The government agency that treats mental health patients in the Portland area had listed Klingon as one of 55 languages that clients might speak. “We have to provide information in all the languages our clients speak,” Jerry Jelusich, a procurement specialist for the county Department of Human Services, which serves some 60,000 mental health clients, told the Associated Press.
That drew the attention of media as far afield as the Sydney Morning Herald, though the attention was misplaced.
“It was a mistake, and a result of an overzealous attempt to ensure that our safety net systems can respond to all customers and clients,” Multnomah County chair Diane Linn said in a news release, noting that no patient has yet tried to communicate in that language.
The point of the original article was that the county health services department might need to be able to hire someone that could communicate with a delusional patient. Some speak more common languages such as Russian and Vietnamese, while some, such as Dari and Tongan, are seldom spoken. And some of those patients might, just might, be inclined to speak in Klingon, a language spoken by an alien race of the same name from Gene Roddenberrry’s Star Trek series.
“We said, ‘What the heck, let’s throw it in,'” Jelusich told the AP. “It doesn’t cost us any money.”
And as any Trekkie can tell you, Klingon was designed to have a consistent grammar, syntax, and vocabulary (the skeptical can check out the Klingon Language Institute at http://www.kli.org/ ).
Jelusich says that while no patient has yet tried to communicate in Klingon, the possibility that a patient could believe himself or herself to be a Klingon doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.
“I’ve got people who think they’re Napoleon,” he says.