From: Marc Okrand [email protected]
Newsgroups: startrek.expertforum
Date: Sunday, January 18, 1998 05:42 PM
Subject: Re: Problem with -meH and negative meanings

Will Martin wrote...

I have a new approach to an old nagging problem in the language. There is
a temptation to translate "I was too late to visit you," as qaSuchmeH
Meanwhile, to me, this sounds like I'm saying that I was
intentionally very late with the goal of my tardiness being that I visit

Instead, these days, I translate this sort of thing as: qaSuch vIneH
'ach jIpaSqu'.
The contrast between the conjoined sentences implied in
'ach seems to carry for me the sense that the latter fact conflicted
with the former intent.

Does this seem like an improved approach to you, or do you think there
was no problem with the first version using -meH?

I can understand why you've been feeling nagged about this. There are, I
think, a couple of issues.

First, we have to figure out what "I was too late to visit you" means. It
could mean (a) I came to visit you, but by the time I got there, you had
left or were indisposed; or (b) I didn't come to visit you because I spent a
long time, perhaps longer than expected, doing something else and by the
time I was freed up to visit you, it was too late for you or for me or for
both of us. In any event, because I arrived past some sort of cutoff point
(or because I wasn't ready to set out until that cutoff point had passed),
the visit did not take place. This cutoff point could be a specific time of
day (12 midnight, perhaps), or an event that occurs at a certain time
(visiting hours end at 6:00), or even an unscheduled event (a better offer
came along and you left before I got there).

I don't think that the first approach (qaSuchmeH jIpaSqu') conveys the
intended meaning as described above (if I'm right in my description of the
intended meaning; if I'm not, all the rest of this discussion might not be
answering the right question!). The two words in the sentence are:

qaSuchmeH "in order that I visit you" (made up of qa- "I you," Such "visit," -meH "for")

jIpaSqu' "I am very late" (made up of jI- "I," paS "be late,"
-qu' "emphatic")

Perhaps, then, a better English rendition of the Klingon sentence is "In
order for me to visit you, I'll be very late." This suggests that the
visit did or will take place (though later, perhaps, than desired), which is
not the intended meaning.

The second approach suggests using the sentence qaSuch vIneH 'ach jIpaSqu'
"I want to visit you, but I am very late," which is made up of:

qaSuch "I visit you" (qa- "I you," Such "visit")

vIneH "I want it" (vI- "I it," neH "want")

'ach "but, however"

jIpaSqu' "I am very late" (as above)

This also could mean that the visit will take place: My being late is
inconvenient, but we'll visit anyway.

In both approaches, the phrase "I was too late" (of the original sentence "I
was too late to visit you") is translated jIpaSqu'. The prefix jI-, of
course, is the "I" and there's no problem there. paSqu' (that is, paS
"be late" plus the rover -qu' "emphatic"), then, is being used for "too
late." -qu' is usually translated "very" or "extremely" or the like
(that is, paSqu' means "very late"), so if "too late" means "very late,"
all is well. But in the example sentence ("I was too late to visit you"),
the phrase "too late" doesn't mean "very late"; it means "excessively late"
or "overly late." Thus using paSqu' might not be the best course in the
first place. It doesn't get across the idea of going beyond some cutoff

I'd probably take an idiomatic approach incorporating the phrase nargh
"the opportunity escapes" (nargh "escape," 'eb "opportunity").
This goes along with other expressions such as 'eb jon "he/she captures
the opportunity" or, more colloquially "he/she seizes the opportunity"
(jon "capture").

This presents a number of options (there are certainly others):

jIpaSqu'mo' narghpu' qaSuchmeH 'eb. "Because I'm very late, the
opportunity to visit you has escaped." (-mo' "because," narghpu' "has
escaped," qaSuchmeH 'eb "opportunity for me to visit you")

qaSuch vIneH 'ach narghpu' 'eb. jIpaSqu'. "I want to visit you, but
the opportunity has escaped. I am very late."

qaSuchlaHbe'. jIpaSqu' vaj narghpu' 'eb. "I cannot visit you. I am
very late, thus the opportunity has escaped." (qaSuchlaHbe' "I cannot
visit you" , vaj "thus")

I hope this helps with the "I was too late to visit you" problem. I don't
know if it will help with the more general problem of "-meH and negative
meanings," which is the topic of the original posting.