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Re: Barsoomian units of length (was: Barsoomian Project)

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  • Puey McCleary
    Burrough’s naming æsthetics were for me, even as a child, one of the joy of reading his series, whether of Barsoom or of another world. Usually the names
    Message 1 of 16 , Jan 3, 2012
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      Burrough’s naming æsthetics were for me, even as a child,
      one of the joy of reading his series, whether of Barsoom or of another
      world. Usually the names of his main characters are very well chosen. Who
      can forget the stern chieftain Tars Tarkas, the incomparable Princess Dejah
      Thoris, or Thuvia, the Maid of Mars? Even the name Barsoom conjures up a
      different feeling than the word Mars.

      (Otis Kline’s and Lin Carter’s pastiches of Burroughs tried
      to imitate this naming æsthetic, but less successful I think. But that’s
      another topic. Robert E Howard conjures up a very different feeling by
      taking names from mythology and history and keeping them the same or just
      tweaking them a little.)

      Burrough’s naming abilities even extend unto modern names
      in English. For instance, John Carter is a very strong name, plus it’s fun
      that the immortal savior of Barsoom should just happen to have the initials
      J. C.

      If I remember right, in the original manuscript, our
      ape-man was called Zan-tar. Burroughs was wise to cross that out and
      reverse the syllables. I’m sure that in some alternate universe (perhaps
      the Volapük universe) all of the first draft names of main characters were
      kept. So in that universe Count Wampyr came to London for all types of
      mischief, Sherringford Holmes solves mysteries, and Pansey O’Hara says
      “Tomorrow is another day.”

      I think a thorough study of all of Burroughs’ languages
      would be just fantastic.

      Den Valdron’s essays are definitely fun. Perhaps they are
      a bit linguistically naïve, but perhaps they can supply some inspiration.

      Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a “boring
      purist.” That’s
      a suitable tool for what one may want to produce. I would liken that,
      perhaps, to a first person told story. Such a literary device is wonderful
      for certain types of stories, especially when used well, but it also has
      its drawbacks. John Carter herself was a first person narrator, and
      sometimes he may say less than he knows, or perhaps the manuscript itself
      may not be entirely consistent. I am a little rusty on my Barsoom, but I
      get the feeling that there may be inconsistencies as the story goes on.

      Sticking just to the canon, though, there are certainly
      many directions one may go.

      For instance, we don’t actually read John Carter’s
      manuscript. We read the manuscript that Burroughs, the fictional
      character, produced from Uncle Jack. And it is entirely possible that
      Nephew Edgar simplified things or altered them for the benefit of an
      English language reader.

      For instance, we don’t know the difference between “u” and
      “oo.” What about “c” and “k?” What is “x” supposed to be? “j” and
      “dj?” Perhaps
      Barsoomian is a tonal language, and Nephew Edgar just chopped that off. Is
      “th” the “th” in “th,” or an aspirated t? Do “xode” and “thoat” rhyme? Are
      those spellings for us, or do they represent two syllable words. What
      about “ll?” I think we only get that with Llana of Gathol – and are we
      even considering the last two Barsoom books canon? That’s a whole other
      decision to be made. The tone of Llana is different to the earlier books,
      and John Carter and the giant was written by Burrough’s son, I thought.

      This ambiguity, even within the text, can allow one to take
      many directions.

      There may be evidence, even in the first couple of books,
      that names were changed. For instance, we’re given these Martian female
      names:

      Dejah

      Sola

      Thuvia

      Phaidor

      It strikes me that one of these is different. Phaidor may
      actually represent a Martian name (what does “ph” represent in this case?).
      One reason that argument can be made is because the first three are view
      point characters and we’re meant to sympathize with them. Phaidor is a
      little different. So the actual Barsoomian names for Sola and Thuvia could
      be SolV or ThuviV where “V” represents some vowel. Nephew Edgar just
      changed that to “a” to make them suitably feminine names for the reader
      (this is the reverse of what Tolkien did in changing the Hobbitish name
      Bilba to Bilbo).

      “Dejah” is unique because we’ve got that –h at the
      end. Perhaps
      there was some other consonant at the end, but Nephew Edgar just silently
      changed that to make the name sound more princessly. Or perhaps –ah is
      meant to represent a vowel with a certain tone, or a glottal stop, or any
      number of things.

      And so, even just sticking to the first three books, there
      are many avenues that one can take to create the language of long, lost
      Barsoom.

      Personally, I’m waiting for a Barsoomian translation of the
      first three books. That would be so much fun!
    • Gary Shannon
      Just an amusing side note: I have a word file of words that I have collected, programatically, over the last ten or twelve years from many different English
      Message 2 of 16 , Jan 3, 2012
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        Just an amusing side note: I have a word file of words that I have
        collected, programatically, over the last ten or twelve years from
        many different English language corpus sources. I was browsing the
        master file yesterday and was amused, in light of this thread, to
        notice that "dejah" and "thoris" were both in my master word list,
        along with "barsoom", and dozens of other unique words from the
        series.


        On Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 4:35 PM, Puey McCleary <pueymccleary@...> wrote:
        >                Burrough’s naming æsthetics were for me, even as a child,
        > one of the joy of reading his series, whether of Barsoom or of another
        > world.  Usually the names of his main characters are very well chosen.  Who
        > can forget the stern chieftain Tars Tarkas, the incomparable Princess Dejah
        > Thoris, or Thuvia, the Maid of Mars?  Even the name Barsoom conjures up a
        > different feeling than the word Mars.
      • Puey McCleary
        ... Awesome! Are there any other unique words from other non-Burroughs series?
        Message 3 of 16 , Jan 3, 2012
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          On Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:33 PM, Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...> wrote:

          > Just an amusing side note: I have a word file of words that I have
          > collected, programatically, over the last ten or twelve years from
          > many different English language corpus sources. I was browsing the
          > master file yesterday and was amused, in light of this thread, to
          > notice that "dejah" and "thoris" were both in my master word list,
          > along with "barsoom", and dozens of other unique words from the
          > series.
          >
          Awesome! Are there any other unique words from other non-Burroughs series?
        • Gary Shannon
          ... I don t know how I would find out if that s the case. I did notice caspak from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Land That Time Forgot. , so I must have run that
          Message 4 of 16 , Jan 3, 2012
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            On Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 5:35 PM, Puey McCleary <pueymccleary@...> wrote:
            > On Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:33 PM, Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...> wrote:
            >
            >> Just an amusing side note: I have a word file of words that I have
            >> collected, programatically, over the last ten or twelve years from
            >> many different English language corpus sources. I was browsing the
            >> master file yesterday and was amused, in light of this thread, to
            >> notice that "dejah" and  "thoris" were both in my master word list,
            >> along with "barsoom", and dozens of other unique words from the
            >> series.
            >>
            > Awesome!  Are there any other unique words from other non-Burroughs series?

            I don't know how I would find out if that's the case. I did notice
            "caspak" from the Edgar Rice Burroughs "Land That Time Forgot.", so I
            must have run that book through the extraction program at some point.
            Most of the texts I ran came from Gutenberg.

            --gary
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