0483: "Fiction Rule of Thumb"

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Alsn
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Alsn » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:24 am UTC

Aubron wrote:
Hasufel wrote:Hmm. I'm not sure if I quite agree with this one. I've read a lot of good books that had quite a few made-up words. But yeah, I guess, if there are too many made-up words, it makes it harder to read, and therefore less interesting. But it's better than boring vocabulary.

And I'm surprised no one's mentioned Harry Potter yet. J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card should be exceptions to this rule.

What about Orson Scott Card and the ramen/framlings/varelse?

And "utlanning" and "xenocide", too!


Rowling bases a lot of her made up words in Latin, a lot of them being actual latin statements, and most of her fictional creatures are pulled from mythology.

Now Card is a different story...
At a glance(having not read his books) 'ramen', 'framling', 'varelse' and 'utlanning' are all swedish words meaning 'the frame', 'stranger'(the noun), 'creature' and 'foreigner' respectively but without knowing in which context they are used I can't conclusively say that they aren't "made up".

suzi
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby suzi » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:27 am UTC

I'm reading The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem right now, and while I guess most of the words in it are easily-identifiable derivatives, it's a blast. (Also, I wonder how many of them are changed since the original language is Polish?) Crytochemocracy, benignimization, sadistizine, ecstasine, halcyonal, revivificarium, and of course psychem. And I'm only 50 pages in...

Also, whoever said the Council of Elrond was too long and boring...I dunno, I always manage to at least stay awake (in the 7 times I've read the book).

dontpanic
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby dontpanic » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:30 am UTC

AlexDitto wrote:Well I guess anything by China Mieville is right out, then, eh?


I'm reading Perdido Street Station now - Good stuff so far :)

AlexDitto wrote:I guess the problem with this comic is that we manage to block out all the garbage books that are guilty of this sort of thing, and only remember the exceptions to the rule. That's the wonderful thing about probability: you can be wrong over and over again, but you're still "right."


True true - plenty of affirmative examples out there (*cough* scientology xenu dianetics *cough*) .

Xaith wrote:To everyone who's saying this comic disappoints, it's a graph of probability. Every "counterexample" can easily fit on the current graph, since the probability never reaches 0. He's just saying it's unlikely, not impossible.


Fair enough - I think the bulk of the dissent stems from the fact that most people haven't dug into the mountains of bad fantasy/sci-fi out there that the comic was targeting, and the books in the long tail that lots of people have read are popular for a reason.

Also, a nitpick of mine is the fact that as x approaches 0 the probability is maximized, which I'm skeptical of. Think of all the bad "vanilla" fiction out there (trashy romance novels, etc). There's a small gap there though, so I'll assume the x-axis starts at 1 and there's a discontinuity :)

That said and previous post aside - still enjoyed the comic as usual.

trevin
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby trevin » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:32 am UTC

I was angry until I read the alt text.

All is well.

fetjuel
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby fetjuel » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:36 am UTC

sewiv wrote:
acheron wrote:I registered just to say how terribly, terribly wrong Randall is about Anathem. It is a great book, maybe better than Cryptonomicon.


I registered just to say how much I agree with this comment.


I registered just to say how much I agree with both of you guys.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby sleepykit » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:37 am UTC

GodShapedBullet wrote:Clockwork Orange ruled and that made up an entirely new system of slang.

I'm pretty sure that in Clockwork Orange, the slang was words in Russian but written in English and conjugated appropriately. Does messing with another language entirely still count?
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby 6453893 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:38 am UTC

fetjuel wrote:
sewiv wrote:
acheron wrote:I registered just to say how terribly, terribly wrong Randall is about Anathem. It is a great book, maybe better than Cryptonomicon.


I registered just to say how much I agree with this comment.


I registered just to say how much I agree with both of you guys.


I didn't just register and I can't agree with you guys because I haven't read Anathem. I'm just a slave to trends.

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mollusk
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby mollusk » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:48 am UTC

Based on this graph, if one were to use an infinite improbability drive while writing it, one could make a book of nothing but made up words that would be the best thing ever written. What a froody idea that is!
John Hodgman wrote:...while the truth may be stranger than fiction, it is never as strange as lies . . . or as true.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Dev Null » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:49 am UTC

Child of Fortune, by Norman Spinrad.

Which brings up the obvious corollary; if you can't _tell_ its made up without looking it up in a dictionary? It doesn't count.

Also the sublemma*: enough made-up place names that I need a map to keep track = kiss of death.

- rob.

*Gods I hope I just made that word up...

MonsterCC
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby MonsterCC » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:57 am UTC

John Milton?
Anyone?

serme
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby serme » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:10 am UTC

dontpanic wrote:Fair enough - I think the bulk of the dissent stems from the fact that most people haven't dug into the mountains of bad fantasy/sci-fi out there that the comic was targeting, and the books in the long tail that lots of people have read are popular for a reason.


This comic makes me feel torn inside, because I have dug into the mountains of bad sci-fi/fantasy. I've read fanfiction (mostly Star Trek but occasionally I branch out)--some published in books and some online. And yes, I'll agree with Randall that novice writers do make up more than their fair allotment of "new" words. But I still think that the graph shows a misleading correlation--making up words is a symptom of (certain types of) idiocy and genius both, but not a diagnosis for either. Playing with the nature of language is one of my favorite literary devices to see in action; I'm most fond of LOTR and A Clockwork Orange, not to mention Marc Okrand's work on Klingon.

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Nomic
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Nomic » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:14 am UTC

I'm suprised nobody has mentioned Eye of Argon yet. Mrifk!

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Lindir The Green » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:24 am UTC

In the later Orson Scott Card Ender books everyone's speaking Stark, with the words represented by their root in current language. Most of those words have roots in English, but some of them are from other languages.

To the people dissing on Tolkien: Screw you. He took folk tales and wove them together with ideas about language, culture, industrialization, and war into a novel that spawned the entire Fantasy genre. You say he's long winded. That's the way it's supposed to be.

+ 1 to Eragon and Harry Potter sucking. I read all of them, quickly (they were fairly entertaining and engaging), but they should not count as fantasy literature. The points of Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Dune aren't necessarily their plots. What makes them great is the way that the respective universes are realized. Lazy authors write books that take place in real reality or someone else's previously created reality. Great authors take the time to create another reality, to better illustrate their point. But some authors create realities for their books, and don't take the time to think them through. Language is an important part of this. So I accept the words hobbit, arakh, and mentat, but never brisingr or muggle. Tolkien meticulously planned all of his imaginary languages, and George R. R. Martin and Frank Herbert meticulously planned their universes so some made-up terms to give ideas of culture are fine. Paolini and Rowling did nothing of that sort.

Oh, and the work of Douglas Adams is supposed to be a spoof, which I think disqualifies it.

The graph might or might not be right, it depends on the ratio of good fantasy out there.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby inhumandecency » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:24 am UTC

IIRC, Ursula LeGuin weighed in on this in a semi-famous essay. I can't find anything about it on the Internet, but the main point was that if the inhabitants of your fantastic alien civilization on the other side of the galaxy drink a non-nutritive, bitter-tasting beverage with mild stimulant properties, you don't call it hyperaadraxion. You call it coffee.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby oasisob1 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:31 am UTC

rwald wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:YA! YA! YAWM! Mu zein, wallah!

I call thee out in the amtal test, the tahaddi al-burhan. May thy knife chip and shatter!

The reason I referenced A Clockwork Orange, rather than composing my reply in Nadsat, is because I can't actually speak Nadsat. I needed to WP (my current textual abbreviation of "Wikipedia;" you try typing the whole thing repeatedly in IMs) the book just to look up what it was called.



In my own circles, wkpd is accepted, partly because it is a four-letter word (like xkcd), and partly so that it's not confused with other meanings of wp.

Also, I imagine Randall is either kicking himself for such a short list of exemptions, or chuckling at all the posts which name all the other books/author he would have added, if he'd wanted an alt text that was simply too long...

...or something like that.
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grs1961
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby grs1961 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:32 am UTC

Why no exception for Jack Vance?

(Oh, and to those rabbiting on about "A Clockwork Orange," most of the words you think are "made-up" are just Anglicised and slanged-up pronunciations of various Russian words. Frex, "Horrowshow" for "good," coming from "Khorosho.")

dontpanic
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby dontpanic » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:36 am UTC

mollusk wrote:Based on this graph, if one were to use an infinite improbability drive while writing it, one could make a book of nothing but made up words that would be the best thing ever written. What a froody idea that is!


I like the way you think.

Not sure if you were referencing this, but Douglas Adams and John Lloyd actually did that (kind of)... "The Meaning of Liff" is entirely made up words and definitions (although in all fairness the "made up words" are actual city names... but the definitions are everyday phenomena that we don't have words for). There are so many words in there that I would throw into everyday conversation if I could only remember them...

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby zombie_monkey » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:36 am UTC

In principle I agree with the comic but this was very well done and with measure in Anathem, it was mostly portmanteaus and other clever devices. And Jeejah is just brilliant :) Actually I don't remember a single word in Anathem I didn't figure out on my own from its etymology of it a just a tiny bit of context. And in the end you did need to convey that things are a bit like in our world but different, using common English words would have been simply more confusing in the end, because you need to remember they're not exactly what you call them.
Last edited by zombie_monkey on Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

djagir
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby djagir » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:38 am UTC

Master of all Masters! Get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers! For white-faced simminy has gotten a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail, and if you don't fetch some pondalorum, High Topper Mountain will be all on hot cockalorum!

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby zombie_monkey » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:44 am UTC

suzi wrote:I'm reading The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem right now, and while I guess most of the words in it are easily-identifiable derivatives, it's a blast. (Also, I wonder how many of them are changed since the original language is Polish?) Crytochemocracy, benignimization, sadistizine, ecstasine, halcyonal, revivificarium, and of course psychem. And I'm only 50 pages in...

Ah, but Lem is a master of this, it's doesn't fit the comic's scheme because the whole humour is in this.

ZeroDivides
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby ZeroDivides » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:45 am UTC

Personally, I've been having a great time telling people that their arguments fail the steelyard, or asking people to get out their rakes.

I think calling such concepts by their real world equivalents would be detrimental to the novel.

But eh, I suppose the relationship may hold anyway, my fraa. (Ahem. Sorry.)

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Zaha » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:46 am UTC

Prince Myshkin wrote:Has everyone forgotten how painfully boring the meeting at Rivendell is? It's like 200 pages of everyone going "what should we do with it, should we smash it or use it?"


The Council of Elrond is my favourite chapter in all of Lord of the Rings, one I occasionally stop to read through even if I don't want to re-read the entire book. The best thing about Tolkien, in my opinion, was his ability to bend the usual rules of fictional writing a bit to produce pure awesomeness.

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Cryopyre
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Cryopyre » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:47 am UTC

This also goes for YOU science fiction.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby russianspy1234 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:49 am UTC

grs1961 wrote:Why no exception for Jack Vance?

(Oh, and to those rabbiting on about "A Clockwork Orange," most of the words you think are "made-up" are just Anglicised and slanged-up pronunciations of various Russian words. Frex, "Horrowshow" for "good," coming from "Khorosho.")


yep, it makes the book / movie more interesting to actually understand every word they are saying.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby oasisob1 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:52 am UTC

djagir wrote:Master of all Masters! Get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers! For white-faced simminy has gotten a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail, and if you don't fetch some pondalorum, High Topper Mountain will be all on hot cockalorum!

Now that's a cute stooooooooooory.
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linguistic
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby linguistic » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:55 am UTC

Gingerbreadman wrote:I truly apologize for taking another crack at Paolini, but the instant I saw this comic, I thought, "That explains Paolini."

But then I thought... "Wait, he doesn't actually make up words, he steals them from Tolkien!"

Oh snap!


Oh sna-

Oh. You already did that. Well that's hardly fair.

---
Alright, Paolini, you overgrown teenager. I'll read your books. But I won't enjoy them!
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stormoftara
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby stormoftara » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:59 am UTC

BLUNDERPUFF! I make up words all the time.

Blunderpuff means cookies.

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arbivark
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby arbivark » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:04 am UTC

I suspect randall is conditioning me to laugh when i see a graph.

You folks collectively have good taste in books/ in books with neologisms.

I immediately thought of Clockword Orange, as did many of you, and at first I thought it was a dig at Tolkein, but it wasn't.

I didn't immediately think of orwell or lem or vonnegut, but they are the obvious choices.
Must get Anathem.

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Red Hal
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:05 am UTC

Variables that are approximately inversely proportional to that graph:
1. Vehemence with which people will argue that their favourite book, although towards the right-hand side of the graph, doesn't suck.
2. Number of people registering for the purpose of doing 1, above.
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hotaru
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby hotaru » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:16 am UTC

Repton wrote:He invented several languages, but I'm not sure that counts -- the reader isn't expected to understand them. ... You could add "mithril" and "palantir" to the list, I suppose, but the list of invented words that the reader is supposed to remember and understand seems quite short.

if you're not going to count the languages he invented, then "mithril" and "palantir" probably don't count.

Repton wrote:The only ones I can think of are names of peoples/races: orcs, hobbits, dwarves (with a v), ents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orc#Early_modern_usage
"As far as what otherwise might have influenced Tolkien, the OED lists a 1656 use (see below) of an English word ‘orke’ in a way reminiscent of giants, ogres and the like."

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Hobbit
"The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d.1859), printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarf#Etymology
"The alternative plural dwarves has been recorded in the early 18th century, but was not generally accepted until used by philologist J. R. R. Tolkien in his fantasy novel The Hobbit."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ent#Etymology
"The word Ent as it is historically used can refer to any number of large, roughly humanoid creatures, including, but not limited to, giants, trolls, orcs, and even Grendel from the poem Beowulf."

Code: Select all

factorial product enumFromTo 1
isPrime n 
factorial (1) `mod== 1

osmigos
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby osmigos » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:18 am UTC

I loved this one.

The first thing that came to mind was 'wait a minute... what about Tolkien?', which was closely followed by 'I bet he's mentioned in the alt text'. Yup =p

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Minerva » Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:47 pm UTC

I suppose that at this point in time, relatively few of us have read or are reading Anathem, so the reference is going under-appreciated.
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SirMustapha
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:05 pm UTC

INDEXED'D.

"Ohh, but I know one author who uses made up words and is good, therefore the comic is wrong!"

... it's a comic, ain't it?

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby lira_riu » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:11 pm UTC

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Earthsea yet. Certainly starts making up her own language there. Also one of my favorite series.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby jakerman999 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:21 pm UTC

bbctol wrote:For me, this rule usually runs conversely. Frank Herbert, absolutely. Plus, I liked Anathem and it's funny words. Exceptions are reserved for people who like to think they're being really creative by making up a whole new language, but don't put any thought into it (*cough*, a certain author whose name starts with "C" and ends with "Hristopherpaolini")


if you actually bother to do some research, most of the new languages have basis in some other languages, IN REAL LIFE! you have failed. go do your research.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Alder » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:24 pm UTC

Loved this...:D

Would have mentioned Douglas Adams if three or four people hadn't before, and if the forum hadn't kept crashing on me for hours...
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby shadowjack » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:29 pm UTC

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

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SJ Zero
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:58 pm UTC

Fiction rule of thumb 1b: the rule of thumb shall be applied with inverse proportionality to the number of apostrophes in your made up words(plus 1).

Quality = RoTscore/(apostrophes+1)

Seriously. If your language has so many redundant letters that you need three apostrophes just to say the name of your race, just speak English.

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radtea
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby radtea » Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:01 pm UTC

One problem with the concept of "made up words" is that every word is an English word. The English language has long been known for its ability to dissolve other languages on contact, but I'm firmly convinced that it actually already contains every word that anyone can utter, ever. It just happens that some English words are extremely uncommon in the everyday parlance of English-speaking people. The words that haven't been invented yet, for example, are very rarely heard.

But consider: "Pukka sushi compadre" is a perfectly correct English sentence.

English pays for its extravagant vocabulary by, as my Russian friends insist, not having any grammar. Just as every word is an English word, every sentence is an English sentence. It's kinda like Perl, where everything parses but it's still impossible to figure out what most of it means.

Aside: I'm currently reading Vikram Chandra's "Sacred Games" and now know how to be extremely rude in the Hindi dialect spoken in Bombay/Mumbai. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the politics and culture of modern India, and a delight in huge, sprawling, Dickensian plots.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby thesleepless » Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:03 pm UTC

GodShapedBullet wrote:It's a shame Newspeak was specifically designed so that you can't say anything worthwhile in it. Otherwise I would be all up on that learning it as a language.


that's what <a href="http://xkcd.com/191/">lojban</a> is for


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