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ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

How to Quit Your Job in Klingon … The Right Way

ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

David Waddell, a city councilman in Indian Trail, North Carolina, decided to end the year with dramatic flair by quitting his job and submitting his resignation in Klingon. The story went viral, and while the mayor, Michael Alvarez, was none too pleased with Waddell’s stunt, saying it was “an embarrassment for Indian Trail, and it’s an embarrassment for North Carolina,” most of the reaction from commenters on social media was some variation on “Ha! Awesome!” The combination of take-this-job-and-shove-it irreverence, only-in-America local politics, and hardcore geek pop culture was a hit.

But like Indian Trail's mayor, Klingon speakers weren’t exactly thrilled. You see, Waddell’s letter wasn’t even written in Klingon. Not good Klingon anyway. Sure, it was written in pIqaD—the pointy, angular Klingon script—and it strung some Klingon words together, but there was no regard for grammar! No true translation!

Take the first sentence, which he translates as “Teach (the) city (the) constitution.” What it actually says is “city teacher ‘chonshtitution’.” There’s no verb! No attempt to translate “constitution”! It’s as if he translated “Give the doctor the scalpel” into Spanish as “Benefactor doctor scalpelo.” Such is the danger of pure dictionary translation, or in this case, relying solely on the Bing.com automatic Klingon translation tool. You still gotta know what you’re doing. Apparently, Waddell doesn’t. If he wants to ride this stunt into the senate (his plan is to pursue a write-in bid for Kay Hagan’s seat), he’s going to have to do more to prove himself to his Klingon-speaking constituency. Granted, it’s a small constituency, but they care a lot about honor. And they’re prone to violence.

If you want to quit your job in Klingon, here are a few suggestions for going about it the proper and honorable way:

1. You could submit the valid re-translation of Waddell’s letter provided by James William McCleary, a commenter on the original Charlotte Observer article, which begins “vengvaD paQDI'norgh tay yIghojmoH!” (Teach civilized teachings to the city!)

2. You could hurl insults like “Hab SoSlI' Quch (Your mother has a smooth forehead!) or “petaQ!” (a strong epithet of uncertain meaning.)

3. You could propose Hay'chu'—duel to the death—with your boss.

Whatever you do, do it grammatically correctly, and with honor. And choose your next job wisely. Remember: bIQongtaHvIS nItlhejchugh targhmey bIvemDI' nItlhej ghIlab ghewmey—If you sleep with targs, you'll wake up with glob flies.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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iStock

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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