[tlhIngan Hol] The problem with po'

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Wed Mar 25 06:24:31 PDT 2020

Primarily, the idea of the glosses in the vocabulary list is to point you toward a meaning to a word that might not have an exact equivalent in English (or any other human language). There is no human word for {ghargh} because it’s a fictional species that doesn’t exist on Earth. It looks kind of like a serpent or a worm, so we call it a “serpent worm” in English, but that’s just something those writing in the Star Trek Universe came up with to describe a species no human is really familiar with. {ghargh} internal anatomy might very well be different enough that human biologists might not classify it as either a serpent nor a worm. 

If you don’t have an exact word to give for a definition, you give whatever words you need to point someone toward the meaning. Many English words have multiple meanings, and the Klingon word might not have all those same meanings, so sometimes having multiple words in the definition are intended to restrict the meaning to something common to both words.

Consider {voD}. The definition is “drill, bore”. That doesn’t mean that if someone gives a boring speech, this would be the word to use to describe what this person does to you. Both words are given because the meaning for bore which aligns with the meaning of the verb “drill” is what {voD} means. Meanwhile, it might be an activity done with an energy weapon and not a spinning, spiral-bladed, steel shaft, so it might actually not be what we think of when we say “drill” or “bore”, but it does make a cylindrical hole, like a drill does when we bore through something with it. So, if a Klingon saw a human using a drill to grind a hole into a piece of metal, he’d probably use the verb {voD}, even though we’re doing it with what he’d consider to be a primitive tool unlike the thing one usually uses to {voD}.

That’s the problem with translating dictionaries. Even among human language dictionaries, translating at the word level is always imperfect because people didn’t start with one language and change the words to make a different language. Each language evolves from often quite separate histories.

charghwI’ ‘utlh

> On Mar 25, 2020, at 8:44 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> SuStel:
> > In other words, Klingons don't think of the > word po' as having two meanings. It has > just one meaning to them. It means po'. 
> > We just don't have a single English word 
> > that means exactly what po' means, so 
> > we're given a couple to try to give us a 
> > good understanding of what po' actually 
> > means.
> This is an interesting opinion. And if things do work that way, then many things need to change, with regards to how someone (and by "someone" I mean me..) understands the known klingon vocabulary.
> If things work that way, then {ghargh} isn't a serpent, and it isn't a worm either.. It's something resembling both, with the words "serpent/worm" being just the closest equivalent to the "real" {ghargh}.
> Similarly {DuH} isn't a "possibility" nor an "option"; it's rather the sum/combined meaning of both these english words.
> I like this approach, and your argument convinces me.
> lieven:
> > This is a good example to show the 
> > difference to {QaQ} "be good". {QaQ} 
> > shows the quality of something (like a 
> > good wine), and {po'} is used in
> > this situation to show that Kirk really has > a lot of experience (hence the definition 
> > "be expert") and he is a very skilled 
> > captain.
> I hadn't noticed this difference. Good to know. Thanks.
> ~ mayqel qunen'oS
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