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You say Tlingit, I say Hlingit
February 8, 2012 12:36 PM   Subscribe

After years of work, New Zealand scholar Sally-Ann Lambert just released volume 2 of her 9-volume linguistics series. “Hlingit Word Encyclopedia: The Origin of Copper” is a 630-page encyclopedia of the SE Alaskan native language Tlingit. She traveled to Sitka for a mid-January book release and found one little problem: none of the Tlingit native speakers or scholars there recognized the language in it.

Lambert published the encyclopedia through her imprint WE International, "the innovator in indigenous language resources." Their web page says:

For the Hlingit language learner, the book offers a much easier way to learn the grammar. Observe the grammar in the story, see the breakdown of complex word parts made clear and sensible according to a native perspective. I am an outsider, but I have the wisdom to know this. Partly because I’m coming at it from a more ancient viewpoint than anyone else. That’s my mode of operation.

Lambert told KCAW radio: “I think often I’m led spiritually, and I don’t make my decisions with the full knowledge of the situation. ... To some degree I think I was trying to bring my mother and father back together through my Celtic heritage. My father had a little French, and my mother had a little Scottish. And I thought that when they lost their culture, they lost their reason for being together. And I think that deep in my heart I was looking for that family togetherness, and I wanted to find that through language.”
posted by msalt (97 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is hilarious. We need to summon Rumple.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:38 PM on February 8, 2012


So it's like a real life version of Monty Python's Hungarian phrasebook sketch? I wonder what "My nipples explode with delight" is in Tlingit.
posted by jonp72 at 12:40 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


If there was a Dunning-Kruger Olympics, I think this lady would be a strong contender.

I wonder how accurate her Maori work is? I can just picture her lecturing her Maori neighbors about how they're speaking their own language wrong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


As someone whose attempts to speak Hindi are invariably met with hysterical laughter from native speakers, I sympathize.
posted by goethean at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goethean: no offense, but perhaps you should put your Hindi encyclopedia project on the back burner.
posted by msalt at 12:47 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wow. Just wow.
posted by Forktine at 12:50 PM on February 8, 2012


Sniglet speakers have a word for this type: gaffedemics.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:52 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sidhedevil -- I went to kindergarten in Mexico, where my parents were then living. People were very sweet to this very blond, high-energy 5 year old and let me join in the folkloric dance performance. Only problem is, in the middle of the show I stopped my classmates to tell them they were doing it wrong. That's when I learned you can be right and very wrong at the same time.
posted by msalt at 12:53 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I wish they'd gotten some reaction from her, unless she's locked in a psych ward now.
posted by OmieWise at 12:57 PM on February 8, 2012


WTF? Outsider art? Outsider lingusitics? I admire her ballsyness.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:58 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


msalt - you are blessedly lucky to have learned that lesson at 5 years old. Some people go a lifetime without learning it.
posted by maryr at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is terribly sad.

Lambert, who has no advanced degrees and no university position, admits that she produced the book outside the worlds of Tlingit culture and traditional academia.

It would surely be possible to produce something useful from either of those domains, but you need to start from at least one of them.

The next time I'm tempted to rail against the strictures of academic research, I'll try to remember this.
posted by rory at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's got a preview on Google Books. Am I reading this right? She's suggesting that Tlingit has its origins in Scottish Gaelic (p. xvii).
posted by steef at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there's a word for that level of cluelessness. In Tlingit.
posted by Floydd at 1:03 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I, not having full knowledge of the situation, feel a spiritual calling to compile a - much-needed and sorely lacking - dictionary and grammar of the Spanish language. I am uniquely qualified to do so by reason of my unrelated ethnicity. I believe it will help my sister and brother-in-law to remain married.
posted by likeso at 1:05 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


msalt - you are blessedly lucky to have learned that lesson -- that you can be right and very wrong at the same time -- at 5 years old. Some people go a lifetime without learning it.

Thanks, but to be honest, I kind of forgot this lesson during my first marriage.
posted by msalt at 1:05 PM on February 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


This is pure outsider art and I am convinced that it's worthy of my library - but I can't figure out how to order it for the life of me. hope me?
posted by Think_Long at 1:06 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's got a preview on Google Books.

The book looks like it was self-published using Microsoft Word.

The "Serendipity" and "Foreward" sections contain looniness in each and every sentence. Just unbelievable.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on February 8, 2012


This just seems really sad to me. I mean, it would be hilarious if it were some money-rich institution that had hired a fast-talking grifter to put together a definitive dictionary and the whole thing had blown up in their faces. But this is just a sad deluded woman who did a huge labor of love and self-published it, only to make herself a laughing stock.
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


Swanton is indeed a classic, early ethnography of Tlingit, and a good starting point for the study of Tlingit culture, from a western perspective. “The Origin of Copper” is one of the stories he recorded, and Lambert uses it as a basis to parse the grammar and culture of the Tlingit.

This probably wasn’t the best strategy.


Holy shit. She "based" the entire 600 page "encyclopedia" on one story in one book written by a non-native speaker in 1909. That's not linguistics, not even as much as the study of Klingon is. In fact, I'd say it's much less like linguistics than Frithaes is... and that was one guy making mp3 files of the way rabbits might talk, if they could talk, based on a one-page list of words in Watership Down.
posted by vorfeed at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


"The mouth in French speech is essentially Neandertal."

God, this book full of quotable non-sequitors.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was indeed self-published.

I love the courtesy of the actual Tlingit speakers in that piece. Instead of pointing and laughing, they're very soberly discussing the problems with the book.

I am sure that after the reporter went away, they just sat around giggling uncontrollably. Because I would!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:11 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ouch. sometimes I read the comments before the the post because there are some sorts of embarrassment I can't live with. This seems to be a prime example. Please someone who has read the post convince me otherwise.
posted by mumimor at 1:11 PM on February 8, 2012


Am I reading this right? She's suggesting that Tlingit has its origins in Scottish Gaelic.

Yes, good catch. That's the "whole new word history that I found." Based on Neandertal pronunciation, no less.
posted by msalt at 1:12 PM on February 8, 2012


This almost sounds like a successor to English As She Is Spoke.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:12 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hear the Eskimo have hundreds of words for "ignorant outsider who presumes to describe our culture".
posted by Nelson at 1:13 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not that all self-published books by cranks are necessarily worthless -- I have one about Texas outsider artist Charles A. A. Dellschau, who is obscure enough that it's pretty hard to track down any information about him and his work. Dellschau created hundreds of watercolor paintings of invented airships from 1900 to about 1920, tying them into an intricate narrative about the fictional "Sonora Aero Club," who was supposedly flying them in secret. The first half of the book is an excellent and well-cited overview of his life and work. The second half discusses how the Sonora Aero Club actually existed and was using UFO technology.
posted by theodolite at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I hear the Eskimo have hundreds of words for "ignorant outsider who presumes to describe our culture".

Yeah. They probably have words for "sad deluded person" too. Those would seem to be the relevant ones here. This really isn't a "ethnocentric, arrogant Westerner fails to understand indigenous culture" story, no matter how many of those elements are actually included in it.
posted by yoink at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah. They probably have words for "sad deluded person" too. Those would seem to be the relevant ones here. This really isn't a "ethnocentric, arrogant Westerner fails to understand indigenous culture" story, no matter how many of those elements are actually included in it.

I don't know what it is. The links don't really help parse it either. We can say she is sad and deluded or ethnocentric and arrogant, I am certain either could apply, depending on the exact circumstance. Personally, I am not going to pick one over the other based on a throw-away press release quote meant to promote the book. Either way you cut it, shit's fucked up.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:21 PM on February 8, 2012


BTW, MeFi's own languagehat blogged this story a few days ago; the comments are interesting. And here's some 2008 commentary on her Maori book.
posted by Nelson at 1:21 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it Tlingit or Hlingit?
posted by tommasz at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2012


This really isn't a "ethnocentric, arrogant Westerner fails to understand indigenous culture" story, no matter how many of those elements are actually included in it.

Yes - visit her website and you'll see that one of the nine books she's planning is on English.
posted by rory at 1:24 PM on February 8, 2012


Sally wishes to offer her service as traditional druidh to selected persons who will act as financial patron.  This is a service as a kind of modern druidh buddy to assist you in your life during the period of patronage... Sally offers counseling, including her own special form of Celtic numerology based on your childhood memories, yoga and postural advice, diagnosis of your health by her hand energy, cultural and language assistance, sounding-board and history / news as a druidh, guardian angel wisdom, astrology, herbal and dietary advice, minerals as well as healthy food preparation, and other skills or knowledge.
posted by Bwithh at 1:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm more impressed that she's a druidh for hire.

posted by Ideefixe at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2012


I hear the Eskimo have hundreds of words for "ignorant outsider who presumes to describe our culture".

This is a cruel thing to say (although probably no more cruel than my previous comments in this thread). And, just to be irritating, it's just not true that "Eskimos" have hundreds of words for x.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2012


Is it Tlingit or Hlingit?

It's spelled Tlingit (while writing in English) by the folks within that community (including elders of the Tlingit Nation) who are involved in language preservation initiatives.

This is one of the things I find bizarrely arrogant about Ms. Lambert's project.

To hear pronunciations by a Tlingit Elder and linguist, check out the audio links at the bottom of this page.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:34 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's not linguistics, not even as much as the study of Klingon is.

Hey! Klingon is a perfectly valid subject of linguistic inquiry.

Tommasz: Apparently the "Hlingit" orthography is also from Swanton.
posted by No-sword at 1:38 PM on February 8, 2012


Not so cunning Hlingit.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hear the Eskimo Inuit have hundreds of words for "ignorant outsider who presumes to describe our culture".

I hear they have 50.
posted by Theta States at 1:44 PM on February 8, 2012


The French section of the book, as linked in the Google preview, is full of grammatical errors anyone with even a moderate grasp on the written language would avoid. So much wow right now.
posted by nonmerci at 1:45 PM on February 8, 2012


Someone get this woman in touch with David Wilson and have her put together a "Hlingit for Beginners" exhibition at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It'd fit perfectly next to the Cone of Obliscence.
posted by RogerB at 1:46 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's just not true that "Eskimos" have hundreds of words for x

Well, it depends what "x" is. The languages spoken by people who self-identify as "Eskimo"* do, as a group, tend to have more different words expressing variations of meaning than English. Yup'ik has a very complex taxonomy of cooking words that broke my head as an English-speaking student trying to understand it.

Also, like most agglutinative languages, meaning is conveyed with suffixing and infixing and prefixing in ways that English speakers find hard to distinguish, so different forms of the same word sound different to us. Hence, I think, the root of some of the "hundreds of words for whatever" claims.

I think it's strange when people seem to use another culture's greater lexical specificity as an alienating or distancing thing, or as an assertion of cultural superiority to the more lexically specific culture. To me, having more words for things seems superior if anything.


*In the US, there are many Alaska Natives who prefer "Eskimo" to "Inuit" as a self-identification.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:47 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I keep on wanting to somehow parse this as an episode of Northern Exposure.

Seriously -- you've got the opportunity for Joel and Maggie to get into a whole fight over her methodology (Joel argues about the importance of factual accuracy, Maggie argues about how alternative methods of research can be just as good and Joel is yet again blinded by his insistence upon canonical methods); Shelly and Ed could get into some spaced-out conversation about it at The Brick where Shelly doesn't really get what's going on and Ed relates it all to a Fellini film; Marilyn has a one-liner that provides a wealth of insight; and Chris Stevens sums it all up with a philosophical rambly monologue about how fighting over what's the right way to say something is all a matter of opinion anyway before playing "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" at KHBR and we cut to commercial.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


On the one hand, I can't help but feel bad for Ms. Lambert. I can only imagine how absolutely humiliating this must be for her, especially after pouring so much time and energy into what was, obviously, a labor of love for her.

On the other hand, to paraphrase Robin Williams in "Good Morning Vietnam", under "condescending outsider" in the dictionary, I think it'll have to be revised to say "see Sally-Ann Lambert". I can't say much more than the (often Tlingit) commenters on the KCRW link, but I wonder if Ms. Lambert has heard of the Cherohonkee, and if there's an equivalent in New Zealand.
posted by jhandey at 1:50 PM on February 8, 2012


or as an assertion of cultural superiority to the more lexically specific culture

In other words, "Language X has more words for thing y than English does" leads me to the conclusion that English's word-hoard is understocked on this one, not that the speakers of Language X are some kind of mythical creatures like fairies or gnomes. But I know the "a million words for snow" meme is generally used to suggest the latter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on February 8, 2012


If there was a Dunning-Kruger Olympics, I think this lady would be a strong contender.

Fremdscham! I've been looking for this word for years! I knew German had to have one!
posted by clarknova at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, just to be irritating, it's just not true that "Eskimos" have hundreds of words for x.

Wow, really, I had no idea! I wonder how I ever turned that hoary old expression into a joke about a fake linguist?

I guess I will feel bad for Ms. Lambert if she is truly mentally ill and incapacitated. But we don't really know. So I prefer to mock her here as an extreme example of soft-headed new ageism, the same garbage that opposes energy-saving power meters and allows kids to die of vaccinatable diseases. Everyone's "wisdom" is not equally true.
posted by Nelson at 2:00 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can only imagine how absolutely humiliating this must be for her

Well, she's probably saved from that to an extent by the very fact that she's completely deluded. I mean, she obviously has no idea what actual language scholarship would look like. "Outsider art" is probably the best category to put this in.

I still find the notion that this exercise was done "arrogantly" bizarre when you see the absolute heart-on-sleeve naivete of her writing. It's like hearing some loon on the sidewalk ranting about how the Martians are controlling the Fed and denouncing their "arrogance" for thinking they know more than real astronomers or economists.
posted by yoink at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Holy shit this woman is a total space case. I've met some pretty far-gone new agers but she is fucking out there.
posted by clarknova at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2012


Amusingly enough, I'm seeing this at the top of her webpage:
%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="936"%

posted by JaredSeth at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2012


It's like hearing some loon on the sidewalk ranting about how the Martians are controlling the Fed and denouncing their "arrogance" for thinking they know more than real astronomers or economists.

Be sure to skip my Lyndon LaRouche threads, then.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2012


Amusingly enough, I'm seeing this at the top of her webpage:

%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="936"%


It's her gift of ancient wisdom to the computer people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


If JavaScript is your language, you can save it by understanding it well. Let it heal your heart.
posted by RogerB at 2:11 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fremdscham! I've been looking for this word for years! I knew German had to have one!

The usual American term for that same feeling is 'douche chills'.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:19 PM on February 8, 2012


From the article:

Lambert... admits that she produced the book outside the worlds of Tlingit culture and traditional academia.

I think often I’m led spiritually, and I don’t make my decisions with the full knowledge of the situation.


So. Much. Fail.

Eyes. Rolling. Uncontrollably [gasp] [death rattle].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2012


But I know the "a million words for snow" meme is generally used to suggest the latter.

I always heard that canard used to explain how a language's vocabulary tends to reflect the users' environment and culture.
posted by Edgewise at 2:21 PM on February 8, 2012


I always heard that canard used to explain how a language's vocabulary tends to reflect the users' environment and culture.

Which is why MetaFilter only has one word for "snowflake."
posted by Floydd at 2:24 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


The usual American term for that same feeling is 'douche chills'.

That just gave me fremdscham.
posted by clarknova at 2:27 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lambert wasn't quite sure she understood language, but decided to just Wlingit.
posted by Flashman at 2:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I occasionally play completely outside of my normal domains. And then I very carefully approach people who actually do know what they're talking about, and try to calibrate.

This is why. Ouch.
posted by effugas at 2:31 PM on February 8, 2012


I always heard that canard used to explain how a language's vocabulary tends to reflect the users' environment and culture.

That's a common misconception of the Tapir-Worf Hypothesis (first formulated when Ambassador Worf was stationed on DS9). People think that Worf was talking about many words Cardassians have for war, but that's actually a quirky mistranslation. In fact Worf was talking about just how darn cute tapirs are.
posted by kmz at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


a "Hlingit for Beginners" exhibition at the Museum of Jurassic Hechnology

FTFY
posted by tommasz at 2:37 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how accurate her Maori work is? I can just picture her lecturing her Maori neighbors about how they're speaking their own language wrong.

Had a quick look on Google Books. It has a section called 'Etymology - corresponding Samoan vocabulary', which seems odd, Samoan not being the closest related language to Maori (Wikipedia). But then Lambert was born in Samoa....

Her "special message from the author" looks to be a mihi, which is basically a greeting where you say who you are and where you come from (both in terms of family/ancestry and place). For some reason she uses the English words 'Scottish' and 'French', which again seems odd to me (when there are perfectly good equivalent words in Maori).

I don't know enough about the language to say any more, but I tried searching the book for definitions of a few words that I know, and it's missing, just plain missing, some very basic words. Pretty poor stuff, from what I can tell.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2012


> Which is why MetaFilter only has one word for "snowflake."

If metafilter were an agglutinative language it would also have specialsnowflake.
posted by jfuller at 2:55 PM on February 8, 2012


For her next project, Sally-Ann Lambert joins original author Pierre Menard to produce a landmark translation of the Tlingit literary classic, Don Quixote.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:56 PM on February 8, 2012


I think this is pretty amazing. It's like a wonderfully Borgian piece of outsider scholarship/art.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:56 PM on February 8, 2012


Anyone up for a Metafilter project? I'm thinking a group of us learn this language and then found a new civilization on a deserted island. We'll check back in 150 years.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2012


Maybe she'll follow this up with a few translations of the Daode Jing.
posted by jiawen at 3:07 PM on February 8, 2012


Incidentally: reminiscent of Mutant Message from Down Under, although it doesn't seem [as] blatantly exploitative.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone up for a Metafilter project? I'm thinking a group of us learn this language and then found a new civilization on a deserted island. We'll check back in 150 years.

That depends. Can I be Supreme Emperor For Life?
posted by asnider at 3:22 PM on February 8, 2012


From the second link:

I wanted to do 52 different Native American nations’ languages in one reader. As a medicine woman, I intuited the spiritual gifts of the different Native American nations. I wanted to bring these together.

I discovered that although I had a special insight into the origin of Native American language, I still had to go through the whole learning process for each language.



She discovered that she still had to go through the whole learning process for each language.


Through this book, a new unity of First Nations people is possible. For those who love the land and its indigenous people, a new productiveness can emerge to heal the people and the land. It also needs a reversal of GM, and a knowledge of nightshades for eco-wisdom. The languages, the people and the land unite in a shared ecology, and the ecosystem must be understood as the medicine man understands it.


It's sort of like reading a Dr Bronner's label but Dr Bronner's is fun. This, this...wholesale substitution of intuition for reality is disturbing.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:32 PM on February 8, 2012


This, this...wholesale substitution of intuition for reality is disturbing. politics

FTFY.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:40 PM on February 8, 2012


That depends. Can I be Supreme Emperor For Life?

Well, we'll have to take turns.. but you can have the first one.
posted by TheKM at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a medicine woman, I intuited the spiritual gifts of the different Native American nations.

To me, this is arrogance. It may be delusion as well. But it isn't happening outside a context; it's happening in the context of Native people who have spent their lives being told what to think about their own language and their own cultural heritage by white outsiders.

Giving a nation a "gift" of a horribly mangled "encyclopedia" of the language they have worked hard to preserve--without any acknowledgement of the years of effort and sacrifice they have invested in preserving and codifying the language, including many years in which this work was done in the face of opposition and resistance from the larger society and government entities--is a pretty arrogant thing to do.

If the reason she cannot see how arrogant and offensive her action is is because she is living with mental illness that impairs her cognitive functions, I am sorry for her and hope she can get help to resolve those issues. But none of this shit is happening in a vacuum. If this is a delusional fixation, it's one that takes place in a context of a society filled with "What These People Need Is A Honky" memes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:06 PM on February 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


Those internet kids have been misusing the term; this is what an "epic fail" looks like.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think this is bad you should have seen what happened when she said 'mattress' in front of her husband.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:17 PM on February 8, 2012


'Sad' is the first word that came to mind, but seeing quotes from her like this:
As a medicine woman, I intuited the spiritual gifts of the different Native American nations. I wanted to bring these together. I discovered that although I had a special insight into the origin of Native American language, I still had to go through the whole learning process for each language;
made me think 'arrogant'. And then I went on to 'angry', because I love the art of the Tlingit (and Haida, and other Northwestern groups), and instead of people finding out about that they're finding out about some delusional Kiwi.

So, to try to remedy that: I could go on and on, but let Google image search be your guide.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:21 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's like a wonderfully Borgian piece of outsider scholarship/art.

Do you mean it's reminiscent of Borges or of the Borg? Because I can kind of see either.
posted by zeptoweasel at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2012


Tlingit grammar is quite well described. Maybe she should have paid attention to academic linguistics after all.
posted by spitbull at 5:37 PM on February 8, 2012


Whoa. I just read the description of this on her "We International" website. This is a crazy person who has no technical knowledge of linguistics that I can discern, and a lot of what she says there would be offensive to many Native people I know on its face.

Let's not confuse this with scholarship, please. It is New Age tripe.
posted by spitbull at 5:44 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who appears in the story: there is the girl who becomes a woman, shape-changer bear and the bear clan, the girl’s family, her husbands who are sunbeams, her son who is also like a sunbeam (and who becomes a man), the girl her son marries, a cannibal, slaves, shape-changer canoes, and a grandmother mouse. And there are berries.

Berries. WHAT.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I strongly second the recommendation of the UBC Museum of Anthropology.
posted by wobh at 5:51 PM on February 8, 2012


In other words, "Language X has more words for thing y than English does" leads me to the conclusion that English's word-hoard is understocked on this one, not that the speakers of Language X are some kind of mythical creatures like fairies or gnomes. But I know the "a million words for snow" meme is generally used to suggest the latter.
It's not a million words for snow, it's something like a hundred or something, and the point is supposed to be that Eskimos deal with a lot of snow, so they a lot of terms for different types, like we have a lot of terms for highways and roads and stuff. Since English has at least 88 words for snow, so it's probably not impossible.


I found this bit somewhat hilarious
Also I found this bit In 2007 I visited France, to stimulate my progress on the Gaul project. I stayed with WWOOF program gardeners, it was wonderful, and I learned and saw great things. I expect this book will be actually in French, so I’m having to improve my French. To do this, I’ve been reading French rather than English novels for the past three years. Generally, I choose Fred Vargas’ detective novels.
posted by delmoi at 6:15 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you mean it's reminiscent of Borges or of the Borg?

Borges. I think the adjectival form of Borg is just Borg.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As amusing as this story is, it also makes me a bit angry. I'm a huge proponent of the idea that good research can be done outside of a formal academic setting, and that independent scholarship should be taken seriously. People like Sally-Anne Lambert just reinforce the view that learning and research should be left to the ivory tower of academia, and make it more difficult for legitimate independent scholarship to reach the mainstream.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 7:08 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wave your freak flag high, lady.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:26 PM on February 8, 2012


I'm late to the pile-on here, but there's a mention of Kittemagund on page x of the foreword. She was a real figure who lived not far from my hometown, but would be oddly obscure to anyone not specifically interested in central Maryland and the Piscataway. Everything else seems to be from a fever dream, but that bit's... right, I guess?
posted by el_lupino at 7:34 PM on February 8, 2012


This is the linguistic equivalent of homeopathy and crystal healing. Mere mockery is insufficient.
posted by kjs3 at 9:44 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Borges. I think the adjectival form of Borg is just Borg.

Yes, in Middle Borg it was /borgd/ but by Early Modern Borg the -d prefix had been assimilated.
posted by No-sword at 11:48 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've always assumed that "English as She is Spoke" was an artifact of its time, a particular type of hilarious failure that could never possibly be repeated in our technological age. This woman has proved me, happily, wrong.

I'm going to enjoy probing this text for completely novel shapes and textures of crackpot craziness. It's safer and a lot less disturbing than my previous mainline source for cognitive dissonance, listening to U.S. Republican presidential candidates.
posted by otherthings_ at 11:54 PM on February 8, 2012


Suffix.
posted by No-sword at 12:00 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: And there are berries.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:36 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also:

Am I reading this right? She's suggesting that Tlingit has its origins in Scottish Gaelic

Ohmygod ohmygod she is.
"I don't think anyone suspected Hlīngit could have come from Gàidhlig, but that's what I found, over 20 years ago."
The appendix to the book (starting around page 402) is a 160-plus-page massive vein of New Age crazy. She goes on about DNA, copper, how the Neanderthals spoke Gaelic, why iodine made us evolve into modern humans...it just goes on and on.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:59 AM on February 9, 2012


delmoi: That's 88 words FROM snow, not 88 words FOR snow. Important difference.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2012


Do you mean it's reminiscent of Borges or of the Borg? Because I can kind of see either.

RESISTANCE RESEARCH IS FUTILE.

PEER REVIEW IS IRRELEVANT.

LOGIC IS IRRELEVANT.

YOUR TECHNOLOGICAL AND BIOLOGICAL CULTURAL DISTINCTIVENESS WILL BE ADDED TO OUR OWN MISREPRESENTED AND IGNORED.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:53 PM on February 9, 2012


I, not having full knowledge of the situation, feel a spiritual calling to compile a - much-needed and sorely lacking - dictionary and grammar of the Spanish language. I am uniquely qualified to do so by reason of my unrelated ethnicity.

I Bet I Can Speak Spanish
Hello, amigos! El soy quando agunto! Ella balloona balunga espanyo!

Did that sound Spanish to you? I bet that means something. And guess what? I've never had one lesson. It's just that I have a natural gift for Spanish. I was able to pick it up all by myself, "outside the system," if you will.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:48 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Fremdscham"- OMG, German has a word for something my friends and I had to invent an English word for- 'embarrathy'- defined (by us, in the audience at an amateur performance) as 'uncomfortable feelings of empathy for someone else making a fool of themselves on stage'.
posted by girl Mark at 10:53 PM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


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