The "Klingon" in Garden State

Originally a MySpace blog post that I posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

As I have often found, if one has questions, one often has to answer them oneself. The latest case of this for me comes from the movie Garden State. I saw this movie during its original theatrical release in Fall 2004 and liked it. The conlanger in me was especially intrigued by the scene where the "knight" (actually an employee at Medieval Times) utters a phrase in what is claimed to be Klingon. It went by pretty quickly in the movie (especially since I was expecting the Klingon line(s) only for a couple of seconds at the most before the lines were uttered) and I was left wondering "Was that really Klingon?"

I searched the internet for the answer to this on a number of occasions, but no site I could find ever gave the answer. So, last night I checked out the DVD of Garden State from the library and got out a pencil and paper and got ready to transcribe (this fit with some of my other activities last night, as I was doing some transcription related to the fact that I'm TAing LING110: Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology this quarter).

It took me a little while to track down the scene (My memory of the sequence of events was a little rusty), but the relevant exchange is around the 21 min 50 sec mark. Listening carefully to what the knight says, I got (in broad transcription):

IPA: kuntɑɹ pətiki maɪjə [pause] æl fuk su
X-SAMPA IPA: kuntAr\ p@tiki maIj@ [pause] &l fuk su
Rough English Rendition: coontar petiki maya ... al fook soo

[Subsequent research yielded the dialogue was originally written as "Kuntar pateeky maya. Al fook soo." in an early screenplay or shooting script (per pg 31 of]

This, very obviously, is not Klingon: there is no [k], [ə], or [æ] sounds in Klingon and the syllables have the wrong structure (most of these are vowel-ending ['open' in linguistic jargon], while most actual Klingon syllables are consonant-ending ['closed' in linguistic jargon]), not to mention that the prosody and low-level phonetic detail smacked of English. Hence, the quotation marks in the title of this entry.

Just to be absolutely positively sure, I also investigated what would be the Klingon version of the phrase, as glossed by one of the other characters -- "I like to mate after battle". When I originally attempted a Klingon translation, I got [WARNING: This is a bad translation -- see the addendum below]:

may' tlha' vIngagh 'e' vIparHa'
majʔ tɬaʔ vɪŋaɣ ʔeʔ vɪparxaʔ
may' tlha' vI-ngagh 'e' vI-par-Ha'
battle chasing.after 1SG>3SG-mate.with that 1SG>3SG-dislike-undo

literally 'I disunlike it that I mate with him/her chasing after battle.'

ADDENDUM from 2013:

As was pointed out to me in April 2013 (and as the above translation reveals), my attempted translation is not particularly good Klingon. A better translation was provided to me by a fellow named De'vID. It is:

rInDI' may' jIngagh 'e' vItIv
rɪnɖɪʔ majʔ ʤɪŋaɣ ʔeʔ vɪtɪv
rIn-DI' may' jI-ngagh 'e' vI-tIv
be.finished-when battle 1SG-mate that 1SG>3SG-enjoy

Literally this translates to 'When the battle is finished, I enjoy mating.'

While this translation is significant improvement from my original attempt, I still welcome any further commentary or thoughts on it.

So, somewhat disappointingly, there is no "real" Klingon in Garden State (someone should tell IMDB that this is so, so they can remove Klingon from the languages for that movie), but at least it was fun to find that out.