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You may have seen a brilliant xkcd comic that diagrammed the Saturn V moon rocket using labels limited to the thousand most commonly-used words in the English language - e.g., Saturn V is "Up-Goer Five", and thousand is "ten hundred."  It is remarkably clear and accurate, and might actually help some little kids or dimwitted adults understand rocket architecture.  Well, in furtherance of continuing the meme as a kind of brain-teaser, an Up-Goer Five text editor that warns you whenever you type something not in the thousand most common words has been posted.  Now, I know what you're thinking, and I'm thinking the same thing: This is a perfect way to explain basic concepts of grownup society to Republicans - although Tea Party members might need the lexicon reduced to 100 words, and all them would have to be misspelled.  So here goes.

Dear Party of Mean and Crazy People,

A long time ago, this place was smaller and was run by guys from across the big water.  Those guys were mean to us for a while, not letting us talk where they decided things, but still making us pay them.  It wasn't the paying that was the problem, but the not letting us play a part in deciding what to pay.  I'm sure there were some who just didn't want to pay anything at all no matter what, and I guess you are like them, but most of the guys who stood up against it didn't like that they couldn't have the same say in what to pay as guys who lived over the big water.  Kind of like how you people don't want other people who live in this place today to have the same say in things as you.  The guys who stopped the problem back then had said this, in the well-known piece of paper called the Saying of Deciding Stuff Yourself:

Everyone knows that everyone starts life the same, and so their rights are the same: Life, doing what you want with that life, and trying to be happy.
Even though everyone knows about those words, you don't seem to care.  You just go around saying it was about not paying stuff, just so you can say it's okay for you to not pay stuff even though you already get a say in it and more than your share of what it buys.  In fact, you get more of a say than other people.  Most people don't agree with you, but their thinking isn't said as much in the speaking places, papers, and talking boxes because people like you own most of them and fire anyone who doesn't say what they're told to say.  That's not like the guys who wrote the Saying of Deciding Stuff Yourself - that's like the guys who were trying to make us pay them without letting us have a say in it.   You want all the saying and none of the paying, and want everyone else to have all the paying and none of the saying.

You have a right to think that, but don't lie and say you're on the side of the people who made the Saying.  They said everyone should have the same rights, but you want to take away the rights of people who look different from you, talk different from you, use different words to talk to their gods than you do with yours, like different things than you like, want different things than you want, and people who say you're wrong about something.  You are the problem - the same problem the Saying was written to deal with when it was from across the big water, but now you're here and still a problem.    

And that's just talking about money and rights.  You also don't seem to understand stuff about how living things work, where they came from, and what happens when you put some kinds of stuff in the air.  There is a whole job people do where they study these things, and they know more about it than anyone else because that's their job.  And as time goes on, they know more and more because they learn new stuff.  Do you go around telling people who work on cars how to do their job if you're not one of them?  How about doctors?  Do you think you know more about something because you don't like what it means than all the people who spend their whole lives working on it?  Stop being so stupid.

All living things change over time.  We know because we can see it happen all the time.  The more time that passes, the more change happens.  People are different than they were in the past, and more different the more back you go.  But the more different they were from today, the more they were like other animals - who are also now different than they were back then.  The only reason you say this isn't true is that a book says so that was written a long time ago from stories made up by people way before then who couldn't read, and that is really stupid.  

None of the people who wrote that book had the job of learning about living things, because no one knew about that job yet.  Now we do know about that job, and the people who work it say people are a hundred times older than you say, and life is about half a hundred hundred hundred hundred hundred years old.  If you're not going to use your stupid old book to know how to fix your car, don't try to use it to know about living things, because it would work just as good.  Which is to say, it wouldn't.  I say again: Stop being stupid.

Then there's all the stuff being put in the air.  You know the stuff that comes out the back of a car?  Some of that stuff stops hot air from cooling.  It just gets hotter and hotter the more of it there is.  There are people who have the job of knowing what different stuff in the air does, and they know that that stuff makes the air hotter.  That's why it keeps being more hot than ever in so many places all the time.  I don't care how much you like your big stupid car that's ten feet wide and makes you feel like a real man because nothing between your legs is big enough to do that.  The people who work the air-stuff job say there needs to be less of the car-back stuff in the air or things will get very bad.  And things have been getting bad because people aren't cutting back on putting that stuff in the air.  

But you say it's not happening, because the people who make the stuff that burns in cars and makes the bad air say it's not bad and causes no problems.  These are guys who kill lots of people just to get the stuff in the first place, but I'm sure they would tell the truth about how bad it is to the people who pay them for it.  Guess what: They're lying.  They're bad people.  And so are you if you try to stop people from dealing with the air problem.  You would also be very stupid, because even people with lots of money are hurt when their houses next to the big water end up under it, which has already happened in some places.  Maybe you're one of those sick, crazy people who wants everything to suck because your stupid old book says that's the way to make your god come and end the world, but the rest of us think that's a bad thing.

The world is what we make it, nothing more and nothing less.  Stop being mean to people for telling the truth, stop doing stupid things that hurt people just to make yourself feel big, and start acting with them the way you want other people to act with you.  Grow up, and learn to read and think like big boys and big girls so we don't have to use Up-Goer Five to talk to your sorry ass.

3:30 PM PT: I now have a headache from writing in Up Goer Five.  Trying to express an intelligent thought using only the 1000 most common words is like trying to breathe through a coffee straw.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the good version of Newspeak? (6+ / 0-)

    I wonder what the grade level of Up-Goer Five is...

    The above doc should be required reading in all low info places for kids and adults alike...

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:00:43 PM PST

    •  No language limitation is good. (6+ / 0-)

      It's a matter of processing power - words form symbolic connections, and the more there are, the more possible combinations exist to deal with complex reality.  The more inefficient a language is at communicating something about reality, the more painful and arduous it is to deal with it at all, which is where the concept of Newspeak came from: Reducing language to the point where there is no possible combination of the available words that can allow a person to comprehend and work effectively with ideas that the Party wants to eliminate.

      Imagine if it took an entire paragraph of dumbed-down words chained together awkwardly to express complex one-word ideas like responsibility, morality, or freedom?  People wouldn't want to think about them, let alone talk about them - they would seem pompous and ridiculous becoming passionate about something that took ages just to describe.  Whereas in real life, we can discuss them using associations with other complex, one-word concepts: Mutualism, reciprocity, honesty, empathy, etc.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:15:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  All pidgin dialects started that way.... and grew (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And for example we currently have an International English that non English speakers are evolving. It is simpler as you'd expect and it is diverging from English as first language... but of course it has a far bigger vocabulary than Up Goer Five speak...

        Languages are dynamic and people adapt them constantly adding new shades of meaning, borrowing words, coining new ones... most slang gets invented and dropped but some stay on if they fill a need. And probably language fad words and expressions drive the changes over time... and linked to the needs people have for what their words mean...

        So let's say some kids and teens who speak this lingo get marooned somewhere and have to  start civilization all over again... they would add on to the limited language over time... kids especially are the vanguard of language plasticity... and Teens add another layer of novel words and associations...

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:35:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Spanglish, Engrish, Denglish, Franglais... (0+ / 0-)

          Those are amalgams that are limited by the fact of their being used as bridges across two fully-developed languages.  They benefit from being able to draw from two completely realized lexicons and symbolic networks.  That's very different from simply contracting one language.

          Youth generate a lot of emotional and social relationship-based words; technology sectors generate a lot of nouns; but the complex conceptual words that really elevate a language to its highest potential only come from a critical mass of connections that isn't possible when there are too few abstract terms.  If kids had to start civilization over again, it would just be pure hunter-gatherer, and its abstractions would all concern emotion and social hierarchies.  There would be no room for intellectual exploration.

          This is why it takes so damn long to evolve from hunter-gatherer tribalism to complex civilization.  Physically modern human beings wandered around for like 50,000 years before they started building things.  It just plain never occurred to them until that point.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:47:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes... would take a long time, held back (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            by limited language scope and few challenges or enrichment from other languages and groups. And especially if there is no written form. An example of a young language that had to use a lot of repeated sounds from a smaller starting palette of phonemes and basic vocabulary to expand the language is Hawaiian. Now that is just from the point of view of the sounds and root words/syllables it has been built up with. And that directly relates to

            the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the idea that language affects the way we act, the way we think, and the way we perceive the world around us.
            I have always wanted to find out more about what conceptual and definition limitations Hawaiian might have encountered developing in semi-isolation. Perhaps to make up for some things their spoken language was not doing for them as well as they needed they evolved their dance as a poetic and evocative means of expression and that appears to have expanded or augmented the abstractions that related to their immediate world. But evolving much beyond reflecting their immediate and relatively stable and static social environment would have been highly unlikely - there was no need.

            Hunter gatherer societies can have very rich and sophisticated conceptual frameworks and understanding of their place in the world and detailed knowledge of their environment and their social hierarchies and relationships all woven into supernatural belief structures but they evolved that over many, many thousands of years... and written language would still have taken a very long time to develop if at all given the geographic limitations in most places.

            And as you say a group of young humans starting out almost from scratch would take many thousands of years to evolve a long and rich set of traditions and a language to match and ultimately with no guarantee of moving to words and thinking that transcend day to day survival, relationships and superstition.

            So a thought experiment on language would seem to need the classic ingredients of the river valley, agricultural surpluses and early urbanization with key livestock along with multiple ongoing interactions with other people and languages to end up with a language that evolved to written literature and complexities of thought that transcend day to day survival or constricted ritual superstition.

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 09:16:20 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  A Sci fi book on engineered languages (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            In a parallel vein to starting up a new language from sparse beginnings there is the idea of intentionally re-edited languages. The writer Jack Vance explored the idea of re-tailoring language as a means of control or change of the way a society thinks or even can or can't think in his novel "The languages of Pao"... one of the few I have run into besides "1984".

            While the book is not one of his best... the attempt to see what language manipulation could do was at least intriguing even if it was not really convincing...

            The basic premise of the story revolves around the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which basically boils down to the fact that language affects the way we act, the way we think, and the way we perceive the world around us. In The Languages of Pao, this is explored by the invention of three different languages that are introduced to three equal parts of the same population; the population of Pao, people who are generally bland, abhor violence, and show passive-aggressive behaviour. Of course, these three languages completely change the three population groups, leading to general anarchy and troubles for the main character(s) of the book.

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 09:18:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's a start. But I think (6+ / 0-)

    the Up-Goer Five generator word fixer-upper needs to put the IMPORTANT STUFF in capital letters.

    Just a thought.

    Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects. -Herodotus

    by TerribleTom on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:11:13 PM PST

  •  I wonder if the Pakleds had a similar vocab? (3+ / 0-)

    Republicans in SPACE!

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:11:39 PM PST

  •  Required reading in low info areas... might help (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, belinda ridgewood

    good for kids and adults alike!

    I wonder what the grade level of up goer five is?... seems advanced for Dick and Jane...

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:13:17 PM PST

    •  It's because I still use advanced sentence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      belinda ridgewood, IreGyre

      structure with comma divisions and cadence designed for paragraph form.  That's why it doesn't sound as dumb as the vocab limitations would otherwise make it - my brain kind of forces me to compensate by playing with structure.  And I also semi-cheat by using colloquialisms.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:32:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's a serious flaw if you want to reach that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        belinda ridgewood, Troubadour

        audience.  Maybe the Upgoer Five Test Thing needs to throw away long word groups.

      •  :) hard to dumb down enough... a challenge (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        All the difficulty of a Haiku with none of the poetic challenge...

        It is like comments on some sites with pretend trolls who try to appear like a right wing know-nothing but just can't get the mangled grammar and spelling right... too formulaic and predictable without enough insight into the raw chaotic ignorance needed to pull it off...

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:41:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I love the Up Goer Five Word Maker. (6+ / 0-)

    Friend of mine offered the challenge of describing your job in Up Goer Five speech.

    It is damn hard to describe "Holocaust reparations", but not impossible if you assume your readers already know about the Holocaust and just need a reminder.

  •  Double-plus good! (3+ / 0-)

    Oldthinkers unbellyfeel GOPers.

    "Teach a man to fish, he can feed himself for a life. Don’t feed fish." - Future President Paul Ryan

    by Fordmandalay on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:26:46 PM PST

  •  It's too long & missing pictures nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, madhaus
  •  They don't read; how about spoken word? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    •  Then you have to deal with accents. (0+ / 0-)

      Republicans only understand speech accented with oozing, pungent hatred.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:11:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Funny you should say that. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There's a lot of research being done right now in the field of cognitive linguistics with regard to literature.  One of the models being used is the Sanskrit concept of rasa - an element of expression that contains an affective prompt which allows the reader to make a personal connection with implicit emotion in the text.  I'm noticing that Up-Goer Five rejects most of the common words with positive rasa, but it accepts words like hate, fear, death, fight, crazy, angry, hurt.

        •  Negativity is easier, ergo more common. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But I can see how UGF would have a Newspeak effect if used routinely.  Actually, Orwell kind of got Newspeak wrong - you don't make people pile on words to describe bad as "doubleplusungood": You make it harder to describe good, so they're constantly focused on irritation, hate, and fear.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:24:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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