Frasier's Klingon

On November 5, 2002, NBC
broadcast an episode of
titled "Star Mitzvah." In this
episode, Dr. Frasier Crane wants to
give a speech in Hebrew at his son's
bar mitzvah. His colleague Noel
agrees to translate the speech into
Hebrew in return for Frasier going to
a Star Trek convention and getting
an autograph of Scott Bakula. Frasier
fails (not entirely his fault). Noel is
upset, and, to get even, translates
Frasier's speech not into Hebrew, bit
into Klingon. Not knowing this,
Frasier delivers the speech, and one
of Frasier's son's friends (named
Berman, perhaps an in-joke) not
only recognizes the language as
Klingon, but is able to easily
translate it into English.

Various members of the KLI
watched the episode and came up
with a transcription of what Frasier
was saying (form various posting on
the mail list):

puqloDwI' le'qu' --
Hoch jaj choquvmoH.
lenglIj lutebjaj
lengwIjvaD bel rap Sov

A not terribly elegant but literal
translation of this is:

My very special son --
every day you honor me.
May the same pleasure,
the knowledge that you
have given to my journey
fill your journey.

Berman's rendition is:

My dearest son --
each day you redeem me.
May your journey be filled
with the same joy, wisdom,
and purpose you have given mine.

Clearly Berman is a brilliant
translator. Not only is his version far
more eloquent that the literal
translation, it includes an extra
notion, "purpose," that's not in the
Klingon at all.

Maltz was very impressed. How
did Berman come up with
"purpose"? Maltz said he is willing
to give a reward to the person who
figures this out.

Some background: In the real
world of television show production,
as opposed to the fictional world of
Frasier Crane, I was asked to provide
a Klingon translation of Frasier's
speech, and, for better or worse, I
did so. Not surprisingly, given the
expertise of the KLI membership,
the version in the mailing list
matches exactly what I wrote (with
one exception---see below)^1^.

I submitted the same thing in
three different transcriptions: (1)
"official" (e.g., lenglIj );
(2) official with hyphens, which
makes it easier to read for someone
new to the transcription system
(leng-lIj); and (3) a version which, if
read as if it were English, would
come close, as long as one followed
a pronunciation key that explained
such things as "kh" is H, how to
pronounce "gh" (gh), and so on

The producers apparently used
this third version for their printed
script, and the closed captioners
apparently used the printed script
for their captions (again, as reported
on the KLI mailing list):

Pookh lod wih le koo
Hach jahj cho-koov-moakh
Leng-lidge lou-teb
Jahj leng widge-vahd-bel rahp
shoave dah-nobe-poo-boagh

Frasier's pronunciation makes
the most sense when compared with
this English-like transcription.^1^

The main difference between
what aired and what I submitted,
however, has nothing to do with
transcription, but rather the absence
of "purpose." Somehow, somewhere
in the process, four words got
dropped. Had the four words
remained, Berman's translation
would have matched what Frasier
said, and Maltz would not have been
so awed by Berman's skill.

So now back to Maltz's
challenge: he wants someone to
give the speech "purpose," that is, to
come up with four words, even if
they're not the same ones originally
submitted, so that Berman's
translation actually works. The
words should come after Sov and
before Danobpu'bogh.

Maltz has offered his usual
reward: a vocabulary word of the
winner's choice. He is not offering
an autograph of Scott Bakula.

^1^ The closed captions, though close, do not entirely match what was
submitted. For example, "pook-load-WIH leh-KOO" became "Pookh lod wih
le koo" (for puqloDwI' le'qu' ) and "khoach jahj" became
"Hach jahj" (for Hoch jaj ). Whether these changes were made in
the closed captions alone or also in the script I don't know.