Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lingua Pranka

When a blogger lacks for inspiration, he piggybacks on his fellow blogger. And so today's topic is borrowed from Bryan Appelyard, as interpreted by the Daily Duck's own dean of all things literary, literate and literal, Brit. Bryan posts this hilarious deleted entry from Wikipedia on the topic of "Voltron":
Voltron is about uber l337 robot felines that join together to fight evil the voltron form, wihch is a big gay manform robot that kills so much. i used to have a voltron coloring book when i was little but i dont know where it went. damit it was nice too, tole the whole voltron story all about action. i even made voltron my msn name cause MTV made a joke about a "voltron of crap" this means like a "super conglomeration of crap" or a "network of crap" like MTV. i hope voltron rapes MTV and sets it all on fire to death. ApoC, 2003. so do I.'

From this simple mangling of language Brit has coined the term Voltronese to describe the emerging international pidgin tongue evolving from the globalization of culture:
One of the arguments I've used against Esperanto as a concept is that even if it was somehow imposed on the world overnight, within a generation or two local differences would mean that Russian Esperanto, English Esperanto, Italian Esperanto, Chinese Esperanto etc would have diverged so far that you would need translators between them.

It could therefore only ever be useful as a worldwide second language, not a first. But then another agument against it is that English is set to become the international second language anyway. But what would happen if English started becoming so important that it became a first language nearly everywhere?

Maybe it would start morphing into these weird 'voltron of crap' local dialects. And these would in turn feedback into the orginal language by a process of natural selection. And thus we would end up eventually with a single, global language after all.

Let's call it Voltron English. You heard it here first.
The question is whether the removal of this isolation by globalisation and the internet will mean that we will end up with a single, hybrid global Voltronese spoken by everybody. And if this happens, will the world have better understanding but fewer souls?

I, for one, am putting my dollars on Babel. But it's an interesting concept. Language has always given in to local context. Do the deinizens of Arizona have a word for "Noreaster"? Do they need one? The hardy Inuit have a jillion words for snow, but not a single word for "turbofan". And African American hip culture constantly evolves new terms to describe two basic, interrelated concepts: "coolness" and "uncoolness". Phat, def, illin, kashizzle, you name it. They are the Inuit of cool.

As Brit has gotten into the word-coining business, I'd like to invite Daily Duck readers to follow along. Comedian Rich Hall coined the term "sniglet" to represent words that should be in a dictionary but aren't. Here are some examples of sniglets from Hall:

# ARG (Audio Retinal Gyration): The act of trying to read the label on a LP record while it's playing on a turntable. (Hall 1985a: 93)
# Blemus: The film that develops on top of some soups and gravies when left unstirred.
# Blivet: to flip your pillow looking for a cool spot (Hall 1984: 14)
# Cheedle: The orange residue left on fingers after eating Cheetos or some other cheesy snack (Hall 1984: 21)
# Execuglide: The act of using your wheeled office chair to move from one place to another. (Hall 1985a: 31)

I've been thinking of concepts that cry out for a word. Here are the definitions, you supply the words:

1, The distance between oneself and a stranger following less than which it would be rude not to hold a door open for, but further than which would make it seem creepily familiar to the other person if you held the door open for them.

2. The art of placing a coin or small object in a hidden spot in a public place with the intent of revisiting the spot many years later to see if the object is still there.

3. The temporary sensation of finding the pronounciation of a common word strange sounding.

4. The act of blaming one's flatulence on a dog.

5. The quality of macho nerdiness displayed by action oriented techie types like the mission control guys in Apollo 13.


Blogger Brit said...

You need the Meaning of Liff.

March 21, 2007 1:50 AM  
Blogger erp said...

#1. Doorishness

This happened to me yesterday. I held the door knowing someone was right behind me, but when I turned, they had slowed and I was left to decide whether to stand there holding the door for apparently no one, or let the door go and possibly be rude. Being very insecure and self-effacing, I stood there holding the door and feeling very foolish about it until the person finally sailed through.

I can't coin a word for #2, but it sounds like a fun idea which I will try as soon as I'm in an appropriate location. How long should one wait before returning to the cache to see if the coin is still there?

#3. Disauralia?

I've had no experience with nos. 4 & 5.

March 21, 2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

John Backus, the inventor of FORTRAN, died yesterday, which was surprising because I thought he was already dead. If somebody can come up with a word for the abashedness you feel when somebody you thought was dead already, dies, I'd be grateful.

March 21, 2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger Duck said...


At least a year. I've never successfully retrieved the coins I've left.

Disauralia is a great word! The word should sound like it fits with the definition. Most of the entries for the Meaning of Liff don't do that.

I'll let you "pass" on #4. So you've never met any macho nerds?

March 21, 2007 12:25 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Doorishness is a good word to describe the habit of holding doors open for strangers, but I'm interested in a word for the distance at which holding the door open is polite and expected transitions to where it is okay not to hold the door. If someone holds the door past this distance, the holdee is obilgated, it seems to me, to break into a jog to absolve the holder of the discomfort that you described so well.

This concept is based on the premise that people feel uncomfortable with strangers that resent more than a cursory, polite level of familiarity. If anyone has a word for that premise, I'd like to hear it.

March 21, 2007 12:31 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

That should say "This concept is based on the premise that people feel uncomfortable with strangers that present more than a cursory, polite level of familiarity."

March 21, 2007 12:39 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Macho Nerds? No, being nerdish myself, before I even knew that such a condition existed, I always felt kinship with others of my ilk.

I see what you mean about wanting a word for the distance somebody should be away from the door before you can safely let it go. Something like the right of passage?

BTW - Where's Peter?

March 21, 2007 2:04 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

He's not been feeling well.

Maybe the "portal familiarity limit". I guess it's about 15 feet, but can be extended if the person is carrying packages, is elderly, disabled or is really cute.

March 21, 2007 2:44 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't need any of those words, but I could use a word for a bitchy
feminist who was coming into a bakery for a job interview (we are strangers
but it's a small island, I know everything) as I was leaving with a

Since I was there a fraction of a second before, I opened the door and held
it open. She told me, in a voice that was cold enough to cheer Al Gore's
heart, "Shut the door."

No surprise that with that attitude she didn't get the job she wanted as
cashier, but what do we call someone so churlish that she objects to having
a door held open?

March 21, 2007 11:41 PM  
Blogger monix said...

I'm sure you are right that Voltronese would morph into local dialects. Catholics bemoan the loss of Latin as the 'universal' language of the church but it is nonsense to think English-speakers could understand Latin as spoken in France, Germany or even in Rome.

I'd like to propose 'olid' as the root of your word for #4, perhaps 'olidation' or 'olidity'? It is the only word I ever managed to learn from the Dictionary of Difficult Words, it means 'evil-smelling' and I try to get it into a conversation every day!

March 22, 2007 1:50 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

How about fauxcaniolidation? From Faux, canine and olidation. Triple word score for team Babel!

March 22, 2007 2:03 PM  
Blogger monix said...

'fauxcaniolidation' is a brilliant word - it would certainly distract everyone's attention!

March 22, 2007 2:16 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Great word, but perhaps it would fall into the category of misauralery if pronounced incorrectly.

monix, I'd like to meet your conversants. They sound like a fun bunch.

Harry, I don't know a better word than rhymes with witch for a woman who cut off their nose to spite their face, but my husband had a similar experience walking across the campus of a prestigious university. He was deep in thought when he heard someone say, what time is it. He raised his head and gave the time. The lovely young making the request, snarled, I don't want white time, I want black time.

March 22, 2007 2:40 PM  
Blogger monix said...

You would be most welcome to join us for a game of Scrabble!

Joe S:
That's a problem area, isn't it? I once answered the phone to a friend who had just heard I had died. She was ringing to offer condolences to my husband and a suitable word to ease the situation would have been good. 'Oh, don't worry, Elspeth, [word meaning I know you think I'm dead but I'm still here, have a stiff drink], happens all the time.

March 22, 2007 3:08 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

#5 Macho Nerds == Aleph Males.

#2 Art of Placing a Coin in Order to Look for it Later == Booradlin.

#3, and I admit this is weak: Missounding.

March 22, 2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger Duck said...


Ungratag. The male equivalent is ungratard.

March 22, 2007 4:32 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I like booradlin. Easy to remember.

March 22, 2007 4:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

Thanks, and my new one is aphony.

March 22, 2007 5:14 PM  
Blogger erp said...

booradlin? Don't get it.

monix, sure you want to play Scrabble with me now that my mental capacity is in steep decline. Where were you when I was sharp and could remember stuff? Oh yeah, you weren't born yet. Bummer.

BTW - My granddaughter doesn't like my new portrait, so I'll be trying out some other options in the next few days.

What is wrong with Blogger? Anyone else having trouble staying logged in?

March 22, 2007 5:43 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

Erp, Booradlin' is to hide things like Boo Radley did for Scout.

Although I like aleph males better.

Blogger and my gmail account work fine, even when commuting between computers. Perhaps your privacy/cookie settings are set too restrictively.

March 22, 2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

White time/black time.

Sorry to be dense, but I'm not getting the distinction. Did she mean she didn't want the regular time from a white person, or did she mean there is a different kind of time?

March 22, 2007 9:07 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

'Premortizement' is good, has a nice heft. But 'fauxcaniolidation': now that is majesty. Makes me want to go out and buy a dog and a case of cheap beer.

March 22, 2007 10:34 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Duh! I just came up with the perfect word for macho nerds: nachos. Aleph males is a good academic term, nachos would be for vulgar or common usage.

March 23, 2007 7:23 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, It's been our assumption that she resented a white man telling her the time of day.

mike, I haven't changed any settings, so it can't be that.

March 23, 2007 8:55 AM  

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