Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Interest meme

Comment on this entry and I'll choose seven interests from your list which I'd like you to explain.

ifeedformula asked me about these:


These are connected. Almea is a fictional planet invented by Zompist (Mark Rosenfelder).

The most detailed country on that planet is Verduria, which he originally created as a setting for a D&D campaign, along with its language, Verdurian.

I came across Verduria because Zompist also hosts the sci.lang FAQ: frequently asked questions about linguistics (since I've always been interested in languages), and poked around his site a bit. (This was even before he got

I learned some Verdurian (and made some conjugation/declension utilities for some of the languages) and was a bit involved in what was happening, though I haven't paid close attention to the site or the world for quite a while now.

I think Verdurian was probably also what got me interested in constructed languages, and it's one of the most elaborate/complete conlangs I've seen so far.

Ancient Greek

Languages again!

I learned Modern Greek when I went on a two-year mission to Greece and Cyprus; from there to Ancient Greek, it's not that far. (The languages are closer than, say, Modern English and Old English, or so it seems to me. Perhaps more like Icelandic and Old Norse.)

Also, Ancient Greek is a fairly significant language in European history/shared culture, along with Latin (which is also a language I'd like to learn at some point if I have too much free time, or wish I had been able to take at school).

I never formally learned Ancient Greek, but the Modern Greek I did learn helps some in understanding things, as did the grammar of Ancient Greek for (Modern) Greek schoolchildren I acquired while in Greece. I've now also got a couple of dictionaries.

(And I would have had an AG–French as well if I hadn't left it behind in Greece due to weight restrictions: it was something another missionary's parents sent her, since they just saw "grec–français" and didn't know that the variety "grec" in the dictionary wasn't the kind that would be helpful to their daughter! So she gave it to me since she knew I was interested in languages.)

The Jargon File

The Jargon File has a Wikipedia article. Briefly, it's a dictionary of hacker slang, in the positive sense of the word "hacker".

I first got hold of, I think it was, version 2.9.8 and printed it out and read it; later, I got 2.9.11 and I also acquired two book versions and a T-shirt.

While, as later editions note, some of the "jargon" contained in it is dated, it's still an interesting read IMO. And it also sheds some light on the early days of computer enthusiasts and the culture that surrounded them, since that time was rather different from now where computers and networks are ubiquitous and a part of people's life that's often taken for granted.

The current version is now maintained as HTML files by Eric S. Raymond (ESR) rather than the plain-text file of earlier incarnations.

(Some people object to ESR's editorial style and the kind of words he dropped and added, as well as a few other things, to which he posted a response. Also, some don't like the fact that the HTML version is now the source. In principle, I don't think there's anything to stop anyone "forking" the Jargon File and producing a "better" version, but I don't know of anyone who has done so, so the version maintained by ESR is the current one TTBOMK.)

toki pona

Another conlang, toki pona is "the simple language of good".

It's a language with a very small vocabulary (just over 100 words); the author (sonjaaa describes it as "a minimal language that focuses on the good things in life". (That page also has a brief introduction to the history and philosophy of the language.)

It's an interesting language, and I like the simple aspects of it. It sometimes makes me a bit sad when people want to express complex things in toki pona, or get very specific nuances—as I understand it, it's meant to be simple rather than precise.


UTF-8 is a character encoding for Unicode. Roughly speaking, it's a way of representing letters and symbols from many languages and scripts on the computer, and probably the most popular one for Unicode interchange right now.

(You need an encoding for Unicode since Unicode only maps characters to numbers—then you need some way of representing those numbers by actual bytes in a computer, and there are various ways of translating from Unicode code point numbers to bytes.)

It also has some fun properties such as self-segmentation which appeal to the geeky side of me: UTF-8 needs multiple bytes to represent most Unicode characters, but you can always tell by looking at a byte whether it's the beginning of such a sequence or a continuation byte.


Another constructed language, created by linguist Marc Okrand for the Star Trek franchise, and designed to look specifically unusual or un-Earthly, in its choice of phonology (which sounds occur, and also which sounds do not occur—such as alveolar/dental t and retroflex D but not alveolar/dental d or retroflex T) and grammar (such as the object-verb-subject word order, which is the rarest among Earth's languages).

I don't remember how I came across it (though I think I came across it twice, but looked at it only briefly the first time).

I've since bought The Klingon Dictionary (the definitive book on the grammar and basic vocabulary of the language) as well as a couple of other books and cassettes, and put some energy into learning the language at one point. (I passed the first two levels [taghwI' "Beginner" and ghojwI' "Intermediate"] of the Klingon Language Certification Program as assessed by the person marking the tests, though I don't have any official confirmation of that [yet?]. I also haven't spent much energy maintaining my proficiency since then.)

I remember attending my first qepHom "minor meeting" of Klingon language enthusiasts several years ago; even though I had studied the language on my own for a bit, it was a small (positive) shock when I heard two people speaking Klingon with each other in the hallway—it was the first time that I had come across the use of spoken Klingon for communication, and drove home the point that this was a language, not just an intellectual game for people to translate sentences into in writing.

I'm still interested in Klingon in principle, and still remember some of the vocabulary I learned, but am not currently putting effort into maintaining my fluency.

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