The Man Behind Klingon

By Spelling, Ian | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Man Behind Klingon


Spelling, Ian, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Klingon - that guttural language spoken by "Star Trek's" beloved ripple-headed aliens - is everywhere.

There's a Klingon dictionary and an audiocassette of conversational Klingon. There are Klingon clubs and camp-outs where only Klingon may be spoken.

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was recently translated into Klingon, and a Bible translated into Klingon is on its way.

So, who's to thank for the Klingonization of America? That would be Marc Okrand, a tera'ngan(earthling), age 47, who lives in Washington, D.C.

A linguist who oversees the closed-captioning of various TV programs as his day job, Mr. Okrand first created Vulcan verbiage for "Star Trek II" (1981). Later, he was asked to devise Klingon words and phrases for "Trek III" (1983).

Since then, Mr. Okrand has lent his expertise to "Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," and any "Trek"-classic film in which Klingon was spoken. He also has authored several Klingon-related reference books.

"I think people like Klingons," Mr. Okrand says by telephone from his home, explaining, in English, his take on the appeal of the Klingon language.

"They're the favorite enemy of everyone in `Trek,' " he says.

"Part of it is that Klingons are funny; not in the comic, silly sense, but in the sense that they do some funny things. The Klingon language, from an English-speaking person's point of view, sounds very odd, which makes it a challenge.

"It's fun, you have to spit a lot, and it hurts your throat when you say it. Then there's the whole secret society aspect. I could say something to you, and almost nobody else would have any idea what we're talking about," he adds.

There are more than 2,000 official Klingon words being bandied about these days by fans and on the current "Trek" series. Some of those words can now be seen and/or heard in two new projects with which Mr. Okrand has been involved. …

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