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Worf's first line in First Contact is:

Perhaps today is a good day to die!

http://youtu.be/AFxGPI1Uvlg

Given the word choice and emphasis used in that sentence, it is implied that at some point earlier in the day Worf must have pondered and/or decided that it was not a good day to die.

Is this some sort of ritualistic part of Klingon culture?

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    It's taken from Native American culture, and the quote is usually attributed to Crazy Horse. The quote is usually used when the warrior sees an opportunity to die in a way that is consistent with how they chose to live. In the Klingon culture, this is usually after a great battle or some such; it may be said before such a battle if one is perceived to be in the offing. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/today_is_a_good_day_to_die – K-H-W Nov 6 '11 at 17:01
  • Expanding a bit on the Wikipedia entry: Crazy Horse was quoted as saying, "Hoka Hey," which means, essentially, "Let's do this!" Often that phrase, by itself, is mistranslated as "Today is a good day to die." Since it is usually said by warriors with strong conviction, that's understandable, but from my research (for a screenplay), it appears he always said, "Hoka Hey!" and often (or always, I can't tell) followed it with "Today is a good day to die!" (I have yet to find the actual Souix words for that phrase.) – Tango Nov 6 '11 at 22:09
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    +1 just because perhaps today IS a good day to die! – Jared Nov 7 '11 at 2:38
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    @KeithHWeston Why not post that as an answer? Sounds good to me. – Brian Ortiz Nov 8 '11 at 7:20
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    Honestly, when I read the question, I voted to close it; it struck me as asking for a real-world explanation for something that was a philosophical statement / statement of intent. (Like asking how the Ben Grimm knows when it's 'Clobberin' time.') But, I wasn't SURE the questioner knew that, so I answered it in comment, instead, not expecting the question would be around long, but knowing a comment would show up in their inbox. – K-H-W Nov 8 '11 at 13:08
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The principle is that if a Klingon can die in battle, then it is a "good day to die". If a Klingon believes that he should win the battle, then it is a good day to live, and not a good day to die.

It is a ritual way of saying "I will live" or "I will die".

  • So one could say it's determined to be a good day to die when one dies. – Tango Nov 6 '11 at 22:06
  • Almost. Sometimes, they die badly, and so it is not a good day to die. But the determination is made at the end of the day. – Schroedingers Cat Nov 6 '11 at 22:25
  • @TangoOversway only if one is in battle or another honorable death. – Kevin Nov 7 '11 at 0:08
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    Klingons can exaggerate anything by the time they finish telling the tale, so dying from a splinter can be an honorable death from a wooden spear by the time the story's been told a few times. (And that's even more so if it's told as a Klingon opera!) – Tango Nov 7 '11 at 0:48
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    I think Patton had it right...don't die for your country, make the other guy die for HIS country. Any culture which rewards pointless death is asking for trouble, from a tactical point of view. It seems like what you would want from a soldier, but it really isn't. – Chris B. Behrens Nov 8 '11 at 18:26
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For Klingons, like the Vikings of Ancient Earth, the best afterlife is reserved for the great warriors. Their religion and mythos hold that a warrior who dies valiantly in battle, facing a worthy foe, will almost certainly be granted a place in Stovokor.

So when a Klingon says, "Today is a good day to die," what he means is "This is a worthy foe. Should I fight him and fail, it is not dishonorable." Honor is a bit important to Klingons in the same way that water is a tad damp. Faced with the decision to flee and live or fight and maybe (or even certainly) die (but perhaps protect others) a Klingon warrior's duty is to fight and die.

When, on the other hand, fighting and dying will not save anyone, or when it is not needed (such as because a relief force has just arrived, who can easily handle the threat) it is NOT honorable to die in battle. It shows you are too cowardly to stand tall despite your wounds or defeat.

Thus, when Worf sees no option but to ram a Borg ship, hoping to destroy them and save Earth and his fellow Starfleet officers, Worf decided that today was a good day to die - there would be much honor, and something eminently worthwhile would be accomplished. When the Enterprise appeared, fresh and capable of turning the tide, such an act became unnecessary. The day was no longer a good day to die - it would have been dishonorable.

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The way I always took it. But my view is subjective.

For a Klingon to die 'Honorably' in battle is the ultimate goal in life (for a warrior). Thus any day that you can die in battle is a good day.

But the way I take the phrasing "Perhaps" means to me that Worf was not sure he was going to die, but if he did then it would be good.

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