Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Metafilter: essentially English after having been wiped off with a dirty sponge.
June 25, 2007 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Essentalist explanations. Maintained by John Cowan, this list boils down dozens of languages, real, invented, and imaginary, to their pithy essences. "Japanese is essentially 16th-century Chinese, 17th-century Portuguese, 18th-century Dutch, 19th-century French and 20th-century English with an abhorrence of consonant clusters." "Esperanto is essentially Spanish with extra 'x's and 'k's." "Klingon is essentially Arabic spoken through a set of bulky false teeth." "English is essentially a half dozen other languages locked in a small room. They fight."
posted by escabeche (37 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Your selections are amusing and managed to intrigue me, but I discovered that the quality bits are overwhelmed by the enormous amount of collected drivel on the site.

I know, I know. Metafilter: ...
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2007


Essentialist

Oh, I was all set to flame but I RTFA and laughed heartily. John Cowan is essentially a linguist with his humerus intact.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2007


That's essentially meaningless to nonlinguists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:02 PM on June 25, 2007


It seems like this would make for a very funny 3 jokes and then it would be done.
posted by DU at 6:08 PM on June 25, 2007


John Cowan is essentially a linguist with his humerus intact.

To me, it conjures up the image of a dude with Aspergers obsessively trying to collect all the world's jokes so that he can learn them by heart and thereby know when to laugh.

To paraphrase DU: that list is essentially 3 very funny jokes hidden under a beat-up dead horse.
posted by nomis at 6:30 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


C'mon people, you're missing the point. It's like having a Far Side book; just because you can, doesn't mean you should read them all in one sitting.
posted by chrismear at 6:40 PM on June 25, 2007


I have a feeling if I sent in "English is essentially Teletubby as reinterpreted by Frank Sinatra and passed through a used coffee filter" or something equally meaningless and stream of consciousness, he would dutifully add it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:41 PM on June 25, 2007


This list is essentially a bunch of ethnic stereotypes, glossed over with a veneer of linguistics.

Apart from that, I wonder how they came up with some of these, eg:

Livonian is actually Latvian as spoken by drunken southern Estonians.

Last time I checked, I thought the story was that only about a couple of dozen people in the world still spoke Livonian...? Did somebody really seek out these few remaining Livs to hear what the language sounds like?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:47 PM on June 25, 2007


Say what you will, but those Livs sound like drunk southern Estonians to me.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


That was way less funny than it should've been.
posted by rkent at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2007


Metafilter: essentially 3 very funny jokes hidden under a beat-up dead horse.

(everyone has to have a first time)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:01 PM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I keep of compilation of useless odds and ends, too. I call it a "compost pile."
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:03 PM on June 25, 2007


"Inglish iz issenshali a langwidje dhat, wen rittun fonetkli, iz ilejibul tu netiv spikerz."

Huh. But isn't that true of all languages?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2007


Oh the irony. I misread "illegible."

::bursts into flames::
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:19 PM on June 25, 2007


Portuguese is essentially Spanish as spoken by a Russian.
--Peter Clark


Ha! On first learning portuguese, I told someone who wanted to fake its sound to say something in Spanish with a throaty Slavic accent. Perfect.

I agree this is meant to be perused. Maybe its funnier if you know more than one language (ooh! burn!)
posted by vacapinta at 7:29 PM on June 25, 2007


Huh. But isn't that true of all languages?

Nope. Languages with very rigorously phonetic alphabets like Arabic and Hindi don't suffer from that problem. There may be regional variations in pronunciation, but there's no such thing as a "non-phonetic" pronunciation of a written word.

I think the problem with English in particular is that we don't have enough letters, and we adamantly refuse to integrate diacriticals for some reason. You just can't make a Francophone / Germanic mish-mash language with only 26 characters and no diacriticals, and forget about integrating borrow words from other language groups.
posted by rkent at 7:44 PM on June 25, 2007


Arabic and Hindi... no such thing as a "non-phonetic" pronunciation of a written word.

Well, OK, that's a bit of an overstatement; I guess you could argue that the taa-marbuta can be pronounced "non-phonetically," and dropping the implied schwa at the end of Hindi words is also non-phonetic, strictly speaking. But those minor situations are governed by pretty clear rules at least.
posted by rkent at 7:48 PM on June 25, 2007


MetaFilter: everyone has to have a first time
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:55 PM on June 25, 2007


Thanks, everyone. I have added the essential parts of your comments to a new category, Meta, which puts the page into its 13th edition.

There are also new entries (at the end) in the English and Baltic, Indo-Iranian, Dravidian sections.
posted by johnwcowan at 8:31 PM on June 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


This post is essentially a method for getting a stranger to donate 5 bucks.
posted by mystyk at 8:43 PM on June 25, 2007


You just can't make a Francophone / Germanic mish-mash language with only 26 characters and no diacriticals, and forget about integrating borrow words from other language groups.

But...English seems to work out well enough, and borrows plenty of words from other language groups...
posted by Sangermaine at 8:48 PM on June 25, 2007


This post is essentially a method for getting a stranger to donate 5 bucks.

* sings: another one bites the dust!

Anyway, hi, johnwcowan! Sorry you had to be exposed to all the snark here. FWIW, I thought these were cute:

Bombay Hindi is essentially bad English.
--Amber Adams

...conversely, Bombay English is essentially bad Hindi.
--Amber Adams


(and that #meta anchor doesn't seem to work (yet))
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:08 PM on June 25, 2007


(and that #meta anchor doesn't seem to work (yet))

Worked for me as soon as he made his post. Make sure you force reload.
posted by vacapinta at 9:13 PM on June 25, 2007


John Cowan has included this pandering comment in the list you are reading despite some misgivings.
posted by cortex at 9:29 PM on June 25, 2007


*crosses fingers, eyes*
posted by cortex at 9:29 PM on June 25, 2007


I like this. Brings back memories of all the hours spent lurking on the Conlang list during my egregiously misspent youth.
posted by enn at 9:49 PM on June 25, 2007


Also, the other Portuguese one that has been repeated to me several times is "Portuguese is Spanish spoken by a drunken Frenchman."
posted by vacapinta at 9:57 PM on June 25, 2007


Finnish is essentially Hungarian spoken while drunk, freezing, and morose.

Hah!
posted by slimepuppy at 3:16 AM on June 26, 2007


People keep mentioning the 3 funny jokes. Could someone find them for me, I'm not sure I have the time or will to search for them myself.
posted by ericales at 3:46 AM on June 26, 2007


But...English seems to work out well enough, and borrows plenty of words from other language groups...

Sorry, you can't do it phonetically with that few letters, you have to have a bunch of them do double or triple duty, to the endless misery of ESL learners.
posted by rkent at 4:38 AM on June 26, 2007


UbuRovas: thanks for the sympathy, but if I hadn't thought these comments were Pretty Durn Funny, I wouldn't have put them into the list. I don't know why I never thought of a "Meta" category before.

E.Naeher: hi there!

Ericales: many agree that only a few of the EEs are funny, but almost nobody agrees on which ones!

Cortex, Vacapinta: I've enqueued these for the 13.1st edition.
posted by johnwcowan at 7:36 AM on June 26, 2007


You indulge us. Thanks, sir.

Ericales: many agree that only a few of the EEs are funny, but almost nobody agrees on which ones!

It's a wonderfully self-selecting list, that way. Language and culture humor is such a navelgazing genre: to get it you have to get it, and nobody likes a joke they don't get.

It's like orchestral humor. 95% of the population don't care much for viola jokes, and the other 5% piss themselves laughing.

"...no, they're the same size, it's just that the violinists heads are bigger AHAHAHAHAH..."
posted by cortex at 8:12 AM on June 26, 2007


Cortex, Vacapinta: I've enqueued these for the 13.1st edition.
posted by johnwcowan at 7:36 AM on June 26


A quick Google reveals that the "drunken Frenchman" appears to have been quoted in a Lonely Planet guide so I assume thats the source used by people who repeated it to me.
posted by vacapinta at 10:12 AM on June 26, 2007


johnwcowan: if I hadn't thought these comments were Pretty Durn Funny, I wouldn't have put them into the list.

I've gotta say that rkent's "Some of the entries on this list are way less funny than they should be" dropped into the middle of the other meta quotes is pure comedy gold. For some reason, I can't help imagining Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons mouthing it.

On the other hand, I did *not* provide the quote "Livonian is essentially a language the sound of which nobody knows". If you're going to paraphrase me, you could at least make it less stuffy.

Can I suggest something like "Livonian essentially sounds like what a deaf man would hear in a diving bell at the bottom of the ocean"?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:47 PM on June 26, 2007


OMG this is why I read metafilter. John Cowan hope the Aspie snark wasn't hurtful. Were I you I would feel complimented since a significant proportion of people on this site display certain tendancies..... you know who you are!!
posted by Wilder at 2:58 PM on July 1, 2007


Was that a joke that Wilder made just then?

* looks around nervously, unsure whether or not to laugh.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:39 PM on July 1, 2007


Nope
posted by Wilder at 4:01 AM on July 2, 2007


« Older You've heard about MS-13. But did you expect that...  |  This fellow... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments