Zarking fardwarks!

March 3, 2006

I originally considered calling this post “Lentblogging” — but that has all the appeal of “Watching-paint-dry-blogging”, so I went with something a bit zippier.

Wednesday, as most of you probably know, was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s a long-standing Christian tradition to give up something for Lent. Last year I gave up alcohol. This was successfully accomplished, but rather than feeling disciplined and devout, I mostly came away from the experience with a sense of how incredibly LONG six weeks can be.

So this year I’m trying something different — I’m giving up swearing. Over the last decade or more I’ve become quite the casual cusser, swearing often and enthusiastically with the proficiency of a Portuguese longshoreman. This not only violates the Second Commandment — that’s “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain” for those of you living in communities with active chapters of the ACLU — it has two other negative effects: 1) It is extremely rude to those around you; and 2) It makes you look like a slack-jawed mouthbreathing moron. I do NOT want to become one of those people — and we all know a few — who uses profanity as a sort of conversational Hamburger Helper: “Yeah, my effing cousin Ed called me on the effing phone at three-effing-a.m. last night and tells me his effing girlfriend effing wrecked his effing pickup…”

My most embarrassing experience with swearing happened about a year or so ago. I was chatting on the phone one evening with my nephew Brian (then seven or eight years old) while preparing dinner. I had set a small glass of milk on the diningroom table, walked into the kitchen to fetch something else, and came back to see that one of the cats had jumped up on the table and tipped over the milk, creating a huge white lake on the floor, which the other cat was dabbling in (I no longer remember which cat did what). At this point I popped a fuse and yelled (the following transcript has been euphemized for the protection of those with delicate sensibilities):

OH [invocation of Judeo-Christian deity] [verb requesting that said deity condemn to perdition] IT!!! YOU [verb describing sexual intercourse]-ING CATS!!!

All of this charming discourse went directly into the tender ears of my young nephew, courtesy of Garden Valley Telephone Company. It was NOT my finest moment, but on the plus side, I probably gave Brian a good story to tell at my wake someday.

So I’m taking advantage of Lent this year to attempt to clean up my vocabulary. I’ve slipped a few times already, though not as spectacularly as during The Dreaded Milk Incident. Wish me luck — and if you’re in the mood, post a comment telling me what YOU’RE giving up for Lent. Just keep your language clean!

Oh, and what does “Zarking fardwarks!” mean, you ask? You’ll find the answer on this handy list of fictional expletives (courtesy of Wikipedia).


Mørk calling Orsøn, come in Orsøn …

February 22, 2006

Picture 1
The Baleful Eye

Time for the Baleful Eye to direct its unblinking gaze at Tyalie Tyelellieva, the website companion to Lisa Star’s print publication of the same name — or rather, erstwhile print publication: the print version of TT has not published a new issue in almost five years, though issue No. 19 is rather optimistically described on Lisa’s site as still being “worked on” (on a page last revised August 2002). While we’re on the subject of publication output, let’s do a little contrast-and-compare, shall we? Since the last issue of TT (no. 18) appeared in December 2001, Vinyar Tengwar has published six issues, nos. 43 (Jan. 2002) through 48 (Dec. 2005); and Parma Eldalamberon has published two issues, nos. 14 (2003) and 15 (2004). To put it another way: since January 2002 the Editorial Team has published over 450 pages of new, primary Tolkien material — and Lisa Star has published bupkis. Lisa might consider putting her nose to the grindstone and squeezing out an issue in the near future, lest a disgruntled subscriber get impatient and post a nastygram called “The Failure of Lisa Star” on one of the Tolkien discussion groups. Trust me, I know how unpleasant that would be for her.

The Tyalie Tyelellieva website — which is not as moribund as its dead-tree counterpart, having been updated in January 2006 — is a rich source of misinformation, disinformation, slanted half-truths, and unsubstantiated innuendo directed at the Editorial Team (Lisa might consider borrowing Burger King’s slogan, “The Home of the Whopper”). Here’s a typical example of misinformation, appearing in Lisa’s A List of Tolkien’s Unpublished and Slightly Published Manuscripts:

§7, Taliska; §8, Mørk; and §9, Hvendi are three Germanic-type languages invented by Tolkien on the basis of Gothic, Old English (Mercian dialect) and Old Norse, respectively (see the Biography, p. 37 where it is reported that Tolkien “began to invent `extra’ Gothic words”).

The descriptions of Taliska and Hvendi here are accurate enough, but there’s a slight problem with Mørk: J.R.R. Tolkien never invented it — Mørk exists solely in Lisa Star’s imagination. Lisa first reported the name of this non-existent language as “Mork” in her List of Tolkien’s Languages, where she writes that it is “probably related to Old English” (this page was last updated July 2000). The account in the “Unpublished and Slightly Published Manuscripts” list cited above is later (updated August 2002), and there Lisa — amusingly — changes the name of non-existent “Mork” to the equally non-existent “Mørk”, apparently in an attempt to make it look more Germanic. Also note how the wealth of imagined detail is increased in the later account, in which Lisa drops the qualifier “probably” and flatly states that Mørk was “invented by Tolkien on the basis of … Old English”, while further adding the wholly imaginary tidbit that it was specifically modeled after the Mercian dialect.

Perhaps in the future Lisa will change her mind yet again, and describe this non-existent language as Björk, modeled after Icelandic?