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The Ferengi seem to have a problem with pronouncing the word human.

They say hyoo-män.

The correct pronunciation, which every other race seems to say, is hyoo-mən.

In their introductory episode in TNG, I got the impression that they were simply unfamiliar with with the pronunciation, having had very little contact with actual Humans. But by the time we get to DS9, there is quite a bit of contact between Humans and Ferengi, yet they still pronounce it the same way. There was even one episode that stood out (I can't remember it, but it was Quark talking to Nod). I got the impression that the Ferengi specific pronunciation was meant to be pejorative.

So why do Ferengi pronounce Human the way they do, even after likely knowing the correct pronunciation?

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    The Universal Translator is racist. – Jack B Nimble Jul 21 '14 at 22:13
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    Perhaps that's why it sounds unique. They're actually saying the word in English, instead of a word that means "human" in their native dialect, but because of how their tongue palate is formed, that's how it sounds. All the rest of their dialogue is being translated by the Universal Translator, and that's why the pronunciations sound correct. – Monty129 Jul 21 '14 at 22:23
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    I believe Nog says "human" normally most of the time and that it is intended as an insult. The Federation has after all rejected what Ferengi society is based upon. – Izkata Jul 21 '14 at 22:40
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    @Izkata I believe you are right; Nog does say it correctly, but he is "humanized" so to speak. He even joins Starfleet. – fredsbend Jul 21 '14 at 22:57
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Okay, I believe I found confirmation that the Ferengi pronunciation of "human" is meant as an insult, not a side-effect of their physiology.

In DS9 4x08, Little Green Men, Quark pronounces "human" normally about halfway through the episode. Listen here:

This clip occurs while their Universal Translators are damaged, so we're actually hearing it as they say it.

Note that even though he says "humans" completely normally at first, while incredulous at our stupidity, he doesn't later at the end of the clip. It's not quite the drawn-out "hyoo-mahns" that we usually hear from Ferengi, but the pronunciation is in between the two forms. This indicates that while we are being affected by TranslationConvention (TVTropes) for the majority of their speech at this point in the episode, Quark really is pronouncing the word in two different ways.

Note that in-universe, using "human" as an insult does make some sense as well, at least from a Ferengi perspective. Their culture is driven solely by the need to earn profit, while human society is all about bettering themselves instead of earning profit - something that most Ferengi simply cannot comprehend.

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    Little Green Men is one of the best non-dominion-war related episodes of DS9. – Jared Jul 22 '14 at 0:22
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    Maybe. He might have just rushed the line. It kind of sounds like he says it which ever way you are listening for. – fredsbend Jul 22 '14 at 0:24
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    Maybe it's a pun or homophone of a rude word in their language. – Andrew Lambert Jul 26 '14 at 1:36
  • The Ferengi aren't speaking English in that clip, that's translated audio. The humans in the room still can't understand them. Earlier in that same video, there's an example of the humans speaking what sounds like gibberish because the audience is 'hearing' from the Ferengi's perspective. Which I guess is what you imply later, but the universal translators don't factor into this at all, so it's misleading that you mention it. – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 22 '17 at 1:52
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    @DaaaahWhoosh I mention it because almost the entirety of Star Trek works through universal translators instead of translation convention. This was one of the few exceptions, making it important to note. – Izkata Apr 23 '17 at 0:33
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While the existing answer has merit, I wasn't satisfied, so I did some research of my own.

Something to be noted is that most Ferengi we see in the show aren't speaking English; instead, what we hear is the product of a Universal Translator. This device doesn't always translate foreign words (for instance, Klingons can occasionally be heard speaking Klingon as well as translated English); there is a question on this site about that, but the answers don't seem to come to a consensus. The important thing to note is that there are cases in canon of species speaking their own language and not being translated.

So, the question remains, why doesn't the Universal Translator translate 'human' correctly when coming from a Ferengi? I found a Reddit thread that asked this same question. The most convincing theory presented was that 'hoo-mon' is a Ferengi word, and the translator does not translate it.

There is no direct proof of this, but there is a similar known Ferengi word 'DaiMon', which translates to 'Captain' (Memory Beta also lists a rank of 'GuiMon' as equivalent to an Admiral). Based on its spelling, it seems safe to infer that DaiMon is some sort of a compound word; in the aforementioned Reddit thread, the user BoozeMaster speculates that it could mean

either "Head Merchant" or "Lead Negotiator"or somesuch as the Ferengi don't seem to have military ranks per-se.

Again, based on Ferengi culture, this makes sense. HooMon, then, could be a Ferengi word that means (again, as proposed by BoozeMaster)

"Poor Negotiator" or "Bad Merchant"

If this is true, then when a Ferengi seems to say 'hoo-mon', they aren't trying to say 'human', they're using a Ferengi word that has come to be used synonymously with 'human', and is actually a cleverly veiled insult.

As for why the translator doesn't try to translate 'hoo-mon', I don't see how it could; if it translates the word to 'human' it loses the insult, if it translates the word to 'bad merchant' it loses the clever wordplay.

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    Or perhaps even "sucker". – Spencer Apr 22 '17 at 13:34

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