Monday, October 12, 2015

Page 44: Dissertations and Dothraki

In fairness to the real-life denizens of Newcomb Hall, I’d like to begin this post with an example of an actual flier from its walls. I took this photo on my research visit because “Women and the Sacred in 19th Century French Literature” is a seminar I would gladly have attended if time permitted.

Actual fliers hanging on the walls of Newcomb Hall.
Nothing at all like the ones described in The Billionth Monkey.
In my twisted mind, the fictionalized version of this fascinating talk became the first of three fliers mentioned on page 44 of The Billionth Monkey: “Wax Cylinder Recordings of Early Mime Performances.”

Ads for language tutors—whether for native language, for foreign language coursework, or computer programming—are ubiquitous on college campuses. I liked the idea of a Dothraki tutor for a couple of reasons: First, it was a more modern pop culture reference that the old trope of Klingon (don’t worry, Trekkies, I haven’t entirely dissed our ridge-headed friends!). In addition, the language itself was designed by linguist and alien language consultant David J. Peterson, and currently has its own language guide, learning app, and online coursework. The June 3, 2014, issue of Rolling Stone even ran a story on the availability of Game of Thrones language courses. [While you're at it, check out David J. Peterson's brand-new book, The Art of Language Invention.]

The above meme juxtaposes the Game of Thrones character Khal Drogo
with Monty Python's famous skit, "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" (see the video here).
Moving on to the third flier: My undergraduate newspaper, the South End, used to run a classified ad that literally read “Professional to format discertation and these is. And edit.” This was in the days where every student did not have access to a computer or word-processing program, so theses and dissertations were often typed to very exacting specifications. A gatekeeper in the main graduate school (which oversaw all graduate programs and held the reigns to completion and graduation) had the job of taking a ruler to your document and measuring the margins, spacing, font size, and other details; and your document did not meet the rigid requirements, you were sent back to the typewriter. I found this badly-written classified ad to be hilarious, and for years it hung in my Research Assistant cubicle. I'm sure I still have it somewhere, but darned if I can lay my hands on it for this post!

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