[tlhIngan Hol] The story behind {jva}

Lieven L. Litaer levinius at gmx.de
Wed Nov 23 00:23:15 PST 2022

About the expression {jva}:

For this qepHom, we had produced playing dice with Klingon words instead
of numbers. And despite intense proofreading I somehow missed one typo,
written in pIqaD: it says {jva} instead of {jav}

DopDaq qul yIchenmoH QobDI' ghu'!

Now while preparing the qepHom and talking with Marc Okrand, I told him
about this error, and I joked that perhaps Maltz has a good explanation
for such a weird way of writing.

Surprisingly, he did, and provided this nice story printed in the booklet.

Ironically, nobody noticed the typo during the qepHom, or at least, they
did not tell me.

Here's what Marc Okrand wrote:
qepHom 2022, p. 23

We know that the word {jav} is a slang expression for "prisoner."
Maltz said that this word is found in another slang expression:
{jav mIS}
literally "confused prisoner" or "mixed-up prisoner."

This is used to refer to somebody who's in a bind, in a situation
they're not quite sure how to get out of. Maybe all of the choices are
bad or the information available is conflicting. Maybe they don't know
which way to turn and they keep changing their mind. But they can't do
nothing. The situation is such that they need to make a choice. Maltz
said that's why the expression is about a prisoner: The person referred
to by the expression is stuck, as if in prison, until a decision is made.

One of the situations in which this might come up is when playing a game
and, as a result of something that happens during the game, a player has
to decide what to do — and maybe it's not an easy decision. If they
don't decide reasonably quickly, the other player(s) may become
impatient and call the ditherer a {jav mIS}.

Somehow or other, some Klingons started using jva (in pIqaD, of course)
as a way to write {jav mIS} — mixing up the letters of {jav} to create
some kind of shorthand or abbreviation. (This is for writing only — one
would pronounce written {jva} as {jav mIS}, not {jva}, whatever that
might sound like.) Maltz says he's seen it in messages, but he's never
seen it on a die. On the other hand, since a roll of the dice may put
one in the position of a {jav mIS}, he thought "mixed-up six" was a good
pun. Maybe your dice were manufactured for a game in which rolling a six
always entails a tricky choice.

In any case, Maltz thought it was funny.


Lieven L. Litaer
aka the "Klingon Teacher from Germany"

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