LOLcat bible, international talk like a pirate day, knowledges gained and lost

it’s international pirate speak day… people all over twitter and fb are either speaking ‘pirate speak’… “Yarrr! Here we be at Ye Olde Elme Tree in Cambridge Towne, enjoyin’ a wee jug o’ grog. Shiver me timbers and avast me hearties! (@songthrushoncam)”

…or are telling their kids to do so ( one as he dropped them off at church) (@billamend).

who came up with this idea, and why did it end up becoming popular? what does it mean to talk like a pirate? what are the assumptions about being a pirate that might play out in attempting to speak like one? what about the ‘real’ modern day pirates we read about in the news? do we speak their languages to speak like a pirate? what happens if we do?

Nestled in amongst these arrgs and timbers ashiver, I came across a link to the LOLcat Bible. no, this is not a bible of LOLcat ness, but the Judeo-Christian bible being translated, verse by verse into LOLcat. (lolcatbible.com).

I don’t even know where to begin. these are their translation guidelines:

“The Translation Philosophy
Every translation of the Bible has a philosophy behind it. Some, for example, are quite formal. (“As literal as possible, as free as necessary”, as one translation committee puts it.) Others are dynamic or paraphrases.

The philosophy behind the LOLCat Bible can be summarised as:

  • As fun as possible, no more misleading than necessary.
  • At all times, remember that you’re trying to produce a translation that’s understandable by cats. In particular:
    Cats like having fun. Keep the translation fun.
  • Cats have short attention spans. Use short sentences, and feel free to skim the more tedious bits, such as lists of “begats”.
  • Prefer references to things that cats would understand. A typical domestic cat probably hasn’t seen a desert tent, but they have probably seen a sofa.”

I’m not even sure how to think about this one.

Moving on, I’m seeing links to analyses of upcoming state elections to determine if English should be the official language of said state.

Mixed in amongst all of this are posts in combinations of more than one language… Spanish and English, French and English, Hebrew transliterated into the English alphabet, perhaps bc of a lack of knowledge, or perhaps a lack of Hebrew language software, all by people who are either living now, or have lived, here in the US.

All of these interpretations and mixing of languages make for an interesting thought stew.

I have seen all of this in a matter of minutes as I take a break from reading  “Friction, an ethnography of global connection,” by Anna Tsing. I think the language stuff struck me because in her book, Tsing doesn’t translate certain phrases, words, ideas. Instead she explains them, what they are, so that we too can understand. she protects the species diversity list that she is co-creating with a Meratus Dayak woman from universal categorization so that it is not stolen and used against the Meratus Dayak. additionally, these words, these descriptions are how they know and understand their world around them, whether by smell, taste, location, color, or some combination of these and other descriptions. it provides more meaning to me than if she had literally translated the name:

“iwak: the great white fish just called ‘fish'”
or
“”masapi: a big eel, as big around as a person’s arm, it hides in holes but can be lured out a night with chicken guts” (156 , 157).

To a certain extent, this is reminiscent of Anzaldua’s borderlands… fighting the colonization of language, of the interstitial spaces, the gaps, as Tsing calls them, allows life within the in-between.

it also sheds light on knowledges, in terms of types of knowledge, such as a list of fish genus and species, or experiential knowledge, to know the masapi is to know how to catch it.

different knowledges for different people. what is the purpose of the first, genus and species? to classify and label, to organize and place globally and scientifically; historically, a way to colonize and remove local meaning.

what is the purpose of the second, experiential? to know where, when and how this eel can be caught.

this is not a romanticization of “indigenous’ people, rather it is a way of looking at languages, of differences in how we know, and how we come to understand, and perhaps at how knowledges become lost.

But does it also allow for ‘scaling up’ – to speak the languages of the global, to take cultural specificity and apply it to global markets, global issues, global survival? one of Tsing’s main points is that the local is not independent of the global. populations that are considered culturally separated, outside of society, are really not. chains of commerce, trading and knowledges have been in place for hundreds, if not more, years. so where does the protection stop and the sharing begin? with pressures of a global scale affecting your daily life, when does your own personal knowledge, or your community’s knowledge become for sale?

language is a way of knowledge; gained, lost, shared, protected. it is an always already process, always in the process of becoming– becoming what is up to the holder of the words.