CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

Learn Klingon in 6 Steps

Getty Images
Getty Images

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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
How to Say Merry Christmas in 26 Different Languages
iStock
iStock

“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain
iStock
iStock

From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios