A Note on Proverbs

HolQeD article of vol. 5 issue 1, March 1996, page 10

Written by Marc Okrand; Originally published in HolQeD, the quarterly journal of the Klingon Language Institute, Flourtown, PA, ISSN 1061-2327.


Discussing vocabulary about proverbs


It has long been known that proverbs play a significant role in Klingon culture. They are cited not only to impart the wisdom of Klingon society, but their correct usage – at least in the case of so-called "replacement proverbs" – is sometimes the only way to regain honor following an unfortunate situation.

Given the importance of proverbs, then, it is odd that the Klingon vocabulary associated with them has been little discussed.

The usual term for "proverb" is vIttlhegh, literally "truth rope" and formed, no doubt, by analogy with mu'tlhegh "sentence" or, "literally, "word rope."

Two types of proverbs have special names. A "secrecy proverb" – that is, a proverb about secrecy – is generally called peghmey vIttlhegh "secret's proverb" or "proverb of secrets." Infrequently the singular pegh "secret" (rather than the plural peghmey) is heard, shortening the construction to pegh vIttlhegh. Since pegh is also a verb (meaning "keep something secret"), pegh vIttlhegh can also be interpreted as a sentence meaning something like "a proverb keeps things secret," that is, it withholds information rather than being a ready source of answers. To some Klingons, this is a most insightful coincidence.

The Klingon term for a "replacement proverb" is qa'meH vIttlhegh. This is the only way to say "replacement proverb" currently, but in the past, the common term was the lengthier quvqa'meH vIttlhegh, literally, "proverb for (the purpose of) being honored again." The word qa'meH, clearly a shortened form of quvqa'meH, was originally used only in the construction of qa'meH vIttlhegh, but, though historically two verb suffixes, it has become accepted as a noun in its own right, meaning "replacement" in the sense of something that takes over for or is used instead of something that is gone or that has been lost. It is not used for a temporary substitute or a stand-in; the word for that is lIw.

Page 20 of this issue contains a list of 34 new words. Some of them were entirely new, some were combintions of existing words. Most of these words were later included in the word list of Klingon for the Galactic Traveler.

qurgh beans
vIno'va' qurgh finova beans
Duran lung Dir durani lizard skins
[wip - add list of words]

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