RSS
Now you can Rickroll your friends (or enemies) in Klingon
"I am certainly considering a blood oath with you."
R

emember Rickrolling? It was all the rage five years ago, but it eventually went the way of all internet memes, to the vault of staleness. If you've been looking for a way to freshen up your Rickrolling, you now have reason to rejoice. A new Klingon translation of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" just came out.

The video was produced by Commedia Beauregard, a theater company with ties to Minneapolis and Chicago. They specialize in plays that have been translated. Most of the time, this means plays translated from other languages into English, but their holiday showpiece has been translated from English — into Klingon, a fictional language from Star Trek. The show, "A Klingon Christmas Carol," has played to sold-out audiences for a few years now. Christopher Kidder-Mostrom, the creator of the show, recently did a reddit AMA where he explains how he gets the actors to learn their lines (language lessons, CD listening) and how the audience is able to follow along (super-titles).

Putting a Klingon translation together is no easy task. Klingon grammar is tough to master. Take, for example, what's involved for a sentence as simple as "Never gonna give you up." You don't just look up the translation for each word and stick it in the English slots. You have to use the complicated system of prefixes and suffixes. The translation is "jIHyIntaHvIS not qajegh," which breaks down as:

jIH-yIn-taH-vIS not qa-jegh
I-live-continuous-while never I/you-surrender
"As long as I live, I'll never surrender you."

And that's not the only challenge the translators have to deal with. The Klingon vocabulary is adapted to what you might call the Klingon worldview. So a lot of concepts that show up in love songs just aren't, y'know, relevant. The translators have to get the gist across with what they've got. Here's how they make the first verse work:

Apparent love is not alien to us.
(We're no strangers to love)
You know the laws, and I do too.
(You know the rules and so do I.)
I am certainly considering a blood oath with you.
(A full commitment's what I'm thinking of.)
Many other males wouldn't give you these things.
(You wouldn't get this from any other guy.)

The translation really exposes the dark undertones of this Rickroll classic, the upbeat melody contrasting with the basic message "I want to make a blood oath with you, and never surrender you as long as I live." Yikes. At least through Halloween, this should make for a sufficiently scary and annoying Rickroll, which one might translate into Klingon as "rIQ-roll" from the verb "rIQ" — "to be injured."

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week