[tlhIngan Hol] conversation with Dr. Okrand about {tuQmoH}

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Fri May 20 09:18:48 PDT 2022

I was going to save this for after the 2nd edition of {paq'batlh} was
released (which I hope is soon), but since this exact topic came up in
another thread, I'll post it here now. Dr. Okrand and I were discussing a
particular section of text (p. 163 lines 7-9 in the 1st edition),
which he'd wanted to revise. He'd asked me to send him all the information
pertinent to how the vocabulary had been used previously, and as {tuQmoH}
appeared on line 8, this led to a rather involved conversation about its
grammar. I'd sent him a long message with the relevant information (the
square brackets indicate sources which I sent to him but which I'm not
attaching to the mailing list, but you can easily look them up). His
response is interspersed with my text, so it's not quite an interview (in
that all of my words were written temporally before any of his responses).

(p. 163 line 8): {may'luchlIj nIv yItuQmoH} "Put on your finest armor".
(Kahless is speaking to Molor, challenging him to a fight.) The question
is, how does {tuQmoH} "put on (clothes)" work grammatically? Is its meaning
just {tuQ} + {-moH}, or does it have a meaning slightly different from the
combination of its apparent components?

{tuQ} is "wear (clothes)", so presumably one can say {DaS tuQ matlh} "Maltz
wears boots". We have the model sentence {mIv je DaS tuQ ra'wI'} "The
commander is in full dress uniform" (KGT p.107), which uses the idiom {mIv
je DaS} which (unusually) places the conjunction between the nouns. But as
far as the subject and object of {tuQ} are concerned, there is no
controversy about that.

>>> So far, so good.

We also have the expression {qogh tuQmoHHa'} which is supposed to literally
mean "take off one's belt", but which has the slang meaning "to not hear",
based on the homophony of {qogh} "ear" and "belt". This appeared in HolQeD
2:4 [in an article on p. 17-18].

The grammar of this sentence is a bit strange, which is okay because it's
slang. The suffix {-Ha'} appears to be in the wrong place. In fact, TKD
lists {tuQHa'moH} as a word meaning "undress".

>>> Right. The unusual suffix placement occurs in this idiom only (which
the short explanation of the phrase in HolQeD doesn’t point out).  If one
said {qogh tuQHa’moH}, that could only refer to removing a belt, nothing
about not hearing.

However, you've also written that sometimes, some verbs with {-moH} are
treated as though they're part of the verb root, and {-Ha'} is added after
it [link to msn.onstage.startrek.expert.okrand post of 1997-11-30].

>>> That’s true, but I don’t think that’s relevant here. The idiom is just

So perhaps both {tuQHa'moH} and {tuQmoHHa'} are correct and used
interchangeably, or perhaps they have evolved to mean slightly different

>>> They’re both “correct,” but they can’t be used interchangeably. One is
used only for the idiom.  Grammatically,  however, they work the same way
(see below).

But another issue with that expression is what the object(s) of
{tuQmoH}/{tuQHa'moH}/{tuQmoHHa'} would normally be. If {DaS tuQ matlh} is
"Maltz wears boots'', then {matlhvaD DaS vItuQmoH} would seem to mean "I
put boots on Maltz'', "I cause Maltz to wear boots''. This is based on the
pattern of {[wo'rIv]vaD quHDaj qawmoH [Ha'quj]} "[the sash] reminds [Worf]
of his heritage", literally "[the sash] causes [Worf] to remember his
heritage", from SkyBox card 20 (HolQeD 5:2) [p. 14].

>>> So it would seem. But that’s because the glosses in TKD aren’t really
as clear as they might be (as I’m sure you’ve noticed).

{tuQ} does mean “wear,” so that’s fine. Your {DaS tuQ matlh} example is

{tuQmoH} does mean “put on” (referring to clothes), but a better English
translation would be “don” to indicate that it refers only to putting on
one’s own clothes (the person getting dressed is the subject).  So {DaS
tuQmoH matlh} is “Maltz dons boots” or “Maltz puts on boots” (meaning Maltz
puts boot on Maltz). (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard English “don” being
used for footwear, but that’s neither here nor there right now — we’re
talking about Klingon, not English.)

Similarly {tuQHa’moH}, which TKD glosses as “undress,” might be more
revealingly translated as “doff,” that is, remove one’s own clothes.
(The point here isn’t whether “don” and “doff” are terrific translations of
{tuQmoH} and {tuQHa’moH} respectively; it’s just to give a better idea of
what these words mean and how they’re used.)

(Also — I know we’re talking about {tuQ} and friends here, but {qawmoH} in
the example of Worf and his sash, though glossed in TKD as “remind,” might
be better interpreted as something along the lines of “bring to mind.”)

The examples and grammar seem to agree that the (direct) object is the
clothing. The HolQeD 2:4 article has the example sentence, {qogh
vItuQmoHHa'pu'} "I've taken off my belt; your secret is safe with me."
Based on the translation, the speaker is the person doing the
wearing/un-wearing. But how is this indicated grammatically by the
sentence? It's not clear who is the wearer/un-wearer (the subject of {tuQ},
if you will). And this isn't helped by the English definitions of the
relevant verbs (which would result in "I cause the belt to un-wear" or "I
undress the belt").

>>> True. But using the English translations “don” and “doff,” I think,
does clarify. The subject of the verb is the one who’s donning and doffing.

Is it implied? Or, to put it another way, can {qogh vItuQmoHHa'pu'} mean "I
have taken off his/her belt", and only context (or maybe a suffix {-wIj} or
{-Daj}) disambiguates? Can I say, {matlhvaD qogh vItuQmoHHa'pu'} "I've
taken off Maltz's belt”?

>>> No. {tuQmoH} and {tuQHa’moH} aren’t used for putting clothes on or
taking them off someone else.  Your sentence could perhaps mean something
like “For Maltz’s benefit, I’ve removed the belt (from me).”

That brings us to the line from the paq'batlh. Is the wearer (yourself,
Molor) implied? Could the sentence have meant (given another context), "Put
your finest armor on someone else" (i.e., {ghaHvaD may'luchlIj nIv
yItuQmoH})? And would one say, {SoHvaD may'luchlIj nIv yItuQmoH} to make
the meaning explicit?

>>> Given all of the above, the sentence in the paq’batlh can mean only
that “you” (in this case, Molor) is the one who should  put on (or don) the

I don't really think the sentence as written is wrong, just possibly
ambiguous without context, and context makes clear that the wearer of the
armour is to be Molor himself. But it was pointed out to me as a possible
issue to address.

The original reason this line came up was actually in a discussion about
Duolingo. There, the example sentence (composed by members of KLI) was,
{paSloghlIj DatuQnISmoH}, which is supposed to mean "You need to put on
your socks". The question arose as to whether this always means "on
oneself", or whether it can potentially mean "You need to put on your socks
on someone else". [link to the discussion on the Duolingo forum]

>>> Yes. It always means “on oneself.”

Does {tuQHa'moH} mean "undress" when there is no object?
Would {yItuQHa'moH} mean "Undress (yourself)!”?

>>> Yes, though without further clarification it’s silent about how much
clothing is being removed.

That is, is "undress" just there in TKD for ease of looking up the word,
rather than define a verb with a narrower meaning than the parts suggest?

>>> As noted above, the TKD glosses aren’t always as clear as they might be.

Now, after all of that, you will certainly ask: How do you say, “I put
boots on Maltz”?

You use the verb {jom}. This was previously glossed only as “install” (as
in “install a device,” not “install somebody into office”), but it can also
mean “put on” in the sense of putting clothing on someone else. When used
in this way, the object is the article of clothing; the person ending up
wearing the clothes is where the clothes go (where they’re “installed,” so
to speak), indicated by {-Daq}.

You can leave the object out if context makes things clear. Otherwise,
there has to be something, even if it’s just {Sut}.

It’s grammatically correct to say {jIHDaq DaS vIjom}, which would mean
something like “I put boots on me.”  I suppose there could be a context
where something like this might be better (for emphasis or something) than
{DaS vItuQmoH}.

{DaS vIjom}, without an overt locative expression, is odd, but it might be
understood in context.

Don’t read too much into the word “device.”  The non-clothing object of
{jom} could be a pipe under a sink. It doesn’t have to be something that
mechanically or electronically “does” something. It’s just a thing that
fits properly into or onto something (which is one way {jom} differs from
{lan} “place”).

(end of message)

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