How to Quit Your Job in Klingon … The Right Way
By Arika Okrent
David Waddell, a city councilman in Indian Trail, North Carolina, decided to end the year with dramatic flair by quitting his job and submitting his resignation in Klingon. The story went viral, and while the mayor, Michael Alvarez, was none too pleased with Waddell’s stunt, saying it was “an embarrassment for Indian Trail, and it’s an embarrassment for North Carolina,” most of the reaction from commenters on social media was some variation on “Ha! Awesome!” The combination of take-this-job-and-shove-it irreverence, only-in-America local politics, and hardcore geek pop culture was a hit.
But like Indian Trail's mayor, Klingon speakers weren’t exactly thrilled. You see, Waddell’s letter wasn’t even written in Klingon. Not good Klingon anyway. Sure, it was written in pIqaD—the pointy, angular Klingon script—and it strung some Klingon words together, but there was no regard for grammar! No true translation!
Take the first sentence, which he translates as “Teach (the) city (the) constitution.” What it actually says is “city teacher ‘chonshtitution’.” There’s no verb! No attempt to translate “constitution”! It’s as if he translated “Give the doctor the scalpel” into Spanish as “Benefactor doctor scalpelo.” Such is the danger of pure dictionary translation, or in this case, relying solely on the Bing.com automatic Klingon translation tool. You still gotta know what you’re doing. Apparently, Waddell doesn’t. If he wants to ride this stunt into the senate (his plan is to pursue a write-in bid for Kay Hagan’s seat), he’s going to have to do more to prove himself to his Klingon-speaking constituency. Granted, it’s a small constituency, but they care a lot about honor. And they’re prone to violence.
If you want to quit your job in Klingon, here are a few suggestions for going about it the proper and honorable way:
1. You could submit the valid re-translation of Waddell’s letter provided by James William McCleary, a commenter on the original Charlotte Observer article, which begins “vengvaD paQDI'norgh tay yIghojmoH!” (Teach civilized teachings to the city!)
2. You could hurl insults like “Hab SoSlI' Quch (Your mother has a smooth forehead!) or “petaQ!” (a strong epithet of uncertain meaning.)
3. You could propose Hay'chu'—duel to the death—with your boss.
Whatever you do, do it grammatically correctly, and with honor. And choose your next job wisely. Remember: bIQongtaHvIS nItlhejchugh targhmey bIvemDI' nItlhej ghIlab ghewmey—If you sleep with targs, you'll wake up with glob flies.