tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Sep 11 08:07:37 2009

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RE: Klingon in "Don't copy that 2"

Steven Boozer (

>> 1. It's interesting that Okrand did not use {chenqa'moH} "make
>> again" - *{De' Dachenqa'moHchugh} - which he has before:

>Even stranger is that he didn't use {qon}. I'd think of it as more
>appropriate, since "make" is one of those overused English words, like
>"go" and "have" that stand in for more specific words when we're too
>lazy to think of the better verb.

My take is that {qon} refers to recording things for the first time or composing original ideas, and not the "physical activity of writing" (i.e. {ghItlh} "write").  What Okrand hasn't discussed before now is how to refer to copying or reproducing something already successfully "recorded" in whatever medium.  Do you "re-record" *{qonqa'} it?  "Re-write" *{ghItlhqa'} it?  Now we know that apparently you say "create an identical X" {X nIb chenmoH}.

Here's what Okrand has said about {qon}:

HQ 2.4:  Actually, this is the word translated in TKD as the verb "record", meaning to make a record of something (whether this record be written or a digital recording or an old-fashioned wax cylinder or anything). Apparently Klingon songs are not composed by anybody--they're just out there, waiting to be hunted down, trapped, and logged (that is, written down and/or taught to others.) 

TKW 179:  It does not matter whether this recording is visual, digital, scratches in stone, or marks on paper. 

KGT 71:  The word used for "compose" is {qon}. This verb also means "record" and is used whether the recording is by hand (that is, written or even etched in stone), in a medium suitable for a computer, or any other form. From the Klingon point of view, a song is not the product of an individual's mind. It has somehow always existed and is waiting for someone (the songwriter or, more accurately, song recorder, {qonwI'}) to transcribe it ({qon}) and then present it ({much}) to others.

st.k (7/09/1998):  The verb for "write" in the sense of "compose" is {qon}, literally "record." This is used for songs and also for literary works (poems, plays, romance novels, and so on). As has been pointed out, it's as if the song or story is somehow out there and the "writer" comes into contact with it, extracts it (to use Qov's nice phrase), and records it. The verb usually translated "write," {ghItlh}, refers to the physical activity of writing (moving the pencil around, chiseling, etc.) 
   The question is, if you can {ghItlh} it, must you also {qon} it? That is, is everything that is written down the result of composition (in the sense described above)?
   The answer is "not necessarily." There's another verb, {gher}, which doesn't have a straightforward equivalent in English, but which has sometimes been translated (not entirely satisfactorily) as "formulate" or "compile" or "pull together." The idea seems to be that of bringing thoughts together into some kind of reasonably coherent form so that they can be conveyed to someone else.
   Thus, one would usually say {naD tetlh gher} "he/she compiles the Commendation List" or "he/she writes the Commendation List". (Maltz laughed at, but accepted, {Soj tetlh gher} for "he/she writes the grocery list".) One would probably {gher}, rather than {qon}, a suggested list of readings, a gazetteer, a simple menu, or the instructions for assembling a toy (assuming the latter is not really an exercise in creative writing). 
   One might also say {QIn gher} "he/she formulates a message" or, more colloquially, "he/she writes a message". But now it begins to get tricky. Using {gher} here implies that the writer of the message was passing along some information he or she got elsewhere, such as scribbling down a telephone message. Saying {QIn qon} "he/she composes a message" or "he/she writes a message" (literally "he/she records a message") suggests that the writer is presenting some new information as opposed to merely passing something along. It may also imply that the written message has some sort of literary merit, and thus be a compliment. 
   But not always. {HIDjolev qon} "he/she composes the menu" suggests that the speaker thinks the list of available fare is written with a certain literary flair. This is not likely to be said of menus in Klingon restaurants (whose menus, if posted at all, tend to be rather pithy), and thus could easily be taken as an insult. 
   Similarly, something like {bom gher} "he/she formulates the song" would be taken as a disparaging comment about the song or its composer (and is, in fact, sometimes heard when the song in question is of non-Klingon origin). 

>I'd personally be happier if the root {chen} were used more instead of
>universally using it as a component of {chenmoH}, just because while
>lots of words often use {moH}, {chen} is almost exclusively used with
>it. It just don't seem riiight.

True, but {chen} has a "passive" feel to it; things just "build up, take form, take shape" on their own.  (Our only known examples of {chen} are the various arithmetical formulae (e.g. 4 + 3 = 7 {wej boq loS; chen Soch} "four allies with three; seven forms").  There's no agent involved.  For that you need to add {-moH}.

Canon Master of the Klingons

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