From: Marc Okrand
Subject: Re: wanI' to replace time related relative pronoun
Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 11:32 PM

Actually, there are several ways to ask "What time is
it?" in Klingon. Here are a couple.

In dealing with time in interplanetary communication,
Klingons have come to use the 24-hour system favored by the
Federation. There are 24 hours in a day (meaning 24 Earth
hours in an Earth day), numbered one through 24. For

tera' rep wa'
"Earth hour one" or "one o'clock"
(tera' "Earth," rep "hour," wa' "one")

tera' rep cha'maH
"Earth hour 20" or "20 o'clock" or "eight o'clock p.m."
(cha'maH "20")

tera' rep loS wejmaH
"Earth hour 4:30"
(loS "four," wejmaH "30")

If the context is clear, the word tera' "Earth" may be
left out:

rep cha'maH "20 o'clock, eight o'clock p.m."

When working within this system, one doesn't inquire as to
the time; one demands that the number of the current hour
be specified. Thus, the equivalent expression to "What
time is it?" is a command:

rep yIper! "Ascertain the hour! Specify the hour!"

This is literally "Label the hour!" (rep "hour"; yIper
"label !," consisting of the imperative prefix yI-
plus per "label"). Though the verb per "label" is
usually used in the sense of "attach or assign a name to,"
it can also be used for such notions as "ascertain,
specify, pin down." This is not considered slang or

When giving the time using this system, hours are numbered,
not counted. That is, one says rep cha' "hour two, hour
number two, two o'clock," not cha' rep or cha' repmey
"two hours" (rep "hour," repmey "hours"; a plural
suffix, here -mey, is not needed when a number modifies a
noun, but it is sometimes used anyway). Accordingly, it is
not customary to ask for the time by saying rep tItogh or
repmey tItogh "Count the hours!" (tItogh "count them!"
made up of tI-, the imperative prefix used for plural
objects, plus togh "count").

In nonmilitary contexts (as rare as these
may be) and in situations where interplanetary
communication is not a concern, the most common way of
asking "What time is it?" in Klingon is quite different.
It is based on the way the question was asked long ago, in
a time before Klingons traveled around the galaxy and
before there was any significant amount of interaction
between Klingons and residents of other planets:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

This is literally "How many times has (someone) heard
(it)?" or "How many times has it been heard?" ('arlogh
"how many times?" a word that functions adverbially, made
up of the question word 'ar "how much? how many?" and the
special number suffix -logh "times" ;
Qoylu'pu' "someone has heard (it)," made up of Qoy
"hear," -lu' "indefinite subject," -pu' "perfective,"
that is, the action has been completed).

What is not clear from this locution is what it is that has
supposedly been heard. In modern Klingon, the "what" in
this phrase is never expressed.

It appears as though, long ago, at least some Klingons were
notified of the time by some audible signal (though what
means were used to calculate the time in the first place
remain to be discovered). Perhaps this signal was a
specific sound (a person shouting? a beat on a drum? a
gong? the growl of an animal?) and that word was originally
part of the expression, for example, 'arlogh bey
Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard the howl? How
many times has the howl been heard?" (bey "wail, howl").
Or maybe the expression contained a more general word such
as ghum "alarm" or wab "sound, noise": 'arlogh wab
Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard the sound?
How many times has the sound been heard?"

It has also been speculated that there was once a bit more
to this expression, namely an element stating the time
period the questioner was concerned about. For example,
maybe people said:

DaHjaj 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

That is, "Today, how many times has someone heard it?"
(DaHjaj "today"), suggesting that the questioner is
concerned about how much time has gone by "today" (as
opposed to, say, "this week").

Or maybe the fuller expression was a little less specific:

qen 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

"Recently, how many times has someone heard it?" (qen
"recently, a short time ago").

Regardless of its original full form, the expression comes
down to us now as simply 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?. The phrase
is considered an idiom because what it means ("What time is
it?") cannot be understood on the basis of the meanings of
its components ("How many times has someone heard it?").

The answer to the question 'arlogh "How many times?" is,
as might be expected, X-logh, where X is some number.
For example:

cha'logh Qoylu'pu'.

This is literally "Someone has heard it twice" or "It has
been heard twice" (cha'logh "twice," from cha' "two"
plus -logh "times"). This is the Klingon equivalent to
"It's two o'clock." Originally, this was a statement of
time in the traditional Klingon system, but it is now also
used for the 24-hour system.

The idiomatic 'arlogh Qoylu'pu' also shows up in such
questions as "What time do we leave?":

mamejDI' 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

This is literally "When we leave, how many times
will someone have heard (it)?" or "When we leave,
how many times will it have been heard?" (mamejDI'
"when we leave," made up of ma- "we," mej "leave,
depart," -DI' "when").

An answer might be "We (will) leave at eight o'clock:

mamejDI' chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'

Literally, "When we leave, someone will have heard
(it) eight times" (chorghlogh "eight times," from
chorgh "eight" plus -logh "times").

Since subordinate clauses such as mamejDI' "when we
leave" can come before or after the main clause, it's also
possible to say:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
chorghlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'.

Literally, "How many times will someone have heard (it)
when we leave? Someone will have heard (it) eight
times when we leave."

In actual conversation, of course, it's usually not so
repetitive. You'd probably hear:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'.

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave?
Someone will have heard (it) eight times."

Or even:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave?
Eight times."