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The Story behind the word for "armpit."
has an interesting history, which can serve as a cautionary tale. Perhaps it is best to begin this tale in the middle.
Once upon a time, specifically 5 July 1996
sent a letter to the mailing list
in which he mentioned that Okrand
had added, about a year previously, the word 'I'
to mean "armpit"
. This was immediately jumped upon by Voragh
, who was flabbergasted that he could have missed a new word, and also by Seqram
, who was quite sure it was not really a word (ref. his letter). And yet, peHruS
was still quite sure, even though nobody else could confirm the source. And in fact, several other readers seemed to remember hearing the new definition before, from "somewhere." ghunchu'wI'
eventually tracked it down
. It turns out that I, Seqram
, the very one who had been disputing the existence of the word, had invented it. A year previously, in July 1995
, I sent a message to the discussion group decrying the use of words invented by individuals and not Marc Okrand. And I used 'I'
as a hypothetical example, postulating a newcomer flipping through all the word-lists available and still being unable to discover that it meant "armpit". And so peHruS
had remembered it, but remembered it as a canon
word, and it was also thus in everyone else's brains too and so seemed familiar.
The story does not end there. This all took place fairly shortly before the third qep'a'
. At the qep'a' there was some discussion of the recent conversation, and during the course of pegh mu'
, our ever-popular qep'a'
pastime of Klingon Password, the word noSvagh (deodorant)
came up. And the entire audience sighed and laughed, realizing that 'I'
(which was not yet a word) would be the perfect clue to pass, but was illegal since it wasn't a word. And I, the contestant who had to pass the word, felt much the same. Later during the qep'a'
, after the arrival of Dr. Okrand, we told him the story, about the confusion over its status, and about the joke fate had played by having noSvagh show up in the game. And so he said, "well, you know what the Klingon word for armpit really is? 'I'." And so life imitates art.
reported by Mark Shoulson
Comment by SuStel
I usually add my two cents here, because I was paying close attention to these event, and made sure to remember it clearly. During the qep'a', at a moment when everyone was (more or less) gathered around Marc Okrand, Mark Shoulson started relating to him the story of how peHruS seemed to remember that 'I' meant armpit, but he wasn't sure of the source. I was pretty sure, by watching Marc's facial expressions, that he was trying to follow, but he seemed to be missing some vital piece of information. (If you've ever listened to Mark Shoulson tell an anecdote -- and if you've ever met Mark Shoulson, you've heard him tell at least one anecdote -- you will understand how Marc Okrand may have felt at this point.)
When the story was over, and everyone had a laugh at the idea of someone remembering (as real) an unreal word used to illustrate a point about not making up our own words, Marc finally asked, "How do you say armpit?" He looked like he genuinely wanted to know (he had memorized very little of the vocabulary at this time). Everyone turned to him and demanded, "Yeah! How do you say armpit?"
Marc caught on with this question, and tossed off the perfect answer like it was the most obvious thing in the world: "'I'!"
Just a note on a note... I can confirm that indeed, Marc's reaction was as reported by SuStel. Makes it all worthwhile.