Newsgroup message of February 02, 1999

Subject: Re: wanI' to replace time related relative pronoun


how to tell the time


Newsgroup: Klingon Usenet Forum
Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 11:32 PM


Actually, there are several ways to ask "What time is it?" in Klingon. Here are a couple.

In dealing with time in interplanetary communication, Klingons have come to use the 24-hour system favored by the Federation. There are 24 hours in a day (meaning 24 Earth hours in an Earth day), numbered one through 24. For example:

tera' rep wa'
"Earth hour one" or "one o'clock" (tera' "Earth," rep "hour," wa' "one")

tera' rep cha'maH
"Earth hour 20" or "20 o'clock" or "eight o'clock p.m." (cha'maH "20")

tera' rep loS wejmaH
"Earth hour 4:30" (loS "four," wejmaH "30")

If the context is clear, the word tera' "Earth" may be left out:

rep cha'maH "20 o'clock, eight o'clock p.m."

When working within this system, one doesn't inquire as to the time; one demands that the number of the current hour be specified. Thus, the equivalent expression to "What time is it?" is a command:

rep yIper! "Ascertain the hour! Specify the hour!"

This is literally "Label the hour!" (rep "hour"; yIper "label [it]!," consisting of the imperative prefix yI- plus per "label"). Though the verb per "label" is usually used in the sense of "attach or assign a name to," it can also be used for such notions as "ascertain, specify, pin down." This is not considered slang or idiomatic.

When giving the time using this system, hours are numbered, not counted. That is, one says rep cha' "hour two, hour number two, two o'clock," not cha' rep or cha' repmey "two hours" (rep "hour," repmey "hours"; a plural suffix, here -mey, is not needed when a number modifies a noun, but it is sometimes used anyway). Accordingly, it is not customary to ask for the time by saying rep tItogh or repmey tItogh "Count the hours!" (tItogh "count them!" made up of tI-, the imperative prefix used for plural objects, plus togh "count").

In nonmilitary contexts (as rare as these may be) and in situations where interplanetary communication is not a concern, the most common way of asking "What time is it?" in Klingon is quite different. It is based on the way the question was asked long ago, in a time before Klingons traveled around the galaxy and before there was any significant amount of interaction between Klingons and residents of other planets:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

This is literally "How many times has (someone) heard (it)?" or "How many times has it been heard?" ('arlogh "how many times?" a word that functions adverbially, made up of the question word 'ar "how much? how many?" and the special number suffix -logh "times" [as in "six times"]; Qoylu'pu' "someone has heard (it)," made up of Qoy "hear," -lu' "indefinite subject," -pu' "perfective," that is, the action has been completed).

What is not clear from this locution is what it is that has supposedly been heard. In modern Klingon, the "what" in this phrase is never expressed.

It appears as though, long ago, at least some Klingons were notified of the time by some audible signal (though what means were used to calculate the time in the first place remain to be discovered). Perhaps this signal was a specific sound (a person shouting? a beat on a drum? a gong? the growl of an animal?) and that word was originally part of the expression, for example, 'arlogh bey Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard the howl? How many times has the howl been heard?" (bey "wail, howl"). Or maybe the expression contained a more general word such as ghum "alarm" or wab "sound, noise": 'arlogh wab Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard the sound? How many times has the sound been heard?"

It has also been speculated that there was once a bit more to this expression, namely an element stating the time period the questioner was concerned about. For example, maybe people said:

DaHjaj 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

That is, "Today, how many times has someone heard it?" (DaHjaj "today"), suggesting that the questioner is concerned about how much time has gone by "today" (as opposed to, say, "this week").

Or maybe the fuller expression was a little less specific:

qen 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

"Recently, how many times has someone heard it?" (qen "recently, a short time ago").

Regardless of its original full form, the expression comes down to us now as simply 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?. The phrase is considered an idiom because what it means ("What time is it?") cannot be understood on the basis of the meanings of its components ("How many times has someone heard it?").

The answer to the question 'arlogh "How many times?" is, as might be expected, X-logh, where X is some number.

For example:

cha'logh Qoylu'pu'.

This is literally "Someone has heard it twice" or "It has been heard twice" (cha'logh "twice," from cha' "two" plus -logh "times"). This is the Klingon equivalent to "It's two o'clock." Originally, this was a statement of time in the traditional Klingon system, but it is now also used for the 24-hour system.

The idiomatic 'arlogh Qoylu'pu' also shows up in such questions as "What time do we leave?":

mamejDI' 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?

This is literally "When we leave, how many times will someone have heard (it)?" or "When we leave, how many times will it have been heard?" (mamejDI' "when we leave," made up of ma- "we," mej "leave, depart," -DI' "when").

An answer might be "We (will) leave at eight o'clock:

mamejDI' chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'

Literally, "When we leave, someone will have heard (it) eight times" (chorghlogh "eight times," from chorgh "eight" plus -logh "times").

Since subordinate clauses such as mamejDI' "when we leave" can come before or after the main clause, it's also possible to say:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
chorghlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'.

Literally, "How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave? Someone will have heard (it) eight times when we leave."

In actual conversation, of course, it's usually not so repetitive. You'd probably hear:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'.

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave? Someone will have heard (it) eight times."

Or even:

'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave? Eight times."

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