At a recent contradance, my day was made when someone jokingly wondered how to say “thank you for the dance” in Klingon* – and someone else actually knew. Daniel Morse, who translates Chinese texts for a living, turns out to also be fluent in Klingon. Without batting an eyelash or pulling out a device, he explained the following.
Ma mi/t mo/ qatlho/ = Thank you for the dance
Ma = we together, Mi/t = dance, mo/= due to, or because of that, qatlho/ = I, to you, thank. Note his knowledge about grammatical structure differences between Klingon and English too.
I was pretty surprised by the idea that Klingons dance, so even though I trust my friend, I did do a bit of Internet research for confirmation and maybe a scandalous video showing their moves. Indeed, many of these same words appear when calling upon Saint Google.
Another juicy tidbit also arose: several scholars pointed out that while qatlho/ (I, to you, thank) is a Klingon word, it is not one used by Klingons. So what would Klingons say? “I’m sorry I didn’t stomp hard enough on your foot”?
Klingon in the News
You know how interesting things often occur en masse? Around the same time I was delighting in this, applied Klingon language appeared in the news. An UFO was sighted in Wales, and a magnificently nerdy government spokesperson responded.
From the BBC:
Welsh government responds in Klingon to UFO airport query
“Klingon was the chosen language for the Welsh government in its response to queries about UFO sightings at Cardiff Airport.
While English and Welsh are the usual forms of communications in the Senedd, it opted for the native tongue of the enemies of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk.
Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar had asked for details of UFOs sightings and asked if research would be funded. A Welsh government spokesman responded with: “jang vIDa je due luq.” The Welsh government statement continued: “‘ach ghotvam’e’ QI’yaH devolve qaS.” In full it said it translated as: “The minister will reply in due course. However this is a non-devolved matter.”
It is believed to be the first time the Welsh government has chosen to communicate in Klingon.
Mr Millar, shadow health minister and AM for Clwyd West, submitted three questions to economy, science and transport minister Edwina Hart about UFO reports around the airport and across the rest of Wales.
“Responding to the government’s unusual diversion into trilingualism, Mr Millar said: “I’ve always suspected that Labour ministers came from another planet. This response confirms it.””
Click here to read the full account. See, I didn’t make this up.
The crazy late night search for Klingon dancing terms gave me another moment of linguistic delight before going to bed: there is actually a site dedicated to informing people how to say the vital phrase, “My hovercraft is full of eels!” in multiple languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu.
As if this homage to the bad Hungarian phrasebook in Monty Python’s Flying Circus weren’t enough, as a bonus, the wizards at Omniglot include the phrase in several invented languages – yes, including Klingon.
Klingon: lupDujHomwIj lubuy’moH gharghmey (Click here to hear it spoken)
For those of you who may need distraction from insomnia or deadlines, or those with really cool travel plans, here’s how to say it in Quenya, the language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s high elves:
Quenya: Venenya vilyanirwanen ná quanta as angolingwi
Really, Klingon and Quenya seem no weirder than Welsh or Yiddish:
Welsh: Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod
Yiddish: מײַן פּראָם (שוועבשיף) איז פֿול מיט ווענגערס (Mayn prom (shveb-shif) iz ful mit vengers)
…I suppose they’re also no weirder than a search for how to say this phrase in the first place. Or to praise your dance partner in Klingon. Ah well. Thanks for reading.
Qapla’! (Success! Good-bye!)
* For the non-nerdly among our readers, “Klingon” refers to a fictional alien (planetary alien) people and language from TV’s Star Trek.