Monday, March 19, 2007

Voltron the Big Gay Manform Robot

I have discovered, probably long after everyone else, the Wikipedia page of deleted entries. It is a great consolation. The very first is, like my telescope sign, a found poem with overtones of Frank O'Hara in his more playful moments.
'Voltron is about uber l337 robot felines that join together to fight evil the voltron form, wihch is a big gay manform robot that kills so much. i used to have a voltron coloring book when i was little but i dont know where it went. damit it was nice too, tole the whole voltron story all about action. i even made voltron my msn name cause MTV made a joke about a "voltron of crap" this means like a "super conglomeration of crap" or a "network of crap" like MTV. i hope voltron rapes MTV and sets it all on fire to death. ApoC, 2003. so do I.'
I am reminded of a Chinese seller on eBay who, losing his temper with buyer Nige, emailed, 'You sleeping policeman, I drive over you.' A rich seam of imagery in the globalised English vernacular lies waiting for a new Shakespeare.


  1. Ah yes the Chinaman - his remarks began 'Shameless buyer, damn of! Very much damn of!'... Poetry indeed.

  2. When my husband was in Bosnia in the 1990s he asked his driver how you say sleeping policeman in Serbo-Croat. The answer, when translated literally back into English, was 'lying bastard'.

  3. This ties in with the issue of globalisation versus diversity in the Susan Sontag post below.

    One of the arguments I've used against Esperanto as a concept is that even if it was somehow imposed on the world overnight, within a generation or two local differences would mean that Russian Esperanto, English Esperanto, Italian Esperanto, Chinese Esperanto etc would have diverged so far that you would need translators between them.

    It could therefore only ever be useful as a worldwide second language, not a first. But then another agument against it is that English is set to become the international second language anyway. But what would happen if English started becoming so important that it became a first language nearly everywhere?

    Maybe it would start morphing into these weird 'voltron of crap' local dialects. And these would in turn feedback into the orginal language by a process of natural selection. And thus we would end up eventually with a single, global language after all.

    Let's call it Voltron English. You heard it here first.

  4. Thanks for deepening the post Brit. I like the idea of Voltronese. It suggests the possibility as a plethora of new forms of English that will, in time, become quite separate languages.

  5. But will they? Doesn't language evolution mimic natural evolution in that branches in geographical or other kinds of reproductive isolation diverge from the original branch over time? So all languages are really just forms of a few, or possibly ultimately one original language.

    The question is whether the removal of this isolation by globalisation and the internet will mean that we will end up with a single, hybrid global Voltronese spoken by everybody. And if this happens, will the world have better understanding but fewer souls?

  6. A profound and learned post, Brit. So, if it doesn't separate, Voltronese will steal our souls. This intrigues me. Another post is in gestation. But give me time.

  7. Or one could say that if everybody spoke English, the only people with souls would be the English

  8. Ah, but that would only be the case for one generation. After which, everybody would be in the same boat.

    (To be honest, I just pulled all that out of my arse just now. However, if Voltronese becomes the topic for your next book I'm happy to be your legman and go off on all-expenses research trips to exotic foreign locations.)

  9. Though we do want to stay away from romantic claptrap like, "The gentle Whatnots have no word for war."

  10. What about the Inuit who have 10,000 words for snow? Voltron Esperanto will only give them two or three, so they'll have to retain 9,997 from their own language. Will the Global Voltron Language Commisariat develop a word to replace the New England term "Noreaster"? What about all the throwaway terms that American blacks come up with everyday, like "phat" and "def" and "illin"? The Commisariat cannot possibly keep up with all the demands for local color. It can't be done, I tell you! People want Babel.

  11. Duck:

    Voltronese is inevitable - it is the result of natural selection now that globalisation has reversed the normal process of linguistic evolution, so words like 'phat' etc will be absorbed if they prove useful and popular. It is the opposite of an 'imposed' Esperanto or the French project to retain the purity of the language, so there can be no Commisars.

    Also, that business about all the words for snow is a myth, as is the idea, as David correctly observes, that the Whatnots have no word for war.

  12. Sure, you just want to secure your place in history as the man who coined the term "Voltronese". Also you're begging for a gig on one of Bryan's research tours.

    All of the new American black-isms that come along are substitutes for two words: "cool" and "uncool". So just as with the mighty Inuit, American blacks have thousands of words to describe these two concepts. They all have a shelf-life of around 180 days. Once white grendmas are using them, they are way past their sell-by date. That is how American blacks retain their domination over coolness.

    But everyone in the Voltron universe will want to be "cool", but by using outdated terms they can only show how uncool they are. How confusing will it be when some Taiwanese undergrad says "that's so def, beeyotch". You won't know if he's saying it is cool or uncool.

    Babel reigns supreme.

  13. I drive over you too Applebottom