[tlhIngan Hol] mermaid

Felix Malmenbeck felixm at kth.se
Wed May 8 01:31:16 PDT 2019

> I looked up my story “Rapture of the Deep” written June 10, 1997

It is worth noting that this was before we had a canonical word for "fish" (or "fish-like creature").

The very next day, Marc Okrand announced that the book "Klingon for the Galactic Traveler" would be released that fall (according to Simon & Schuster's website, it was published in September that year, but the official dates don't always match reality). KGT includes the word {bIQDep}. The word {ghotI'} was announced in 2001.


That being said, this word refers to a specific creature in Klingon mythology, so we shouldn't necessarily expect it to match up with the most straightforward translation possible with modern vocabulary. (After all, "mermaid" isn't the most straightforward translation of the Japanese 人魚 (nin'gyo; person-fish) or the Greek γοργόνα (gorgóna; from a world meaning "terrible", cognate with Gorgon).


From: tlhIngan-Hol <tlhingan-hol-bounces at lists.kli.org> on behalf of De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 8, 2019 10:11
To: tlhIngan-Hol
Subject: Re: [tlhIngan Hol] mermaid

On Wed, 8 May 2019 at 09:57, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com<mailto:mihkoun at gmail.com>> wrote:

At the tlhIngan Hol jatlhwI'pu' facebook group, there has been a discussion about a new word for "mermaid".

If it's Ca'Non (is it ?) can someone post it in the list too, so that it can be archived ?

(...and because I want to add it to my dictionary too..)

Here's the full email I received from author Wulf Moon (http://driftweave.com/), which I'm forwarding with his permission.

Note: the lowercase L's are obviously meant to be uppercase i's.

On Wed, 8 May 2019 at 02:56, [email address redacted] wrote:
Dear de’vID,

I looked up my story “Rapture of the Deep” written June 10, 1997 for the STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS I contest edited by Dean Wesley Smith, John Ordover, and Paula Block. This story had mer-beings in it, and made reference to ancient Klingon mariner legends about mermaids. After consulting Klingon databases, it became apparent there was no word for mer-people in the Klingon language. I then wrote to Lawrence Schoen, who was acting director of the Klingon Language Institute at the time. He acknowledged there were no such names in the Klingon language and that he would have to develop one for me, and I believe he said he would enter it into the database. He avoided male and female mer- designations in the English language—we communicated about that--and instead he combined the terms “fish” and “demons” to coincide with Klingon mythic language concepts, bypassing English gender designated words for merfolk.

Lawrence Schoen authorized my use of the following term in the Klingon language for mer-people, or “fish demons” in the Klingon tongue:

blQHa'DlbaH  qa'mlgh

I then submitted my story to the contest. Alas, it did not place, so it did not get published by Pocket Books. Dean Wesley Smith later told me the story was an excellent concept, that I could build an entire career out of the idea, but it was too big of an idea for a Star Trek story. The following year, I wrote “Seventh Heaven,” a Borg love story, placed, and was published in Pocket Books STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS II anthology.

Here is an excerpt from “Rapture of the Deep” where I used the term authorized by the Klingon Language Institute director:

Picard's brows arched.  "The Nongar Sector?  I was not aware of any worlds there."  Picard looked down, tapped the star chart, enlarging a section.

"That's just it," Worf said.  "There's nothing there but a binary star.  However, Nongar does match with his flight path when we rescued him.  I also found brine residue on both his bags."
"Thank you, Mr. Worf.  Counselor, since we have no record of any planets in the Nongar System, do you believe there's any substance to DaiMon Boktar's claims?"
"I don't know for sure, Captain.  Betazoids can't read Ferengis."
Worf smirked.  "Who needs to--it's well known that Ferengis always lie."
Troi frowned.  "Captain, I do believe by his facial expressions that there's an element of truth in what he's saying.  In fact, my feeling is that he's telling us the truth, counting on us to take it for a lie."
Picard enlarged the image of Nongar, a yellow binary star.  "Interesting theory, Counselor--the Ferengi are extremely crafty.  I'm also surprised to find a Ferengi so far off the trade routes in such a small vessel.  Time is money, and no one knows that adage better than the Ferengi.  So what's he doing here?"
The pouch was feeling very heavy in Worf's hand.  "Sir, the Ferengi is hiding something.  I found these in his belongings."
Worf stepped forward, spilling the contents on the desk.  Gold and silver coins, bars and strips of latinum, an emerald encrusted crucifix--all glittered on the black desktop like a wealth of stars spread across the blackness of space.
Picard reached out, picking up a coin.  He held it carefully between his fingers, turning it slowly.  "Incredible.  This is a Spanish doubloon.  A perfect specimen--the ones I've seen have all been encrusted by salt water deposits."
Pointing to a triangular shaped coin, Worf said, "This coin is from the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS, from the ages when warriors sailed the seas.  If it's authentic, it's the only one of its kind.  It bears the image of those we called blQHa'DlbaH qa'mlgh--the Fish Demons."
"I've never heard the term," Picard said.
"The Fish Demons were part Klingon, part fish.  Early Klingon mariners always kept a captive onboard for sacrifice to these creatures when seas became violent.  They feared the blQHa'DlbaH qa'mlgh would rise from the depths and take their ships.  When Klingons gave up their superstitions and chose the Way of the Warrior, they destroyed every image of the gods.  All were melted down.  Only pictures of them remain today in our historical archives."

I hope that helps. I later met Lawrence Schoen at a Nebula Awards banquet and thanked him for creating the Klingon word for my story. He acknowledged that it had posed an interesting challenge.


Wulf Moon

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