Linguomogy—Tiberius Bertrom, Ph.D. SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents Minomalism Rules!—Psammeticus Press Free Linguistic Ramblings Series

Cathartic Grecian Maxomes

Anne Thrax
Pelopponensiae Akkademia, Mykênai

It is commonplace, in dialogical practice, for divergences to occur between what is said and what is interpreted. This is true of modern forms of communication, which give spoken language the primacy that it has deservedly earned along the course of human history. This study reports dialogical divergences of a rather unexpected kind, arising from two sets of documents of Grecian origin, which appear instead to compromise the essence of dialog itself as a cooperative endeavor.

Both sets of documents consist of small, irregularly shaped pieces of papyrus, printed with characters whose painstaking decryption is ongoing. Each set is watermarked and comprises a specific papyrus size, one larger for lengthier messages and one very small, allowing no more than three characters altogether in exchanges limited to two participants. The watermarks read, in loose translations from the original Ancient Greek, CountenanceScroll and Chirper, respectively, the latter with a verbal form spelt Cheerp, whose rationale remains obscure.

Communication through these messaging systems proceeded with astounding speed amid the exuberant bustle of a shopping agora or, at a somewhat more leisurely pace, when bumping into someone that one would rather have bumped into in the quietude of a claustro.1 Whether meeting for the first time or finding themselves among old acquaintances, interactants forwent the use of speech to slip into one another’s hands scribbled notes that, to all appearances, were composed on the spot on papyrus ripped to measure. To this purpose, users dashed around physically burdened with inkwell, quill and appropriate quantities of easily rippable papyri. A few of the notes contain some form of identification of the writer, though not necessarily of the reader. The following data illustrate a sample from each set of documents:

CountenanceScroll Data

IM UR: OMG!!! QT juss barft!! yewwwwwwww > . < 2
alea: me?? =p
jacta: LOL!!
est: heheeee... told ya, pets r pests
jacta: & est knows best HAHAHA!!!
CarpeDM: rat? fish? bone? alea? alii?
InVinoV: alot?
est: its a lott, nickanpoop3
Εύφημη Ευχαριστώ: Methinks your felis catus perchance ingested a less appropriate concoction, which may, understandably, have discomposed its entrails. Would you agree?4
jacta: huh?!!!??!!?
CarpeDM: *-*
est: say wat???
alea: O.o
IM UR: ...
InVinoV: qt got yr tongue?
alea: :D
CarpeDM: ROFL!!!5
IMU: helo. i want be youre freind. want see pixture me very freindly? i show.
est: sth phishys goin on...
jacta: ;-)
CarpeDM: looks like u, im
est: duh
Εύφημη Ευχαριστώ: Pardon me, pray?
IM UR: OMG!!! im L8!!!!! GTG!!!
jacta: y?
alea: CU
est: UR?
Carpe DM: luv ya
InVinoV: bibi
est: by-by, u more on6
IM UR: xoxo!!!

Chirper / Cheerp Data


Barring translation glitches, one difficulty in the analysis of these surviving fragments relates to what the exchanges actually represent. Even assuming that printed forms of language reflect spoken forms, and knowing that printed representations of speech fall painfully short of accommodating prosodomic inflections, we have no way of recovering the spoken forms to which most of these texts may have corresponded. One alternative interpretation is that this form of interaction might have been created specifically for printed use, which suggests an unorthodox conception of human communicative abilities whose exploration, as the saying goes, lies beyond the scope of this papyrus. Nevertheless, the data do show a number of regularities, captured in four maxomes which, as their name indicates, maxomize the fluency of the exchanges:

B Scxprss yrslf Scntly;
B Edbe Edit-free; do not write that for which you lack spontaneity;
B Abe as Arbitrary as possible;
B Mus      beMuse your recipients with light-speed comments on their light-speed musings.

Obedience to maxomes further results in two effects. One, intra-textual, generates idiosyncratic clusters of meanings, here termed plicatures, which appear to be interpretable only by insiders (see footnotes 4 and 7). Most plicatures are in fact simplicatures, in that they occur simultaneously (see footnote 6). Complementary plicatures, those that attempt to engage participants in what we nowadays call dialog, involving congruent talk with articulate human beings, fail to merge with the flow of the exchange. Two examples are in Εύφημη Ευχαριστώ’s contributions, which clearly generate complicatures.

The second effect, intra-personal, generates catharsis. The maxomes afford instant, instinctive relief for the expression of whatever happens to cross the users’ minds, at any time, in any place, for any reason, ranging from the gastric vicissitudes of a sphaira pilosa to the socio-cognito-ecological implications of the latest Euripides ockblayusterbay, the latter not included in the data for this study because there are no data.

Finally, maxomatic effects are cathartic to civilized communicators too: they arouse both horror (from the harrowing shortcomings evinced by this means of expression) and compassion (ditto). We thus hope to have demonstrated the irremediably primitive nature of the B set of maxomes and, thereby, the reason why the unwieldy form of interaction that they describe quickly became obsolete.

1 Like most philologists, I know absolutely nothing about the language(s) I am droning on about, although I did get a Φ grade, devoid of BK, in Greek. My Latin, like me, is a bit rusty too, and I sometimes confuse the two (I mean Latin and Greek, not Latin and me). I beg forbearance.

2 Our analysis disregards non-koine symbols. As is well known, no lingua franca tolerates capricious additions to its alphabet.

3 Most of the turns immediately preceding this one appear to have changed hands simultaneously.

4 Careful examination of the orthographia, grammatika and lexicae of this contribution shows that its author is a non-native user of this communicative medium.

5 See footnote 3.

6 See footnote 5.

7 This participant appears to share our difficulty interpreting non-lingua franca characters.

LinguomogyTiberius Bertrom, Ph.D.
Minomalism Rules!Psammeticus Press Free Linguistic Ramblings Series
SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents