In the 4th season's premiere, the Way of the Warrior, Gowron utters the Klingon phrase

"It's a good day to die"

which Benjamin Sisko had to ask Worf to be translated first - why didn't the Universal Translator do its work?

There's a very similar, more generic question, but to my understanding that one doesn't indicate whether it merely means appearances of foreign languages to the viewer or actual in-universe non-translations.

  • There are a few times that aliens use their own languages and it isn't translated. I wonder if it's just meant to be for the audience or if somehow the translator knows not to do it... or what? Still, it is a very hard to believe piece of tech. Although I don't remember any other time that the other person had to ask for a translation.
    – ThruGog
    Sep 13 '15 at 16:56
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    @ThruGog Until that episode I thought is merely for the viewer to not understand something too early. But here Sisko's statement made it very clear that there was no translation happening.
    – Zommuter
    Sep 13 '15 at 16:58
  • @Rori That question doesn't seem to indicate whether it means in-universe non-translations or merely those for viewer-effect
    – Zommuter
    Sep 13 '15 at 17:43

Based on a reading of the show's script, it would appear that the phrase wasn't translated by the UT, nor do any of the crew recognise the phrase, despite many of them having had close contact with the Klingons on a large number of occasions. At the very least, this would indicate that Gowron's use of the phrase (perhaps his accent, a regional expression or the sheer formality of his speech?) are highly unusual in some way.

Whether this was intentional on the part of Gowron (perhaps because his use of an expression that is traditional, rather than an actual sentence with words that can be transliterated) isn't really clear. My personal guess is that the UT simply recognises when the speaker doesn't wish to be translated:

GOWRON: We shall see. (in Klingon) CHEGH-chew jaj-VAM jaj-KAK! (It is a good day to die!)

Gowron cuts off the transmission. All eyes turn to Worf.

WORF: (translating) He said, "Today is a good day to die."

  • 1
    Possibly, the conversation being in English / Federation Standard up to that point had the UT in "sleep mode".
    – Politank-Z
    Sep 13 '15 at 18:29
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    Surely the only reasonable answer is "because dramatic effect"? Sep 13 '15 at 18:52
  • 2
    @JonKiparsky - Well obviously. But the fun is trying to work out how the writers could justify it
    – Valorum
    Sep 13 '15 at 19:12
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    I guess this answer is acceptable - since the UT seems capable of conveying intend when translating, it might as well detect when the intend is to remain non-understood...
    – Zommuter
    Sep 13 '15 at 19:21

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