[lg policy] Philadelphia: Speakers of Klingon gather in Essington

Christina Paulston paulston at PITT.EDU
Sat Jul 24 18:59:19 UTC 2010

If I had to explain American culture to a foreigner, I'd use the  
Klingon conference as an archetype or whatever Jung called them.  
Suspended disbelief may be coined by an Englishman  but on second  
thought, those guys don't suspend, they do disbelief. Christina

On Jul 24, 2010, at 1:13 PM, Harold Schiffman wrote:

> Speakers of Klingon gather in Essington
> By John Timpane
> Inquirer Staff Writer
> "Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons." - Mr. Spock,
> preventing Capt. James T. Kirk from hugging him, in "Star Trek V: The
> Final Frontier"
> Why would somebody attend a Klingon conference? Specifically, the 17th
> annual Klingon Language Institute conference (qep'a' wa'maH SochDich
> in Klingon)?
> There are no real Klingons, of course. They are a fictional empire of
> warrior aliens in Star Trek. But there is a real Klingon language,
> tlhIngan Hol. It sounds like a recording played backward of a German
> shepherd gargling yogurt. People study it, speak it, and gather each
> year at the lush and verdant Comfort Inn in Essington to trade
> stories, talk tlhIngan Hol, and -
> Wait a minute. Why?
> "I like the way the language makes me think," says Alan Anderson, 48,
> of Kokomo, Ind. "We play in the culture." Mark Shoulson, 42, of
> Lawrenceville, N.J., is assistant director, or boQ Du', of the KLI.
> "One of the attractions," he says, "is to be with all these great
> people and watch the entire room literally collapse on the floor with
> laughter from time to time." Esther, his 12-year-old daughter, says,
> "The main reason I come is that there's a roomful of me. And I need
> that in my life."
> Make way for Klingons
> "I came to it through being a Star Trek fan," says Chris Lipscombe,
> 32, of Cincinnati. "Then someone gave me a copy of Conversational
> Klingon, and it changed my life."
> Tad Stauffer, 30, of Havertown, who designed this year's T-shirts,
> says, "I started out as a Star Trek fan, but then I got hooked on the
> language itself." Elizabeth Lawrence, 22, of Caroga Lake, N.Y., says,
> "I never met anyone with a brain like mine before." Last year after
> several attempts, she passed the beginner-level tlhIngan Hol test,
> administered at the qep'a'. All of a sudden, she bursts into a
> najmoHwI', or lullabye, she wrote herself, in tlhIngan Hol ("Sleep,
> little warrior, / Hear that we sing / This battle song is all about
> you . . .").
> The KLI qep'a', which began in 1993, has been meeting for the last
> five years at the Comfort Inn. The head guy, or vavoy, Lawrence
> Schoen, 50, says, "Why? I live in Blue Bell, and it's cheap and
> convenient." It was Schoen who first thought of bringing together the
> world's widely scattered tlhIngan Hol speakers. They may be modest in
> number, but they're everywhere. "There's a global speakers' map," says
> Lawrence, "and we have tlhIngan Hol speakers on every continent -
> including Antarctica."
> Speaking Klingon in Antarctica - there's a concept.
> This group gets together to twist tongues, brains, and funnybones, and
> the profound, silly, cerebral jokes flash like a bat'leth in the hands
> of a jagh. This year, it's a frighteningly brilliant, doughty,
> eccentric band of around 15, but some years it has swollen to a mighty
> 40-plus. Some, in the past, "take the vow" and speak no English all
> weekend. Mostly, they speak whatever they wish, with a lot of tlhIngan
> Hol thrown in. Meetings are eventful. Each attendee must undergo two
> challenges, devised by Schoen. The first is a phrase on which the
> attendee must give an extemporaneous speech or performance in tlhIngan
> Hol. For example: tlhepQe' jeQ ("self-confident saliva"), or the
> ever-popular not tlhIjmo' quy' Ip ("because vomit never apologizes").
> Should the attendee survive, then comes the qad Hom cha', or "major
> challenge" - a whole sentence, such as ghangh tennuSlI' Dap ("Your
> uncle's nonsense ended prematurely").  There are games of skill, when
> the attendees split into qughwI ("Jets") and norgh ("Sharks") to play
> Klingon Pictionary. On Saturday is the "cabaret," where people
> perform. Two attendees once did Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First"
> in tlhIngan Hol.
> Where Klingon comes from
> The high point is when Marc Okrand makes his annual appearance, which
> he'll do Saturday. Okrand invented Klingon. Again: Why?
> In the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, actor James Doohan,
> who played engineer Scotty, says a few guttural words in the Klingon
> tongue. The problem was that no such tongue existed. So, for the 1984
> Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the call went out to Okrand, an
> accomplished linguist, and he constructed an entire language - sounds,
> vocabulary, and grammar. He sketched out a tantalizing bit of Klingon
> culture, too (since all languages bring culture with them), for folks
> to flesh out.
> As languages go, this is a doozy. It's one long linguistic joke,
> incorporating sounds alien to English (that tlh in tlhIngan Hol is
> sounded by coughing lightly while pressing the tongue to the roof of
> the mouth . . . good luck!), and lots of the most outlandish
> structures found in some odd Earthling languages.
> Asked by e-mail why he returns each year, Okrand says the folks at the
> qep'a' are much more fluent than he is. It's "the satisfaction of
> seeing something that I developed take on a life of its own and thrive
> without me - sort of the feeling that a proud parent has . . . when
> the child can do something even better than the parent can." But the
> main reason "is that the qep'a' is fun. The people attending are
> creative, interesting, funny, and just plain smart."
> Which they truly are. Each year, they beseech Okrand for additions to
> the tlhIngan Hol dictionary. Last year, they begged him for a word for
> pudding. It came out as wIlpuq, pronounced pretty close to "will
> puke."
> Which suggests another feature of tlhIngan Hol: the jokes hiding in
> the words themselves. When beseeched for words for human toes, Okrand
> said the big toe is mar, the second Hom, the middle roS, the fourth
> nan, and the pinkie toe Qay'. As in "This little piggy went to market,
> this little piggy stayed home," etc. Okrand said nothing and just let
> them get it.
> Folks have taken this passion in astonishing directions. "I and a lot
> of people are interested in fleshing out the vestigial Klingon
> culture," says Lipscombe. "All we see on the show are warriors, but
> there must be Klingon farmers, accountants, Klingon shipbuilders. I've
> heard from people who are students of Klingon religion. One guy is
> designing alcoholic drinks."
> Shoulson: "I am heartened by this news."
> Vavoy Schoen says, "The stealth purpose behind the entire qep'a' is
> really the motto of the Klingon Language Institute: qo'mey poSmoH
> Hol," or "Language opens worlds."
> "It's a culture of suspended disbelief," Lawrence says. "That's what  
> we do."
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Everyday Klingon
> nuqneH Hello (literally, "What do you want?").
> majQa'! Well done!
> Qapla' Success! (As in "good luck," "take it easy.")
> Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam Today is a good day to die.
> tera'nganbej neH jIH 'ach 'e' vIQIjlaH I'm really only an Earthling,
> but that's a long story.
> QuchwIj yIyach Fondle my forehead!
> maj chongqu' tI nguv bey'vetlh Oh, that flower arrangement is so  
> fabulous!
> Hijol Beam me aboard.
> nuqDaq yuch Dapol Where do you keep the chocolate?
> SOURCES: Klingon Language Institute; Sonja's Linguistic Surrealscape
> http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/99160719.html?viewAll=y
> -- 
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