From: Marc Okrand
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 23:25:53 -0400
Subject: Re: The spelling of the name of a weapon and the Klingon alphbet.
The various contributors to this thread have pretty much said all there is to
say about /betleH/ and its various Federation spellings (bat'telh, bat'leth).
But I'll add a little anyway.
>From the point of view of the Klingon language, the word is /betleH/. This
is not an official "spelling" (the only official spelling would be in Klingon
characters); it's just a standardized transcription of spoken Klingon that
tells the reader how to pronounce the word (or at least gives a close
When the word was originally written down by Federation scouts (or whoever
the first Federation folks were who tried to write it down), the details of
the Klingon language were unknown and there were undoubtedly some mishearings
and/or mistranscriptions. Some early transcriber(s) apparently wrote
"bat'telh" while another (or others) wrote "bat'leth." The first may have
been a mishearing of (or been influenced by) Klingon /batlh 'etlh/, literally
"sword of honor," while the second may have been an attempt to write
/betleH/, with its decidedly non-Federation Standard final consonant.
The spelling "bat'telh" apparently got passed around a lot and became a
common way to write the word. Since almost no one in the Federation, at that
time, had heard the word spoken by a Klingon, they would have no way to know
whether "bat'telh" was the best choice. For some reason, later on, the
alternate spelling, "bat'leth," came to be used more frequently than
"bat'telh" and eventually it came to be the accepted one for use in the
As a result of the spelling "bat'leth," many non-Klingons call the weapon by
a name that resembles that spelling (they say "BAT-leth") rather than by
something closer to the actual Klingon /betleH/. This (sort of) parallels
referring to the Russian capital as Moscow in English rather than using the
Russian pronunciation "moskva." The point is that "Moscow" is an acceptable
English way to pronounce the name of the city, but it's not the Russian way.
Similarly, "bat'leth" is an acceptable Federation Standard way to pronounce
the name of the weapon, but it's not the Klingon way.
David Trimboli wrote:
>>bat'leth is the screwed up Federation way.
>Oh no, no, no. "Bat'telh" is the screwed up Federation way. The only
>"official" source I've seen spell it "bat'leth" is Marc Okrand, who
>obviously got tired of pretending that "bat'telh" came even close to
>Myself, I always use betleH.