The positive effect of a spelling error: The Klingon Scandal of 2006
… which I’m not sure actually took place in 2006, but until I manage to look it up, let’s pretend it was 2006.
While I was attending the German equivalent of high school in rural Bavaria, aka the CFG (for Carl-Friedrich-Gauß Gymnasium) I wrote for the student newspaper. Our most popular section were teachers’ quotes and everyone kept jotting down funny moments during lessons.
This got to the point where teachers would see you writing something down and complain, “But don’t you dare print that!”
We always did. Obviously.
One day my German teacher, a hilarious younger man who started his first lesson two years earlier by making a Star Trek joke about automatic doors and pupils taking so long to return from the loo, imparted some Klingon wisdom on us.
“taH pagh taHbe,” he said.
All of us were born in 1990 or ’91, so while we were familiar with Star Trek, neither of us had made it far enough into space to learn Klingon. Thus, we blinked at him. So he explained that Shakespeare had originally been written in Klingon and that what he quoted was the equivalent of “To be or not to be”.
Needless to say, this made it into the quotes section.
Also needless to say – I screwed up the spelling.
Fast-forward a few weeks later. The newest issue of our student newspaper had just come out; I was waiting in the doorway to the teachers’ room (because I was involved with lots of things and a common presence there). My history teacher spots me and walks over to me. “I really must complain,” he tells me, and then goes on to fault the student newspaper for our lack of Klingon skills.
It was all in good spirits, but then my German teacher enters the room and joins in with the mocking. Embarrassed nonetheless, I promised them that a correction would be published in the next issue and apologised profusely.
Since the mistake had been due to my own ignorance, I decided to counter that with a little bit of investigative journalism. My two big sisters, 14 and 11 years older than me, used to be hardcore, convention-attending, driving-to-Munich-to-buy-overpriced-English-VHS-tapes-of-episodes-since-this-was-before-the-internet Trekkies. Fortunately for me, they still had all these overpriced VHS tapes (actual VHS tapes!) and were more than thrilled when I asked them to introduce me to Star Trek.
I got their biased Best Of selection of the Original Series, which I spent mocking for bad special effects but cooed over Tribbles. We watched a lot of The Next Generation, but I personally enjoyed Deep Space Nine a lot more even though it didn’t have Julian Bashir or Picard. I even suffered through the entire pilot episode of Voyager, then wrote up a sort of op-ed piece on my journey from misspelling Klingon to discovering how awesome Star Trek is.
My teachers were appeased and I learnt to say, “Qapla’!”
A few years later – can’t recall when, exactly – I stumbled across Enterprise, the darker tale of the very first human spaceship telling the universe, “Hello, we’re humans!” and the universe asking, “Who?” And GAWD, what a great show! Seriously, if you’ve never seen Enterprise, I urge you to give it a try. I even own the DVDs =)
Then came the reboot/genre remix, then Into Darkness and Beyond… And in 2017 and 2018 my journey as a member of the Star Trek fandom has been taken me on the Discovery.
So I’m actually glad I made that spelling error, for it’s unlikely I would have found my way into this fictional universe otherwise!