The major divisions of the primary Orion language were High Orion and Low Orion. High Orion was used by the upper class and in diplomacy, negotiation and on formal occasions, while Low Orion was used in passing in everyday life, spoken by lower classes but used informally by all. While similar and with the same words, pronunciations were different. High Orion often sounded musical and lyrical, with flowery terms, precise rules for grammar and careful shades of meaning. Low Orion, however, had more nasal and exhaled language sounds, broader vowels and was generally much simpler and cruder. Both were trickier than they appeared. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge) In the Orion language itself, this was called Kolari. Some Orions chose to speak older and more antiquated or poetic forms such as High Kolari or Imperial Kolari, primarily to score social points or confuse non-speakers. In any language, they enjoyed ornate speech and veiled insults. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens)
The Orion language was full of double meanings, ambiguities, intentionally vague words and interpretations that depended on context. There were no single words for 'yes' or 'no', but were instead qualified as, for example, 'yes, if...' and 'no, but...'. It was said to be an excellent debating language, though with no direct answers. It was well-suited for concealing motive and meaning.
It was also a good swearing language. Low Orion had more base words and vile epithets, but High Orion had a sophisticated cursing case that could be used to deliver delicate and elaborate insults in ambiguous terms. These were sometimes in verse, and counted as works of art, but were rarely heard by non-Orions.
In general, Orions preferred not to use their language around others, as it could confuse aliens. Instead, they spoke the alien language to be polite and understand the other's way of thinking. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
Another variation was Yrevish. Ambassador Spock felt that it was important to have an interpreter fluent in Orion Yrevish in the Federation delegation to PojjanPiraKot. (TNG - Double Helix novel: Red Sector)
Orion language tended to have a guttural, sibilant quality (this may be specific to reptilian Orions). In the Priam IV test at Starfleet Academy, Cadet Tasha Yar attempted to operate a computer on an Orion boat, but didn't recognize the Orion language. When the computer issued a vocal query, she reacted with the common Human exclamation "ssh", which matched one of the computer's Orion language voice commands. This set off an alarm, as the Orion signal for danger was apparently to hiss like a snake (TNG novel: Survivors).
Interpreters and speakers
Due to the large number of Starfleet encounters with Orions beginning in the 22nd century, many members of Starfleet were schooled in spoken Orion. Notable personnel with instruction in this language included Nyota Uhura, James T. Kirk, Wanda Worrenstill, Marvin Wanglestien, Kristine Reardon, Stoan, Jack Thompson and C'Raal. By the 24th century, Orion language was a second year elective course at Starfleet Academy. (FASA RPG modules: Cadet's Orientation Sourcebook, The Strider Incident, Decision at Midnight, Star Trek: The Next Generation Officer's Manual)
Klingons also learned Orion to help in their dealings with that civilization. Klingon Empire personnel with instruction in this language included Madra tai-Vurstic, Kagga sutai-Formorax, Kepel zantai-Venonn and K'Zinh sutai-Velai. (FASA RPG modules: Termination: 1456, Decision at Midnight, The Triangle)
Many other civilians and members of non-aligned powers were noted to have been instructed in Orion, such as Kellie Louise Baker of Baker's World; Bhind'rr of Lanroche VIII; free traders Thorapolis Creole, Wilton Tull and Linda Robbins, Dirk of Remfry, Jonny Farlo of Jonny's Retreat, Jonas Elley and Lee Willson of Mantiev; Captain Patch of the Dark Phoenix; Jean Carislon of Jemison; Q'Kuattr; Zeenne; Selene Trikaka and T'planna. (FASA RPG modules: Decision at Midnight, The Triangle)
Manager Friel of Wagner Trading Post was prone to swearing in Orion, with passable pronunciation. She did so once in the 2260s upon hearing that a merchant starship convoy had been attacked by Klingons. (TOS novel: Dreams of the Raven)
Coming from a range of sources, these terms may not all be from the same Orion language.
- a term or rank for a ship's lieutenant or executive officer (TAS novelization: The Pirates of Orion)
- Back country dialect term for a type of Orion public execution by slow torture to deter others. In an alternate timeline 25th century, Adajia recalled that a Consilium master was going to order mentally incompetent Thad Smith executed by chuulak for dereliction of service to the Consilium Institute. (TOS novel: Crossroad)
- 'cold' or 'coolness'. Cluros is an Orion code of conduct. For example, to keep one's cluros is to keep one's cool. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
- 'slave'. This is a diminutive of dubyal, or 'contractor'. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- 'contractor-holders', 'the obligated'. These are slave owners and slave drivers. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- A term for the Federation, pronounced as to rhyme with "Federation" in the Trader's Tongue, referring to a person born of three parents, all of whom were related. The adjective form of the noun was f'deraxt'l. (TOS novel: Prime Directive)
- 'hutch'. A training house for the lodubyaln. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- The term ganzu seems to translate to 'revenge society'. (plural is also ganzu) (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
- Possibly a profanity. For example, "this gisjacheh drug" that caused an Orion pirate ship a great deal of misfortune. (TAS novelization: The Pirates of Orion)
- 'House of -'. This suffix signified a mansion or estate, such as Keroskar, the 'House of Keros'. (FASA RPG module: Orion Ruse)
- 'tentacled-mauler' The Korgasant is a predatory animal native to Daros IV. (plural korgasanti) (FASA RPG module: Orion Ruse)
- 'life-contractor'. These are entertainment slaves, particularly slave women that work as courtesans and sex slaves. (plural lodubyaln) (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- lodubyal ot
- executive or mistress of a group of lodubyaln (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- 'shadow-killer' The Morakos is a predatory animal native to Daros IV. (plural morakoi) (FASA RPG module: Orion Ruse)
- underground cities (plural plounla; may be in error) (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
- 'arch-executive' (plural rhadamanen). These are business leaders and starship captains, including pirate captains. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
- 'winged-torturer' The Slethi is a predatory animal native to Daros IV. (plural slethii) (FASA RPG module: Orion Ruse)
- The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge makes tahedrin the singular and turns tahedri the plural. According to the pattern of pluralism established in it and The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge, where n is added to form the plural of various occupations (eg. dubyal/dubyaln, uta/utan), then tahedrin ought to be the plural form of tahedri. Following this, tabadin would likely be the plural of tabadi.
- Thana Kolari
- Orion term that meant 'Extended Orion', where 'Orion' is called 'Kolari'. These words refer to the area of space occupied by the Orions, excluding the Rigel system. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens)
- uktas bo urndo
- 'blasters and book-keepers'. An Orion sentiment referring to military and political control versus trade and economic forces. One must fall before the other, though it doesn't specify which. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge)
Other translations and examples
There was no one word for 'spite' in the Orion language, and the concept was difficult to explain and understand. However, they could easily conceive of it as a type of revenge and readily practiced it. (FASA RPG module: The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
"Shandaken, dgr'xt en. K'laxm f'dactla en str'ln axltr'dn. Pr'dyn dgreilt jarras'tla en axm b'rerr–" Uhura translated this message and said "He's telling them [lead by Police Commander Shandaken] to give up. He says he wants them to go back to Orion, where they can all be charged with high treason–" (TOS novel: Death Count)