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Breaking All The Rules

Book Cover
Breaking All The Rules is a romance novel by Arlene Hittle, released 19 March 2015. The book has 202 pages. In the story, there is one person who claims to speak the Klingon language fluently.

Klingon language used

There is only one Klingon phrase in the book, and it's not following any grammar nor spelling rules(1):

Van took a deep breath and bellowed in Klingon.
- "DaPuq. Yaj?"
- "I am not a child!"

With the corrected spelling Dapuq. yaj'a'?, this phrase literally means You child it. Understood? Maybe it's a misinterpretation of the verb Da behave as and the author tried to say puq DaDa You behave as a child, or the author used the prefix Da-, which is defined as "you-it" in the way of "you are it", so: "you are a child" incorrectly becomes Da-puq.

Maybe it's just a direct word-by-word translation for "behave, child. understand?"

Book Review

Reprinted with permission from the author Jen Usellis, from her Blog(2).

bubble   This is an OPINION PAGE. It may contain different points of view about different parts of Klingon. You may add useful thoughts, but please remember this is not a forum.

I devour a lot of romance novels. Most are urban/paranormal with strong female characters kicking butt and taking names against all manner of hell beast. In this case, the main male character supposedly speaks fluent Klingon. My interest was beyond piqued.

Not only am I romance novel devouring super geek, I’m a romance novel devouring super geek with a pretty singular skill set… and that skill set includes solid Klingon pronunciation as well as basic Klingon grammar skills and the knowledge to find what I need to make sentences that mostly make sense. This book was basically made for me and I was rooting for it like a lifelong Cubs fan keeps thinking “this is the year” (I’m a lifelong White Sox fan. Not sorry ’bout it. ).

So here’s the description:
Faced with compliance of a ridiculous new Arizona law, by-the-book mental health care facility administrator Allyson Cunningham must find an interpreter who speaks a made-for-TV language. Prime candidate Donovan Marshall has the language skills she so desperately needs, but shows a disturbing disregard for all rules and restrictions. While Allyson struggles to secure another perfect rating for her facility, convince Donovan to conform and control her inappropriate attraction to an employee, Donovan makes it his prime directive to persuade starchy Ally it doesn’t hurt to break a few rules.

And that’s basically the book in a nutshell. Overall, it’s a just fine, nice romance story full of all the tropes you expect from a just fine, nice romance story. 30-year-old virgin getting deflowered by a Klingon speaking super nerd. Happy ending ala Harlequin. That’s all fine but my familiarity with the language put me in an awkward position as a reader.

First, there is author’s claim that there are “thousands” of people who speak Klingon. I have yet to meet any fluent Klingon speaker who would make that claim, even to impress a girl (and I do know a few). There are barely 50 people world-wide who speak Klingon fluently. It falls more in the 30-50 range. There are certainly lots more people who, like me, can parse sentences together with a copy of the Klingon Dictionary and are armed with enough grammar knowledge to do it kind of correctly but that’s still more like hundreds, not thousands. There is no way a hospital would ever need to staff a full-time translator for Klingon. They wouldn’t even need part-time. They’d need a reliable contractor at best.

My other issue stems from the lack of Klingon in the book. The main character and three side characters are supposedly fluent in the language and yet not even the most common phrases are uttered at the convention. In somewhere near the next to last chapter, we are finally given 2 small sentences and they are a complete grammatical nightmare. The spelling is wrong (capitalization matters), the sentence structure is a mess (Klingon is object-verb-subject), and the verb is missing a prefix (denotes who is doing what to whom). Despite mentioning the Klingon Language Institute, it is clear the author chose to not consult anyone on the language.

Ms. Hittle’s decision to go it alone with Klingon caused her to miss out on expanding her main character and side characters into more fully realized people. She also missed out on the inherent comedy in the language that could have then be shared with the other characters (and the readers). Klingon is a very pun-filled language that could have made for more amusing moments. Examples include 'Iw (pronounced “ew”) which means blood and tIq (pronounced “tick” like a ‘ticker’) means heart and those barely scratch the surface.

In a brief Twitter exchange with the author, it quickly became clear that she had a meet-cute idea and ran with it...


There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a good idea but executing that idea with great research in this modern era of eBooks is key. It’s a tight-knit but open-armed community when it comes to the Klingon language. The folks who are into it really are helpful if there’s a genuine effort being made. I actually don’t doubt the author’s sincerity to want to write a good story but, sadly, Arlene Hittle’s Breaking All The Rules takes an awesome nerdy meet-cute and fails to fully realize its promise or premise.

Was I too hard on the author and should stop being such a nerd? Tell me in the comments!



1 : "Breaking All The Rules", Chapter 14, e-book Location #3025

2 : Inclusionary Geek Girl Weblog of Jen Usellis, 14 May 2015

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