tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Apr 02 13:08:50 2002

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Re: of a certain age

Sean M. Burke wrote:
>As I catching up on list mail, I see that there was some discussion a few 
>days ago that involved how one should express the idea of being X years 
>(etc) old, including whether {ben} ("ago") could be used for this.  So, 
>was the question of how to say "be X years old" ever settled?

Okrand posted this on startrek.klingon when someone asked that very question:

    The word {ben} can be used to mean "years old," but in Klingon, one doesn't
    say "I am X years old." The phrase {loSmaH ben jIH}, if anything, would 
    "40-year-old me" or the like. It would parallel {cha'vatlh ben HIq} 
"Two Century
    Old Wine." "I am 40 years old" would be expressed as: {loSmaH ben 
    This is "I was born 40 years ago." As is normal in Klingon sentences, 
the time
    element (in this case, {loSmaH ben} "40 years ago") comes first.

>Or something more periphrastic:
>   {'ar DIS ghaj taj?}  {cha' DIS ghaj.}
>   ("How many years does the knife have?" "It has two years.")
>or even
>   {'ar DIS tebpu' taj?} {cha' DIS tebpu'.}
>   ("How many years has the knife filled/completed?" "It has 
> filled/completed two years.")

Using Okrand's post as a model, we can substitute {chenmoH} "build, form, 
make, create" or some other verb for {bogh}:

   cha' ben tajvam vIchenmoHta'.
   I made this knife two years ago.

   cha' ben tajvam vIje'pu'.
   I bought this knife two years ago.

   cha' ben tajvam chenmoHlu'pu'.
   This knife was made/created two years ago.

We have a similar usage for this last, minus the time element, in SkyBox S8:

   yIntaHvIS qeylIS'e' lIjlaHbe'bogh vay' batlh 'etlhvam chenmoHlu'pu'
   this sword of honor descends from the time of Kahless the Unforgettable
   ("this sword of honor was created while Kahless the Unforgettable still 

>Or one could use a verb referring to the continued existence, maybe even 
>something generic like {taH}:
>   {'ar poH taHpu' targhHomlij?}  {loS Hogh taHpu'!}
>   ("How long has your targlet survived/lived?" "She has survived four 
> weeks.")

I'll let the BG explain the proper use of {'ar} and {poH}, but the use of 
the perfect implies - to me at least - that the act of surviving/living has 
been completed; i.e. the targ is no longer alive.  In other words: "How 
long did your targ survive?"  If the targ is still alive, the action of the 
verb {taH} or {yIn} has not yet been completed and you cannot use the perfect.

This reminds me of an interesting custom the ancient Romans had when they 
executed traitors or other prominent criminals.  Apparently it was a 
religious taboo to say outright that the prisoner was dead or had been 
killed.  Rather, they announced that the prisoner "has lived" (vixit), 
using the perfect tense to imply that s/he lives no more.  I'm sure 
Klingons would probably appreciate this euphemism.

Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

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