how I read that sentence.

That sense of {jatlhHa'} (undo speaking), that is, "taking back one's words", reminds me of {nobHa'}, which bothered me when I first encountered it. In the {nobHa'} example, {Huch nobHa'bogh verenganpu''e' yIvoqQo'}, the giver isn't the one undoing the giving; the recipient is. Before that example, I might've used {tlhapHa'} in that sentence instead of {nobHa'}, or at least been undecided between them.

I wonder if {jatlhHa'} in the "undo" sense could work in the same way? That is, would this make sense: {mu'mey Dajatlhpu'bogh *vI*jatlhHa'laHbe'}?

Yes. I can't unspeak your words. I can misspeak them, of course, so unspeak makes  more sense here.
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