flewellyn: (Default)
[personal profile] flewellyn
"Antidisestablishmentarianism" is a poor choice for a safeword.

Date: 2010-05-19 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arthur-sc-king.livejournal.com

Have you read Douglas Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamagical_Themas)" columns in Scientific American (later collected in book form) from a few decades ago? He once talked about "evolution of language" with this example*:
Picture this: One fine Easter morn, A-ooga and Duhhh, two strong young protohumans of the year 198,016 B.C. are out looking for brightly colored bison eggs. Unbeknownst to them, a ferocious green snaarfbeest, hidden in the limbs of a nearby billaboo tree, is greedily eyeing them and looking forward to a couple of nice juicy raw protohuman-burgers (without the bun). The unsuspecting pair are approaching the tree, and as the snaarfbeest tenses up and prepares to leap upon them, A-ooga spies it and begins to yell, "Watch out for antidisestablishmentariansim snarfbeest!!" — but before she has gotten all the way through that slightly awkward definite article, the beest has leapt, and . . . .

Well, I shall spare you the gory details, but one thing I can tell you for sure: Our two brave proto-language users have become mere sidelines on the evolutionary tree, and aside from the fact that their tragic tale will be retold some 200,000 years later in a postscript concerning ergonomics and the evolution of the genetic code, they are ciphers in the vast scheme of things. What's more, the snaarfbeest has unwittingly done a great favor for users of rival proto-languages: It has reduced by two the number of speakers of A-ooga and Duhhh's proto-language, and thereby strengthened the relative position of all rival proto-languages. With enough such events, it may turn out that the chief rival proto-language, which uses "the" in place of "antidisestablishmentarianism" (and vice versa), will move ahead in the "Top 40" charts for proto-languages.
        — Douglas Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas, BasicBooks, New York, 1985, p.693, orig. pub. as "The Genetic Code: Arbitary?" in Scientific American, March 1982
ObFootnote: * I own a copy of the book, but I'm at work and it's at home, so I lifted this text from amazon.com's "Look Inside!" feature.

Date: 2010-05-19 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
I did not read that, no. But it's very, very Hofstadter. (I have read Godel, Escher, Bach.)

Date: 2010-05-20 02:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brianamj.livejournal.com
So is fluggegecheimen

Date: 2010-05-20 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com

Date: 2010-05-20 05:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-20 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mitrian.livejournal.com
Another poor choice for safeword would be "more".

Date: 2010-05-20 12:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arthur-sc-king.livejournal.com
Oooooh, good one!

Date: 2010-05-20 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jackytar.livejournal.com
There is context here. Just not sure where, and not sure if I want to know. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
There doesn't HAVE to be any.

Date: 2010-05-22 03:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] happiestsadist.livejournal.com
I once read a very amusing story where the safeword was "GriffinDalyDworkin".


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