It is unfortunate that people in today's world do not realize the rich artistry
of the warrior's song that Lewis Carroll
translated this from. As with many author
s, they have conscious
ly or unconscious
from the rich fabric of Klingon
The tale of the Jabberwock is an ancient Klingon tale of a warrior and a fearsome beast (the "ja'pu'vawq").
This song is typically sung (chon bom (chon meaning hunt and bom meaning song)) at 'uQ'a' (those are breath marks) meaning a great ('a') dinner ('uQ). In all likelihood, Lewis Carroll attended one of these feasts and transcribed the song claiming it as his own. When he failed at capturing the true essence of a word he made one up.
- 'uQ poHvIS char Hom.
It was dinner time while the skinny things were slimy
'uQ (as mentioned above) refers to dinner. The Klingons have four meals in a day - the three we are familiar with and a midnight snack (which is more than just a 'snack').
The verb poH can also be used as a noun - referring to a
period of time. Combined with the relative clause verb suffix "vIS it means 'the time while'.
Hom is the ultimate subject of the sentence and is a slang term for "skinny one" or "runt". This term comes from the meaning of 'bone' that Hom typically refers to - in English we think "skin and bones".
char is simply to be slimy. There are a great deal of slimy things
in Klingon language - most of them dealing with types of food. In this
case it means general slimy rather than any particular thing (such as bile).
- yIv bIH HuD retlhDaq
They where being annoying in the area beside the hill.
yIv is the slang term for 'to bother and irk'. For the most part, things that dig in the ground are just annoying. This word comes from the term 'chew'.
Klingon language makes a distinction between things that can speak and those that cannot. In this case, the pronoun bIH is a "they (without language)" referring to the subject of the previous statement.
Hud retlhDaq means the area beside the hill. This is composed of two nouns: Hud (hill) and retlh (beside). The suffix Daq is applied to the second to indicate that the location is related to the other.
- QuchHa' qaryoqpu' 'ej
The parrots were unhappy and...
Failing to find a the word for qaryoq Lewis made up the
borogoves. These birds that are similar to the parrots Terrans are
familiar with in that they can imitate speech. Again the use of language
factors in here and the original poet chose to use -pu' on a whim
indicating that the parrot can use language. Others use -mey to
pluralize - both are accepted.
Much in the same way 'happy' becomes 'unhappy', Quch becomes
QuchHa' meaning unhappy with the addition of the suffix Ha'.
The verse continues to the next line with 'ej which is the sentence
joiner rather than the noun joiner much the same way that kai and
de are used in ancient Greek (see John 1 for an example).
- jachtaH nagh Dir ghajwI'
Those with shells were howling.
jach has a wide range of meanings though implies a general loud noise to alarm. The addition of the verb suffix taH says that this was happening fairly consistently.
There is no word for 'turtle' in Klingon but rather they are described. nagh DIr literally means stone skin. Coupled with ghaj meaning to have with the wI' suffix which means one who is we get the total package: one who has a shell.
- puqloDwI' ja'pu'vawq Dayep
my son, you be careful of the Jabberwock
puqloD is a compound word made up of puq (child) and
loD (male). Appended on to this is the noun suffix wI'
(which differs from the verb suffix used above) meaning "my (thing
able to use language)".
Lewis was un-original translating ja'pu'vawq into Jabberwock -
almost an exact sound by sound translation. However, the English speaking
Terrans are not fond of the hard breath mark in the middle of words and
so translated this as the bilabial stop (in this case the voiced version).
Dayep is built from the verb stem yep meaning to be careful
and has the verb prefix Da which means the subject is you and the
object is it (in this case, the ja'pu'vawq).
- pe'vIl chop Ho'Du'Daj; pe'vIl Suq pachDu'Daj
Its teeth bite with force; Its claws grab with force
Both of these sentences take the same form: adverb verb subject.
The adverb in each case is pe'vIl meaning with force or forcefully. This is not just something that has teeth that bite or claws that grab - its got some muscle behind it.
In each case the verb is simple: chop meaning to bite (another example of English borrowing from Klingon) and Suq means to get or acquire.
Likewise, the nouns (Ho' meaning tooth and pach meaning
claw) have the same endings. The first of these is Du' which is a plural body part and Daj meaning its. Ho'Du' can also be misstranslated as "tooth farm", and while its not the right meaning it quite colorful in its description.
- qa'rol yIyep.
You (imperative) be careful of the big black bird
Here, we have the prime example of Lewis Carroll (actually named
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) borrowing from Klingon - his very name is
that of the Juju bird.
Above the form was Dayep, here it is yIyep. In this case,
the imperative form is used - otherwise they are identical. This might
instead be an indication that Lewis missed advising Klingons to stay
away from him for stealing their songs and passing them off as his own poetry.
- bInDepSuHach QeHwI' Daghombe'
Do not meet the angry bandersnatch
Once again, Lewis fails to choose a new word and simply translates the
name of the vicious bInDepSuHach into English.
QeH means to be angry and once again the verb suffix wI'
is tacked on to indicate one who is.
The verb has the stem ghom which means meet (in the noun form
it means group, party, gang, band). Once again the verb imperative
form of the verb prefix Da with the subject of you and object of it is
placed before the verb. The suffix be' is used (again) to indicate
a negation - "You do not meet it" as a command.
- batlh'etlhDaj QachbeHchoH
He made ready his sword
Here we have a prime example of the simple and elegant nature of
the Klingon language.
batlh'ethlh is the proper word meaning sword of honor and has its
roots traced back to the original word betleH. This is often seen simplified to as bat'leth. Carroll saw one of these great blades and
called it a vorpal sword.
Qach means to wield a weapon and the suffixes beH (ready
an object) and choH (change of state) show this readiness.
- nI'vIS jagh HoSbogh nej
For a long while, he sought for the enemy which was strong.
There are a total of two relative clauses within this sentence. The first is simply nI'vIS which is composed of the verb nI' for "be long" and the suffix vIS meaning while.
The second is found as the object. This phrase has the noun jagh
meaning enemy and the verb HoS meaning "be strong". To the end
of the verb the suffix bogh is appended which marks this as a
Finally the verb of the sentence - nej meaning to seek or search
for. The "he" subject and "it" object are implied in the null prefix.
- Sor retlhDaq leS 'ej
The area beside a tree he relaxed and...
This construct we have seen before with Sor meaning tree followed
by retlhDaq meaning the area beside.
leS is to relax or rest.
Once again the sentence continues on to the next line with 'ej
- Qam 'ej QublI'
He stood and thought
Qam means to stand. Another 'ej follows to the verb Qub meaning to think with the suffix lI' implying in progress with an ending (as opposed to taH meaning without end).
- yay' 'ej Qamrup
shocked, he stood - made ready
yay' is a simple verb meaning "be shocked" or "dumbfounded". Qam in the line before meaning to stand. With the suffix rup this implies that he stood (while he was not quite standing before).
- QeH mInDu'Daj ja'pu'vawq; qul rur
With eyes of angry fire - the Jabberwock
The Klingon language with its affinity for story telling (such as this) makes great use of smilies. The most well known of these are bIr; bortaS rur (cold as revenge), puj; bIQ rur (weak as water), HoS; 'Iw rur (strong as blood) and 'oj; bomwI' rur (thirsty as a bard). Here, the verb rur means to resemble and implies a linkage between the first and the second phrase.
QeH means "be angry" and is the basis of the similarity. Following
this is mIn (eye) Du' (plural body part) Daj (its).
Then the mentioning of the ja'pu'vawq to indicate what these belong
qul is a noun meaning fire which the eyes are compared to.
- ngemDaq veghbe' 'oH 'ej
Barging through the forest it came and...
ngemDaq uses the now familiar locative noun suffix on the
noun ngem meaning forest. vegh means to pass through
without touching which is negated with the be' verb suffix.
The pronoun 'oH is used to indicate what is doing this - not the
thing with language (ghaH meaning he/she, him/her).
- boltaH 'oH
bol is to drool, and it ('oH) did this constantly (taH).
- jIrmoH! ngol! lev! Jop! vay!
This is a description (obviously shortened) of the battle - a
vay meaning a battle of medium ferocity (the Klingons have
five words for battle.) from least to greatest:
The terms first four terms are moves with a bat'leth
- mongDaj wItlh Sub
The hero broke its neck
The famous "snicker-snack" is the sound of a neck snapping.
The word for neck is mong which takes the suffix Daj meaning
its. The verb wItlh means to break something in such a way that
there are now two (or more) pieces. The subject is Sub meaning
nachDaj yaH 'ej
Its head was taken away and...
nach is the noun meaning "head". yaH means to take away
(leaving its body there - apparently this was too much to carry or meant
more for honor than for food).
He returned home.
juH means home (the word juHqo' means home planet)
and the verb chegh means "to return".
- "ja'pu'vawq HoH'a'?
"You killed the Jabberwock?"
The verb HoH means to kill (and is likely one of the most used
verbs in the Klingon language). Appended to this verb is the suffix
'a' which turns the verb into a question rather than a statement.
- DeSDu'wIj chochegh!
"Come to my arms!"
The closest a Klingon has to the word "hug" or "embrace". The
non Des means arm (as in the body part) with Du' appended
takes the plural and wIj means my - this is the father speaking.
The verb is once again chegh meaning return, though here the
verb prefix cho is used meaning you as the subject and me as
- 'uQ'a' taH DaHjaj!"
A grand dinner today will be
'uQ is the word for dinner. Appended to a noun 'a' means
"big" or "grand".
taH is the Klingon verb meaning "continue". The subject follows
DaHjaj. jaj means day as in dawn to dawn. Many speakers
of English are confused on this with "day" meaning the time when the
sun is up (pem) and a period of 24 hours (or so). Indeed, this
feast will last long into the night and likely for days to come.
- Hagh vav.
The father laughed
Hagh is the verb for laugh (though realize, this is a Klingon
doing it - not your ordinary chuckle, we're talking an all out bellow).
vav is the Klingon word for father.