The Tale of 'I'

Mark Shoulson

A few weeks before the qep'a', Daniel Morse, a contributor to the mailing
list, happened to mention in passing that the word "'I'" was canon for
"armpit." This surprised the hell out of me; I couldn't remember ever seeing
that in any canon! He couldn't supply a source, only said "but I know it's
canon. Really." I, at least, was pretty vocal in my opposition, saying I knew
nothing about it, had never heard of it before, until it's verified I won't
accept it, etc etc. Other people were saying "Wait, that sounds familiar... I
can't place it..."

Finally, Alan Anderson ran a search on the archives of the mailing list
and found the source. Turns out, I, none other than myself, had used it in a
post once as an example of why you shouldn't make up non-canon words. I
was saying "Imagine you're a newcomer to Klingon, trying to translate a post
to this list, all fired-up with your TKD in hand... and you come across a word
that you simply can't find in any source. You flip and you flip, you go to all
recognized official sources, but how are you supposed to know that "'I'"
suddenly means "armpit?" It was trying to show that if people make up
their own words, newcomers will be left behind (at least with canon there's a
single source: Marc Okrand). Well, that must have somehow managed to get
divorced from its original meaning, as a paradigmatic NON-canon word, and
got associated as a canon word. That would also explain why it looked
familiar to people.

This was amusing enough. Then, at the qep'a', there was a game of
pegh mu' going (Password). Contestants had to say single-word (Klingon)
clues to get their partners to say the secret word. At one point, the word was
noSvagh, and the audience groaned, whispering "'I'" to one another. It was
the perfect clue, but illegal, since it wasn't a Klingon word.

But that wasn't the end of it. When Marc Okrand arrived, we told him
the tale. He said "Well, you know what the Klingon word for 'armpit' really
is? 'I'!" Later that night he used the word himself, dancing the Hokey Pokey
during the Cabaret. And that, children, is how Klingons got their 'I'Du'.