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The Klingon word for 'mermaid'

In an announcement of April 17, 2019 for a book signing event, it was mentioned that the author Wulf Moon had written a Star Trek novel that caused the word for mermaid to be created in the Klingon language. (1)

The word he used was not created by Marc Okrand, so it is not canon. The word is not a truely new word, as it is made of other known words: bIQHa'DIbaH qa'mIgh, literally "water-animal bad ghost", with the meaning of "fish demons". It is worth noting that this was before we had a canonical word for "fish" which appeared only few months after the writing of this novel in 1997 in Klingon for the Galactic Traveler. The word listed there is bIQDep, literally "water-creature". The word ghotI' fish was a was announced in 2001 in HolQeD.

In a message to David Yonge-Mallo, the author explanined the origin of the word. With his permission, that message was published to the KLI's mailing list on May 8, 2019. It is reprinted here for reference.

Dear De'vID,

I looked up my story "Rapture of the Deep" written June 10, 1997 for the STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS I contest edited by Dean Wesley Smith, John Ordover, and Paula Block. This story had mer-beings in it, and made reference to ancient Klingon mariner legends about mermaids. After consulting Klingon databases, it became apparent there was no word for mer-people in the Klingon language. I then wrote to Lawrence Schoen, who was acting director of the Klingon Language Institute at the time. He acknowledged there were no such names in the Klingon language and that he would have to develop one for me, and I believe he said he would enter it into the database. He avoided male and female mer-designations in the English language – we communicated about that – and instead he combined the terms "fish" and "demons" to coincide with Klingon mythic language concepts, bypassing English gender designated words for merfolk.

Lawrence Schoen authorized my use of the following term in the Klingon language for mer-people, or "fish demons" in the Klingon tongue:

bIQHa'DIbaH qa'mIgh (2)

I then submitted my story to the contest. Alas, it did not place, so it did not get published by Pocket Books. Dean Wesley Smith later told me the story was an excellent concept, that I could build an entire career out of the idea, but it was too big of an idea for a Star Trek story. The following year, I wrote "Seventh Heaven", a Borg love story, placed, and was published in Pocket Books STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS II anthology.


Here is an excerpt from "Rapture of the Deep" where the term was used:     
    Picard's brows arched. "The Nongar Sector? I was not aware of any worlds there." Picard looked down, tapped the star chart, enlarging a section.

    "That's just it," Worf said. "There's nothing there but a binary star. However, Nongar does match with his flight path when we rescued him. I also found brine residue on both his bags."

    "Thank you, Mr. Worf. Counselor, since we have no record of any planets in the Nongar System, do you believe there's any substance to DaiMon Boktar's claims?"

    "I don't know for sure, Captain. Betazoids can't read Ferengis."

    Worf smirked. "Who needs to — it's well known that Ferengis always lie."

    Troi frowned. "Captain, I do believe by his facial expressions that there's an element of truth in what he's saying. In fact, my feeling is that he's telling us the truth, counting on us to take it for a lie."

    Picard enlarged the image of Nongar, a yellow binary star. "Interesting theory, Counselor — the Ferengi are extremely crafty. I'm also surprised to find a Ferengi so far off the trade routes in such a small vessel. Time is money, and no one knows that adage better than the Ferengi. So what's he doing here?"

    The pouch was feeling very heavy in Worf's hand. "Sir, the Ferengi is hiding something. I found these in his belongings."

    Worf stepped forward, spilling the contents on the desk. Gold and silver coins, bars and strips of latinum, an emerald encrusted crucifix — all glittered on the black desktop like a wealth of stars spread across the blackness of space.

    Picard reached out, picking up a coin. He held it carefully between his fingers, turning it slowly. "Incredible. This is a Spanish doubloon. A perfect specimen — the ones I've seen have all been encrusted by salt water deposits."

    Pointing to a triangular shaped coin, Worf said, "This coin is from the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS, from the ages when warriors sailed the seas. If it's authentic, it's the only one of its kind. It bears the image of those we called blQHa'DlbaH qa'mlgh — the Fish Demons."

    "I've never heard the term," Picard said.

    "The Fish Demons were part Klingon, part fish. Early Klingon mariners always kept a captive onboard for sacrifice to these creatures when seas became violent. They feared the blQHa'DlbaH qa'mlgh would rise from the depths and take their ships. When Klingons gave up their superstitions and chose the Way of the Warrior, they destroyed every image of the gods. All were melted down. Only pictures of them remain today in our historical archives."

See also


1 : Public Announcement on Capitol Hill Times, published April 17, 2019

2 : all capital I were written as lower case L in the original message, but that was an obvious mistake

Category: Appearance    Latest edit: 08 May 2019, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 08 May 2019 by KlingonTeacher
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