[tlhIngan Hol] relative strength of the epithets

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Tue Jul 21 07:31:12 PDT 2020

When Okrand shared the epithets with us, he gave a vague sense of when different words would be used. Most word lists include some of these references. In boQwI’, for instance, for the entry for {Qu’vatlh}, it includes “Klingon curse, said in moments of extreme anger,” but it doesn’t include, if I remember correctly, “It’s a lot worse than, ‘Darn it.’” I think the explanations were in the published audio recording of Okrand that was called, “Conversational Klingon”, though this is just a vague, ancient memory. I can’t remember whether my copy was a CD or a cassette. I’m pretty sure it was a cassette, because I remember it was split between a side A and a side B.

As for “to who” or “to whom”, technically, it should be “to whom”, since “whom” is the object form of the word and in this case, it’s acting as object of the preposition, but so many people screw up or don’t care, the word “whom” is probably in the process of being eliminated from the language, with “who” acting as both the subject and object form of the word.

Keep in mind that this is tantamount to eliminating the word “me” and replacing it with “I”, using it for both subject and object form. The only reason who replacing whom is less jarring to us is that “I” and “me” are so commonly used that their irregular forms are more strongly fossilized in the language, while “who” and “whom” are used rarely enough that we’d rather get rid of the irregularity than try to keep it straight.

When young children try to regularize irregular words (like saying “gooder” instead of “better”, or saying “Me want ice cream,” instead of “I want ice cream,"), we correct them, repeatedly and they learn the “right” word form for each usage. Apparently, parents of many current adults didn’t do that consistently with who/whom, so the difference hasn’t cemented itself into the vocabulary of many people, such as yourself.

Note that preserving this difference between “me” and “I” is completely arbitrary. Many languages, like American Sign Language and Klingon, don’t distinguish between subject and object forms of pronouns. There are other cues as to whether the pronoun is a subject or an object besides the form of the word. In English, having the form of the pronouns different is one of the many areas of redundancy in the grammar, requiring one more element of agreement, making the language one notch more complicated to learn, giving people one more area to make grammatical mistakes that are wholly unnecessary.

Because language is arbitrary, but it works best when we all agree on most stuff, though we will never agree on everything.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Jul 21, 2020, at 7:30 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> There's the person who hits the horn of his car calling you an a-hole
> as soon as the traffic lights go green.
> There's the person who lies to your boss about you, in order to steal
> your promotion.
> There's the person who steals someone else's life savings.
> There's the person who lies in court sending an innocent man to jail.
> And there's the person who commits crimes too heinous to even describe.
> Who is the petaQ, who is the yIntagh, who is the toDSaH, who is the
> Qovpatlh, and who is the taHqeq ?
> On a thread which started on november 06 2015 with the title "tlhIngan
> cursing", charghwI' had written:
>> Sex has nothing to do with the phrase, “Don’t f with me,” or “Don’t f with that lawn mower.”
>> Sex has nothing to do with “The meter of this poem is all f-ed up” or “The tip of this
>> screwdriver
>> is all f-ed up."
>> Sex has nothing to do with the single word the mechanic utters when he drops his wrench
>> down the silo onto the nuclear warhead, setting off a spark that ignites the leaking hydrogen
>> fuel tank.
>> So, understanding that the f word refers to the act of having sex won’t help you understand
>> most of the ways the word is used. Likely, Klingon curse words are like that.
> And charghwI' was right. Perhaps the actual meaning of an epithet
> isn't of importance. But what *is* of importance is its strength in
> relation to the other epithets. When is it to be said, and in
> reference to who ? (or is it to whom ? ah, forget it, I don't care..)
> I think, that in the same way we've been given the strength of each
> one of the verbs of fighting, we needed to be given the gravity of
> each epithet in relation to the rest.
> ~ Qa'yIn
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