Maltz Online

Marc Okrand continues to bring
commentary and insight from his
discussions with Maltz to the internet's
bulletin boards and electronic mailing
lists. The following selections are
reprinted with his permission. -LMS

What we call "brown" would be
described in Klingon by using the
verb Doq be red, orange. If the
context is dear (such as contrasting
a brown thing with a thing that
cannot be described as Doq, such as
something that's SuD blue, green,
yellow), Doq alone is good enough.
Thus, if there are two drinking cups,
one brown and one blue, one might

HIvje' Doq vIneH
I want the Doq cup

Only the brown cup could be
described as Doq; the blue cup is
definitely not Doq since it is SuD.

On the other hand, to be more
precise when talking about the color
(when, for example, there's a brown
cup and a red cup), Klingons would
typically use the phrase:

Doq 'ej wovbe'
be orange, red and not be bright

To get even more specific (to be able
to refer to different kinds of browns)
would involve comparisons. For

Doq 'ej Qaj wuS rur
be orange, red and
resemble kradge lips

The lips of the kradge are
presumably a particular shade of


In English, the preposition "in"
is sometimes locative (that is,
referring to location) in meaning
(e.g., "in the house," "on the table")
but sometimes not ("trust in God,"
"believe in magic"). In fact, in
English, "in" frequently doesn't
have a literally locative sense. We
use it all over the place: "in debt,"
"work in television," "in preparing
this report," "speaking in Klingon,"
and so on. Likewise, in addition to
the locative uses of the English
preposition "from" ("run from the
burning house," "traveled from
Paris"), there are non-locative uses
("know right from wrong," "stop me
from eating"). The story's the same
for other English prepositions (for
example, locative "on the table,"
non-locative "go on with your
story;" locative "under the table,"
non-locative "under discussion").

In Klingon, however, the noun
suffixes -Daq (the general locative)
and -vo' from express only notions
related to space ("to a place," "in a
place," "from a place," and so on).
They are thus not the same as
English prepositions, which have a
wider range of usage.


As far as I know, 'ej means
"and" in the sense of "in addition,"
"also," "as well as," and the like. It
does not have any temporal or
sequential implications, That is, it
does not (by itself) mean "and then."

For example, Klingon jISop 'ej
I eat and I drink means "I
eat and also I drink." It could refer
to events that occur in
alternating fashion (eat some, drink some, eat
some, drink some more) or,
especially in the case of some
Klingons, events that occur pretty
much simultaneously. It could also
mean "I eat and then I drink," but it
does not necessarily mean that. If
that is the intended meaning (and if
being a little vague or ambiguous or
unclear will cause misunderstanding
and hence discomfort), additional
stuff must be added or the whole
thing must be rephrased to make the
meaning explicit (such as
jItlhutlhpa' jISop before I drink, I

Similarly, the most likely
interpretation of jItlhutlh 'ej jIQong
I drink and I sleep is not that I drink
in my sleep (though it could be used
for that if I really did it), but rather
simply "I drink and also I sleep," a
listing of two things I do,
presumably (but not explicitly) not
at the same time.

Then there's qaDuQ 'ej bIregh I
stab you and you bleed. It probably
would be used when the stabbing
precedes (and is the direct cause of)
the bleeding. But it doesn't explicitly
say that; it only says "I stab you"
and it also says "you bleed." The
sequential interpretation (and/or the
cause-and-effect interpretation) is
due to the way the world works. Or
some worlds.

Since it is possible to say either
jISop, jItlhutlh I eat, I drink or jISop
'ej jItlhutlh
I eat and I drink to refer
to the same thing, it might seem as
though 'ej is optional.
Grammatically, that's fair to say. In
terms of meaning, however, when
'ej is used, it adds something; it
emphasizes or points out some sort
of connection between the two
events -- though not necessarily a
temporal one.

Finally, although I've been
referring to "events," the same holds
for states and conditions and the
like. Thus, jIghung 'ej jIQeH I'm
hungry and I'm angry could be used if
first I'm hungry and then (whether
as a result of the pangs or not) I get
angry, or if I'm hungry and angry at
the same time, or if I waver between
the two.

In short, 'ej is neutral as to time.

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, 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

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
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

Similarly, something like bom
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).


Actually, there are several words
referring to wall:

An interior wall (such as a wall
separating your living room from
your kitchen) is a tlhoy'.

An exterior wall (that is, a wall
which separates the inside of a
building from the outside) is a reD.

For the interior side of an
exterior wall, it is quite common to
use tlhoy', but the phrase pa' reD,
literally room's exterior wall (pa'
room) is also heard, referring to the
wall in a room which faces outside
(as opposed to the other walls in the
room whose other sides are still

The wall around a city is a
yergho, which is apparently derived
from yer domain, holdings, territory,
plus gho circle.

A wall which divides a territory
into parts (such as the Berlin Wall) is
also called a tlhoy', even though
neither side of it is the interior of a
structure. On occasion, for clarity,
such a wall is termed a chevwI'
separator wall (chev separate,
-wI' that which does ) or a
pIn tlhoy', literally boss wall,
presumably dating back to a time
when each subterritory had a
specific person in charge.

The phrase pa' tlhoy' room's
interior wall is also heard from time
to time, but usually only when it is
necessary to distinguish the interior
wall sense of tlhoy' from the
separator wall sense.

A tlhoy' interior wall need not be
vertical. In a multistory structure,
the stories are separated by what
Klingon architects and builders call a
tlhoy' SaS horizontal wall (tlhoy'
interior wall, SaS be horizontal). The
side of this "wall" which is the
bottom of the upper story is the rav
floor; the side which is the top of the
lower story is the rav'eq ceiling
(based on rav floor plus 'eq, an
element otherwise unknown ).

rav floor is also used for the
floor of a room on ground level (or a
basement floor, for that matter),
even though there is no
corresponding rav'eq and no tlhoy'

Similarly, though in general
rav'eq ceiling refers to the ceiling of
a room that has a room above it, it
may also be used for the ceiling of a
room on the top floor, even though
there is no corresponding rav and
no tlhoy' SaS. On occasion, though,
the ceiling of the top floor is called
pa' beb, literally room's roof (from
pa' room plus beb roof). The term
beb refers to the covering on top of
a structure.


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 example:

tera' rep wa'
Earth hour one or one o'clock

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

tera' rep loS wejmaH
Earth hour 4:30

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!
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 (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!

In nonmilitary contexts (rare as
these may be) and 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

'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

This is literally How many times
has (someone) heard (it)? or How many
times has it been heard?

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? 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? 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?

Regardless of its original full
form, the expression comes down to
us now as simply 'arlogh
. 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. 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

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?

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.

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.