tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun May 16 14:52:21 1999

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lIchopbe'chugh ghewmey!

One of three classic jokes from "Power Klingon":

  Qo'noSDaq paw cha' DIvI' beq.
  tlhIngan 'avwI' lughom.
  lutlhob:  <naDevvo' vaS'a'Daq majaHlaH'a'?>
  jang 'avwI':  <lIchopbe'chugh ghewmey!>
  Two Federation crewmen arrive on Kronos.
  They meet a Klingon guard.
  They ask him, "Can we get to the Great Hall from here?"
  The guard answers, "If the bugs do not bite you!" 

: Though I didn't laugh much at the first joke ...

The joke originally comes from ST6 when Kesla, the border guard at Morska
Outpost, tells Uhura, whom he mistakes for a smuggler:

  ghewmey SuqQo'!
  "Don't catch any bugs!"

Kesla and his partner then start laughing and Uhura nervously, if
uncomprehendingly, joins in.  According to the novelization, this clipped
phrase is smugglers' code meaning, "Good luck in avoiding border officials!" 
(Presumably Kesla means other border officials, since he is described in the
novel as occasionally accepting petty bribes from those smuggling merchandise
into the Empir - often bottles of exotic alien alcohol.)  The standard form of
this admonition is:

  ghewmey tISuqQo'
  Don't catch any bugs. TKW 

Okrand "explains" this as follows (TKW p.207):

  "The Klingon guard at listening post Morska found this advice funny.
  Klingon humor is difficult to understand, so there is no ready
  explanation as to why he was so amused."

Let me suggest an explanation.  I wonder whether {ghew} might not be Klingon
criminal slang for the police and/or border patrol - a "cop", the "fuzz',
If this is so, the guard {'avwI'} in the joke is telling the offworlder,
"[Yes,] If the cops don't arrest you (first)!"  This may be funny because (1)
the offworlder isn't expected to know what this means, and (2) it is in fact
coming from an {'avwI'} - which Okrand tends to treat as a police officer.  

Perhaps his thinking is that {'avwI'pu'} guard the citizenry, or the city,
as a
whole.  We know that they guard prisoners on Rura Penthe, Kesla is
described as
being one in TKW, and there was one at Kronos passport control in CK.  (At
least, I think he's identified as a guard in the English narration when the
Terran first arrives and is interrogated.)  Coincidentally, the second of the
three classic PK jokes is also about an {'avwI'}, this time escorting a

  'avwI'vaD jatlh qama':  <jIghung.>
  jang 'avwI':  <jIghung je.>
  jatlh qama':  <jI'oj.>
  jang 'avwI':  <jI'oj je.>
  jatlh qama':  <jIDoy'qu'.>
  jatlh 'avwI':  <jIDoy'be'!>

  A prisoner says to the guard, "I am hungry."
  The guard replies, "I am also hungry."
  The prisoner says, "I am thirsty."
  The guard replies, "I am also thirsty."
  The prisoner says, "I am very tired."
  The guard says, "I am NOT tired!"

In fact, "guards" appear throughout Okrand's work:

  'avwI' nejDI' narghta'bogh qama' reH 'avwI' Sambej
  When an escaped prisoner looks for a guard, he always finds one. TKW 

  pawpu' 'avwI' paghDIch
  the zeroth guard has arrived KGT

  'avwI' vaghDIch
  fifth guard. KGT 

  'avwI' Hay' yaS
  The officer duels the guard. KGT

The full form of this alleged slang term may be {ghIlab ghew} - a loud,
troublesome, annoying little insect - often just abbreviated to {ghew}.  If
this speculation is correct, then other sayings may turn out to be double
entendres, at least in certain unsavory underworld circles:

  ghIlab ghewmey tIbuSQo' 
  Pay no heed to glob flies. TKW

Ignore the police or annoying laws?

  bIQongtaHvIS nItlhejchugh targhmey bIvemDI' nItlhej ghIlab ghewmey 
  If you sleep with targs, you'll wake up with glob flies. TKW 

An admonition against associating too closely with the authorities, or those
suspected of working for them (e.g. informers)?

  ram; ghIlab ghew rur
  trivial as a glob fly  KGT

Again, the police are of no importance?

We know virtually nothing about the Klingon criminal world.  This isn't
surprising since most of our knowledge of Klingons comes from the military and
upper-class ruling circles.  Or perhaps science officer Maltz lead a very
sheltered life before being assigned to Kruge's ship.

Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

P.S.  I wonder what eventually happened to Kesla after it was discovered that
the Enterprise had slipped into Klingon space?

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