tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Mar 25 09:17:30 2002

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: KLBC: {-be'}

SuStel's point is both true and well stated. We do need to find a balance point 
between the extremes of banning everything that isn't explicitly canon vs. 
allowing everything that isn't explicitly banned by canon. He's also right that 
the only tool we have to deal with this balance is our collective, informed 

I'd like to add that as a style point, if you find yourself as a beginner 
tempted to use multiple {-be'} on a word or multiple {'e'} in a sentence, 
instead of merely asking the question, "Is this against the rules?" and then 
watching the flame war between those who think we need an explicit ban before 
anything breaks the rules and those who think nothing goes without explicit 
canon, why don't you ask a far more appropriate question:

"Since what I'm tempted to say in Klingon seems to be pushing the boundary of 
what may or may not be grammatically correct Klingon, and since I'm not really 
all that good with the Klingon language yet, is it possible that I'm just so 
overly attached to a specific idea of how to translate this that I'm not seeing 
a simpler way to do it that doesn't stretch the rules?"

I honestly believe that the difference between translating something into the 
Klingon language vs. attempting to encode an English sentence into what is 
mistakenly interpreted as the Klingon encoding rule system, is that translators 
will recast an idea using whatever Klingon grammar is best suited to the idea 
being translated, while encoders just try to force English sentences through 
the algorithm they interpret Klingon grammar to be. You don't just take your 
English words and shove each one of them through a Klingon encoding set of 
rules and result in a Klingon sentence. You have to start with the idea that 
eventually became your English sentence and then try to think about how a 
Klingon would express that idea.

As one good example, for months on this list, we argued about how to 
ask, "Which weapon do you want?" People fixated on the word "which" and decided 
that in English, you could also say, "What weapon do you want" and they'd 
proceed to generate the gibberish {nuq nuH DaneH?} If that means anything in 
Klingon, it means "What possessor of a weapon do you want?" Still, Okrand had 
never explicitly said that you can't use {nuq} like that, even though he had 
never suggested that you could. It didn't grammatically make sense, since {nuq} 
is a noun representing the answer to its question, while the question 
word "which" describes or identifies a noun without directly representing it.

Instead of coming up with a word that can mean the question word "which", the 
solution was to rethink the idea behind the question. When you ask someone 
which weapon they want, what you are REALLY doing is telling them to choose a 
weapon. That is easy to say in Klingon. {nuH yIwIv!}

So, if you want to say, "I don't agree with you," and you look up "agree" and 
see that it means {Qochbe'}, don't leap at the opportunity to say, 
{jIQochbe'be'}. Realize that "disagree" is {Qoch} and don't try to put too much 
significance on some vague, wittering difference in meaning 
between "disagreeing" and "not agreeing" and just use {Qoch}. You will then 
find that Klingons spend a lot less time slapping you around when you try to 
speak their language plainly instead of peppering it with lots of sophmoric {-
be'be'} and {'e' 'e'} and the like. While the speaker often thinks himself to 
be clever for coming up with this sort of thing, more typically, he's showing 
his ignorance.

There may be times when {-be'be'} or {X 'e' Y 'e' Z} are useful, but those 
times will be extremely rare, and as a beginner, you should be more involved in 
trying to figure out how to say things that are far simpler and more 
commonplace. It is better to say simple things clearly than to constantly 
struggle with complex things, saying them poorly and never learning how to 
speak the language simply and effectively.

If you stick around this list for years, you'll eventually notice that one of 
the natural divisions between affinity groups is that between those who 
sometimes write us about their vacations or some other event in their lives, or 
write stories and generally prove how well they can express themselves, vs. 
those who repeatedly challenge the group with a single sentence or phrase or 
even a word, daring us to explain why that won't work, though these people 
never progress to being conversational in the language. The first group spends 
most of their time writing short, clear, simple sentences with rare leaps to 
specially crafted words or grammatical constructions. 

The second group never writes anything simple because they think it beneath 
them to do so. Simple sentences are too boring for them to practice and learn 
from... and so they never learn how to write or speak them. They assume they 
can do that without practice... but they never get around to picking up those 
simple, important skills. They just hang around here for years, writing in 
English and positing their most recent theory about what is allowed and what 

Which group to you wish to join?


> From: "Rohan Fenwick" <>
> > jatlh DloraH:
> >
> > >HIja'.  Yes.
> > >MO has not used this yet, but he has not told us we couldn't.
> >
> > <<'e'>>mey law' rur'a'?
> >
> > Like nested <<'e'>>? :)
> Yeah.  We have to walk a fine line when studying Klingon.  On the one hand,
> there's the temptation to say, "Anything that Marc Okrand doesn't say we
> can't do, is allowed!"  That way chaos lies.  There comes a point where we
> need SOME concensus on what works and what doesn't.  On the other hand, you
> might be tempted to say, "You can ONLY do what Marc Okrand has explained or
> done."  But there's so much that hasn't been explained or exemplified that
> we'd hardly be able to say anything.
> When asking questions like, "Can I use multiple /-be'/ in a single word?"
> don't expect an absolute answer one way or the other.  It's not a "yes,"
> it's not a "no," it's a "we don't know for sure, but here's what careful
> study and extrapolation lead us to believe."  If you get an absolute answer
> anyway, ask for the reason: someone might be giving you their opinion, not
> an established fact.  Just be clear on what's what.
> SuStel
> Stardate 2226.2

Back to archive top level