TWO FOR THE FUNNY BONE.

1) Jocelyne Allen writes about some of the struggles she went through translating a story by Toh Enjoe (円城 塔, Hepburn romanization Enjō Tō):

Just when you think you’ve figured out what is going on in the Toh Enjoe story “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire,” you trip on another oblique reference to some bit of the outside world. It’s a story that bears up to—and in fact, requires—multiple readings, as EnJoe takes pieces of pop and folk culture and replaces the original subject with his “Galactic Empire.” By the third line of the story, my translator sense was tingling so violently, it threatened to give me a seizure. Every word threatened to have some hidden deeper meaning that I hadn’t noticed on my first read-through. Because the more references to pop and folk culture I noticed, the more I wondered how many others I was missing.
But as near seizure as I was, I was not prepared for part 10: “There is a young Galactic Empire emperor who roams the hyperspace corridors, and will not withdraw until you beat the side of your ship, and hand over a ladle.”
A ladle?

Read on to find out more about ghost ships, bailing ladles, and what the translator makes of it all.
2) Not intended as humor, but definitely funny: The Indo-European myth. D. Carbonell Basset explains why the whole idea of Indo-European is “a myth, a legend that does not have a leg to stand on. There is no written evidence of such a language, so the whole theory is not supported by empirical, scientific knowledge. Sir William Jones was the precursor of this harebrained idea in 1786.” If only I’d known forty years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort!

Comments

  1. Oh? It’s actually a myth? Damn, I better go call my alma mater and kindly ask them to revoke my M.A.

  2. Garrigus Carraig says:

    “He holds a Ph.D. from the Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain. He has compiled ten bilingual dictionaries, a four-volume English grammar for speakers of Spanish; a total of 34 published titles.”
    Impressive!
    “Follow on Twitter”
    Done!

  3. befuggled says:

    Interesting that he brings up Darwin without apparently understanding his theories.

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    He has a wiki entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delfin_Carbonell_Basset which gives two different dates of birth more than a decade apart. Clearly an International Man of Mystery, with Pittsburgh roots. The point that historical linguistics (not least in areas where speculation has gotten ahead of evidence) has been known to get mixed up with unsavory/toxic nationalisms is, um, hard to refute.

  5. The point that historical linguistics (not least in areas where speculation has gotten ahead of evidence) has been known to get mixed up with unsavory/toxic nationalisms is, um, hard to refute.
    But is it not a red herring?
    And doesn’t every theory get contradicted eventually? And contradiction is not yet refutation.
    We are dealing here with beliefs, are we not? ‘If you want certainty, study theology.’
    Just tossing bombs, like Basset.

  6. For whomever may be interested, my quotation is from Anthony Zahn’s novel Night Train to Rigel.

  7. Correction: Zahm’s novel Angelmass.

  8. By the way, Delfin Carbonell Basset is a lovely Catalan name. Stressed on the final syllable of all three parts, isn’t it?

  9. Sir JCass says:

    Gullible old me, I was expecting some kind of, you know, argument when I clicked that link.
    The point that historical linguistics (not least in areas where speculation has gotten ahead of evidence) has been known to get mixed up with unsavory/toxic nationalisms is, um, hard to refute.
    But hasn’t Darwinism got mixed up with some unsavoury political ideologies? Just to be on the safe side, maybe he should add:
    The origin of humans is lost in the shadows and mists of time and we may try to figure out all kinds of fancy answers and solutions which may sound acceptable, but they are unscientific and fanciful.

  10. aqilluqaaq says:

    The article to which you link may not be compelling as it stands, and ‘myth’ may not be the best choice of word, but any self-respecting linguist ought to (and generally does) acknowledge that:
    “The Comparative Method as such is not, in fact, historical; it provides evidence of linguistic relationships to which we may give a historical interpretation.”
    Fox, Anthony. Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995): p. 141.
    Whatever reasons people may have for postulating the historicity of PIE they are not methodologically obligatory.

  11. He’s obviously not entirely familiar with idiomatic English: “a legend that does not have a leg to stand on.” In my school we’d have said “does not have a leg end to stand on”.

  12. mollymooly says:

    The Wikipedia article appears to have been written by his daughter, which I think is Against The Wikilaw.

  13. He’s obviously not entirely familiar with idiomatic English: “a legend that does not have a leg to stand on.” In my school we’d have said “does not have a leg end to stand on”.
    It’s your school’s version that sounds wrong to me; “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” is perfectly idiomatic American English.
    The Wikipedia article appears to have been written by his daughter, which I think is Against The Wikilaw.
    It certainly is, and apparently at some point an editor wanted to delete it, which is certainly my impulse, but I’m trying to avoid getting into anything resembling an edit war, so I’ll just try to ignore the fact that this guy has a totally undeserved Wikipedia article when a major poet like Wang Shizhen (1634-1711) lacks one.

  14. Trond Engen says:

    She wrote much of the article on herself too. She didn’t have information on the year of birth, apparently.

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    You would think the fellow’s daughter would have been especially well-placed to make the article internally consistent on year of birth . . . But unless the daughter had otherwise been sufficiently knowledgeable to enlighten the world about the relevant Wang Shih-chen had she not been distracted with this intrafamily promotional project, I don’t see the connection. (NB to anyone inspired to fill the gap LH notes: when doing a wiki article about anyone Chinese who lived and worked prior to the advent of the Communist regime, please at a minimum give non-Communist alternative romanizations of the person’s name so that interested readers can use google books and other resources to find out more about the person without being limited to the potentially unrepresentative subset of English-language sources orthographically conformed to hanyu pinyin.)

  16. J.W. Brewer says:

    The daughter’s wikibio has quite an impressive list of published books (as well as giving a connection to the website that published dad’s debunking of PIE), but Ming-dynasty poetry seems to fall outside the range of topics covered. But I love the title “7 Strategies to Get the Most Out of Self-help Books.” It’s a meta-self-help book!

  17. Oh LH it was a joke.

  18. unless the daughter had otherwise been sufficiently knowledgeable to enlighten the world about the relevant Wang Shih-chen had she not been distracted with this intrafamily promotional project, I don’t see the connection.
    Connection? I was just making a perfectly clichéd lament on the order of “we can put a man on the moon but we can’t do X.” I happened to notice recently that Wang didn’t have an article, so it was on my mind. I would urge someone who knows more about Qing poetry to remedy the gap, and I second JB’s point about alternative romanizations.
    Oh LH it was a joke.
    OK then. Went right over my head.

  19. mollymooly says:

    I think rather that the joke was beneath you and went through your legs.

  20. Nutmegged!

  21. /me brings out the Nutmeg of Consolation, hands a pinch to His Hatness.
    Y’know, the article would make more sense if it was about Proto-World. Maybe he’s conflated the two somehow.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    He’s compiling his own dictionaries. We might expect him to have his own definitions.

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