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Learn Klingon in 6 Steps

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Ha! So you think you have the fortitude to learn Klingon? Yes, yes, go on with your "clever" jokes about "geeks" "wasting time" in their "parents' basements" or whatever the weak and insecure do when they realize they do not have what it takes to master the language of Wil'yam Shex'pir. Do you know what the very first lines of the very first Star Trek movie were? It was back in 1979 and some of you may not have been born yet, so I will tell you. They were "wIy cha'! HaSta! cha yIghuS!" The subtitles read "Tactical…Visual…Tactical, stand by on torpedoes!" but much was lost in the translation.

They may have left us out of the last movie, but this week, the Klingons are back and more fearsome than ever. You can do the feeble, dishonorable thing and read the subtitles when we speak, or you can do the honorable thing and learn Klingon before you see the movie.

1. Pronunciation

This is the word for "no": ghobe'. Try it.

No, no, further back in the throat. The 'gh' should be almost like a gargle. And what is this "beeehhh"? Are you a sheep? The word ends with a glottal stop. The mark is there for a reason. Close the back of throat abruptly as soon as the vowel escapes --be'! Cut it off like a guillotine!

2. Pronunciation, part II

Shall we try "yes" instead? You people always want to be so positive for some reason. Ok, HIja'.
Again, you have a throat—use it! Don't let so much air through with that "H." Close the opening; make it noisy like the end of "yechhh!" That "I" is just like the vowel in "big," no need to get fancy, but, hey! Again, there's a glottal stop at the end. Don’t forget to cut it off!

3. Greetings

Greetings? What do you think this is, French class? We don't do greetings in Klingon. If you feel the urge to say hello to someone, say nuqneH. It means, "what do you want?"

4. Vocabulary

vaQ, to be aggressive; may'morgh, battle array; batlh, honor; 'uH, to have a hangover. That should cover most situations. If you need more look it up yourself! We have taken over the translator at Bing.

5. Sentence structure

Hab SoSlI' Quch. This is a terrible insult meaning "your mother has a smooth forehead." Use with extreme caution. Word for word it translates as "smooth mother-your forehead." Possession, like most grammatical functions in Klingon, is indicated by a suffix (here lI'). Hab is a verb, "to be smooth." The subject comes after the verb in Klingon.

6. Word structure

You could waste a lot of time going over each grammatical affix individually, but if you have what it takes, you can learn almost all of them through a single sentence. Many years ago the Klingon Language Institute held a contest to see who could construct the longest three-word sentence in Klingon, and this was the winner:

nobwI''a'pu'qoqvam'e' nuHegh'eghrupqa'moHlaHbe'law'lI'neS SeH'eghtaHghach'a'na'chajmo'.

"The so-called great benefactors are seemingly unable to cause us to prepare to resume honorable suicide (in progress) due to their definite great self-control."

The root words are nob (give), Hegh (kill), and SeH (control). The rest of it is prefixes and suffixes that add additional information: -wI' (-er), -'a' (augmentative), -pu' (plural), -qoq (so-called), -vam (these), -'e' (topic), nu- (third person plural subject, first person plural object), -'egh (self), -rup (ready), -qa' (resume), -moH (cause), -laH (can), -be' (not), -law' (apparently), -lI' (in progress), -neS (honorific), -taH (continue), -ghach (nominalizer), -na' (definite), chaj (their), -mo' (due to).

So, do you have what it takes? I didn't think so. Back to your subtitles then. Watch this until you've got it down.

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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