315. Fans, Geeks, and Shipping: A Momentary Study

Today we delve once again into anthropological study as we take a look at shipping. No, I don’t mean the transportation of goods. The word shipping also denotes a strange, fascinating, and occasionally outrageous trend observable in communities of geeks across the Internet.

As an eminently geeky blog, TMTF must investigate this sociological phenomenon. For science! Grab your pens, clipboards, and safety goggles, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s get geeky!

(Wait, give me ten minutes to research shipping on Wikipedia, that splendid fount of Internet knowledge. All right, let’s begin!)

We begin with a preliminary note about fandom. A portmanteau of fan and kingdom, a fandom is a community of people united by a common attachment to something. To put it more simply: a fandom is a group of fans. The word also refers to the subcultures created by these groups, and to each fan’s individual predilection for the object of attachment.

As the word shipping used in the context of fandom, it denotes a wish for two people, usually fictional characters, to have a certain kind of relationship—usually a romantic one. (I suppose shipping can involve more than two people, but I prefer not to pursue that thread of inquiry any further.) The term is the gerund form of the verb ship, which is derived from the word relationship. Fans ship their favorite characters by pairing them up. The word ship also functions as a noun, referring to a specific pairing.

In other words, shipping is fans wanting people (real or imagined) to find happiness together, which is sort of sweet, extremely silly, and just a bit creepy.

I didn’t know much about shipping before looking into it; I thought it might make an interesting blog post. I was astonished to realize how fully developed and widely accepted a practice shipping has become. Many fans pen fan fiction, create artwork, or write music promoting their preferred ships. Some fans argue about them—after all, this is the Internet.

Shipping has become so widely practiced that it apparently has its own terminology. A sailed ship, for example, is a pairing that actually happens. A joke ship is a ship too ridiculous to be taken seriously, and a sunken ship is one that has no chance of happening. (Wikipedia has a list of nearly twenty shipping terms. It’s insane.) Portmanteau combinations of names often represent ships, such as Romuliet for Romeo and Juliet. (Yes, Romuliet is an awful word; I hate to think of what terrible violence ships have inflicted upon the English language.) Some fans become so invested in certain ships that they declare them OTPthe One True Pairing for those characters.

I thought shipping was mostly a joke, but I was surprised to discover its complexity and ubiquity across the Internet.

What’s that? You want to know my preferred ship? That would be milk and coffee, thanks for asking. What finer OTP could there be?

310. Obsessing over English

I love the English language. It’s a weird one, to be sure, but I love it anyway.

English began as a Germanic language called Anglo-Saxon. The Norman invasion of England in 1066 stirred in some French, eventually resulting in the sing-song language known as Middle English. Over the centuries, shifts in grammar, spelling, syntax, and pronunciation, along with words and phrases from other languages, have added up to the glorious mess we call English.

I’ve heard of two approaches to English and language in general. The first is a prescriptivist approach, which says, “This is how English must work, and everyone who disagrees is wrong.” I think this approach is hopeless, not to mention silly. Language changes constantly. A person may as well try to impose immutable order on the clouds above as on the English language.

(Of course, some formal standards are necessary for certain kinds of writing. It improves communication for professionals in the same profession to follow the same rules. What I frown upon is a universally prescriptivist approach to the English language.)

I prefer a descriptivist view, which says, “This is how English actually works right now. Let’s roll with it.” I disapprove of sloppy writing, but I don’t mind other people following different rules of grammar, spelling, and syntax. If other writers want to split infinitives, use sentence fragments, or end sentences in prepositions—and they’re consistent about it—who am I to argue?

When it comes to my own writing, however, I think I have linguistic OCD. Is that a thing? Let’s assume linguistic OCD is a thing. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can afflict anyone, even linguists.

As relaxed as I am about writing in general, I’m obsessive about my own. I seldom begin sentences with And or But. I never split infinitives, even though the rule about not splitting them is (according to an old college professor) an obsolete leftover from Latin. Heck, I even hate ending sentences with a parenthesis or the letter because I think these symbols look untidy next to a period.

I… I think I need help.

All right, not really. But I sure could loosen up a bit.

That last sentence was a little hard to write. I’ll keep working on it.

Word Crimes

I had something completely different planned for today’s Geeky Wednesday post, but then stumbled upon this video last night and realized I must share it. As a blogger, I accept this as my inexorable destiny.

Weird Al has released another album of parodies, including this glorious riff on “Blurred Lines.” It’s all about English grammar and spelling. What nobler subjects can there be for song lyrics? There are also a couple of off-color jokes, but I’ll let them slide this time because, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, this is a song about English grammar and spelling.

Weird Al Yankovic, bless him, has been writing music for decades. I grew up listening to his silly songs, and I’m glad he still doing his thing.

281. How to English Real Good

Persons allergic to silliness or grammatical incorrectness should not read this blog post. This post is not meant to offend, stereotype or insult any speaker of English or of any other language. Side effects include headaches, nausea and dizziness. Keep out of reach of children and English professors.

If you are a reader who reads this, a winner is you! You have jackpotted! Welcome to TMTF, the blog of typing monkeys, where we learn today to English real good. Adam the blogger is the expert on language; he Englishes like a pro. Read this blog post with great intelligence and learn! It will be full of education that cheers and supports you!

An expert on Englishing

Adam will be your English instructor today. See the knowledge gleam in his face with the brilliance of a hundred shiny goldfish! (Adam is the hatted one, not the fowl who is having fuzzy feathers.)

Step number first toward Englishing with correctness is to have much self-confidence. Your fears and insecurities must crumble like cookies that are cowards! Crumble them with the fresh milk of courage. You must snack on your fears! If your nerves are nervous, you must be brave until you laugh from lack of anxieties. Learning to English will not hurt you! Conquer your fears and high-five all their faces!

Next step is reading all the books. Books in English are best for Englishing. They are cream and sugar for the coffee of your learning. Do not read French or Spanish books; these are not sugar or cream, but salty salt. Drink deeply from the coffee cup of reading books! Learn from its sweet, wordy fragrance.

If you are needing the books, find libraries. A library lets you steal books, but it is having the condition of bringing back old books before stealing new ones. Libraries are public dens of book bandits that smell like paper. Be the library thief to get the books for good Englishing!

Reading the books is the coffee cup that holds the coffee of your learning. It is your best breakfast beverage—a mighty drink for the breakfast of education!

After the reading, you must write. Write and write and write until your learning of English has completion! Writing is the practice that unleashes the knowledge of your reading to light up the darkness of ignorance. It shines like many happy sunbeams that have each other as friends. The writing can be with pens or pencils on papers, or keystrokes in computer documents, or paint on toasters. Learning takes all the forms!

You wrote, but what if your writing is of the worst badness? Adam has the solution! Make your friends read the writing you wrote and give their critical criticisms. Let us who are friends learn to English together like joyous beams of the sun! If you are lacking friends, ask schoolteachers for help or use cookies for the bribing of strangers.

Finally Adam has this final advice: Never give up! Fight the good fight of learning the English. If you give the one hundred percents, you can English as good as Adam. Reading and writing are nutritious parts of the tasty meal of your education!

Bon appétit! Happy Englishing!

When Poetry Is Awesome

Day after day, day after day, we stuck, nor breath nor motion; as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where, and all the boards did shrink; water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I almost never read poetry. For the record, I have nothing against it. Poetry is a wonderful form of literary expression—heck, I’ve even written a few poems—but it’s not my cup of tea. I’ll take novels or short stories over poems any day.

Nevertheless, I occasionally stumble upon some poetic jewel: a phrase, verse or stanza of dazzling magnificence. The two stanzas above from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” amaze me. In just a few well-chosen words, the poet conveys the quiet desperation of sailors lost at sea.

Then there’s this stanza from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which I find incredibly epic even out of context:

Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die: into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.

My other favorites include the poem “Invictus” and the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 12. So… much… awesome.

What’s your favorite poem or snippet of poetry? Let us know in the comments!

215. A Brief Glossary of Handy Video Game Words

The world of video games is a vast and complicated place, littered with coins and spikes and bottomless pits, and discussed using a unique vocabulary: a lexicon packed with abbreviations, technical terms and snippets of Japanese. Video game words can be daunting or confusing to the uninitiated.

We’re here to help.

Here is a brief glossary of handy video game words. May it never be said TMTF has not done its part to promote the spread of knowledge and the betterment of humankind!

Action RPG: An RPG featuring real-time action instead of turns, e.g. Kingdom Hearts; see Turn-based RPG

Boss: A powerful enemy, usually fought at the end of a stage or dungeon

Co-op: A form of multiplayer in which players cooperate to complete an objective

Combo: In fighting games, an unbroken combination of moves or attacks

Console: A device for playing video games; generally connected to a television

Cutscene: A scripted visual sequence used to advance a game’s story

Developer: The person, group or company that makes a game

DLC: Downloadable Content, extra features in a game for which players pay an additional fee

Dungeon: A kind of stage fraught with enemies, puzzles, treasures and challenges; often concluded with a boss

Dungeon-crawler: A game with a strong focus on traversing dungeons

Easter egg: A hidden feature, often of a humorous or frivolous nature; sometimes a reference to another work; tragically, not actually made of chocolate

Escort quest: An objective requiring the player to protect an object or character; for most players, an excruciating nuisance

EXP: Experience, also abbreviated XP, generally awarded to the player in the form of points, which make characters stronger by causing them to level up; common in RPGs

Extra lives: Additional chances for a player to play without incurring a game over

Fetch quest: An objective requiring a player to retrieve an item or character; generally very tedious

Final boss: A powerful boss fought at the end of a game

FPS: First-Person Shooter, a genre of game in which the player wields a weapon from a first-person perspective, e.g. Halo

G: Gold, a standard form of currency in games

Game over: The point at which a player runs out of chances to play, and must begin the game from the beginning or a save point

Gameplay: The player’s interactions with a game; the interactive aspects of a game

Gameplay mechanic: A specific gameplay aspect

Gamer: A person who plays video games

Graphics: A game’s visuals

Hadouken: A colloquial term for projectile attacks in fighting games; named for a move in the Street Fighter series

Handheld: A portable video game device

HP: Health Points or Hit Points, a numerical representation of how much damage can be sustained by an object or character; see Life bar

Inn: In most RPGs, a location in towns where players can restore the HP and MP of their characters

Item: An object usable by the player; often depleted upon use

JRPG: Japanese Role-Playing Game, a style of RPG traditionally associated with Japanese developers, e.g. Final Fantasy; characterized by a linear narrative and stylized visuals; see WRPG

Level up: An increase in a character’s strength or ability, generally earned by accruing a predetermined amount of EXP

Life bar: A visual representation, typically in the form of a horizontal gauge, of how much damage can be sustained by an object or character; see HP

Metroidvania: A kind of platformer with RPG elements and a strong emphasis on exploration; named for Metroid and Castlevania, game series which exemplify the genre

Miniboss: A less powerful boss fought partway through a stage or dungeon

Minigame: A small, simple game within a larger, more complex one

MMORPG: Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, an RPG that connects multiple gaming systems and hosts numerous players in a single virtual world, e.g. World of WarCraft

MP: Magic points or Mana points, a renewable asset that can be spent to perform special moves

Multiplayer: A game feature that allows for multiple players to play the same game simultaneously

NPC: Non-Player Character, a character not controlled by any player

Open-world: A kind of game stage in which the player is given freedom to roam a large virtual world and flexibility in approaching game objectives

Overworld: The space connecting dungeons, towns or stages

Pixel: One of many tiny squares or dots that make up a larger image

Platformer: A genre of games in which gameplay usually consists of traversing platforms, pitfalls and other obstacles, e.g. Super Mario Bros.

Power-up: An object which temporarily grants a character greater strength or a new ability

Production values: All aspects of a game apart from gameplay; e.g. music, writing and graphics

Quick time event: An interactive cutscene in which a player must press a button or sequence of buttons displayed on screen; generally a terrible game mechanic

Random encounter: In RPGs, a gameplay mechanic that puts players at risk in certain areas of being ambushed by enemies and having to fight

Respawn: When a defeated character disappears from the game and reappears at a predetermined point

RPG: Role-Playing Game, a genre of game in which player controls a character or group of characters who become stronger as the game progresses; generally emphasizes storytelling and strategic gameplay

RTS: The Real-Time Strategy genre, which puts the player in command of a group of units and emphasizes micromanagement of resources, e.g. StarCraft

Save point: A checkpoint at which the player’s progress is recorded

Shovelware: Badly-designed games fit only for taking up space in landfills

Side quest: An optional objective or set of objectives available for the player to complete

Sprite: A two-dimensional image or animation integrated into a larger scene

Stage: A self-contained area in a game featuring a specific objective; also called a level, course, act or zone

Superboss: An optional boss, often more powerful than the final boss; a challenge for expert players

Town: A space in a game, generally neutral and free of enemies, offering services to the player such as shops, inns and save points

Turn-based RPG: An RPG featuring sequential moves or turns instead of real-time action, e.g. Final Fantasy; see Action RPG

Tutorial: A section of a game that instructs the player how to play

Vaporware: A game supposedly in development that shows no signs of imminent release

WRPG: Western Role-Playing Game, a style of RPG traditionally associated with Western developers, e.g. The Elder Scrolls; characterized by a nonlinear narrative and realistic visuals; see JRPG

The Awesome Word I Can’t Use

badass: (noun, adj.) an individual considered admirable for having an extreme appearance, attitude or behavior; the quality of being a badass

Ah, swearwords. Offensive language is everywhere: offending conservatives, keeping censors busy and puzzling grammarians.

(In a stunning coincidence, expletive can refer either to a dirty word or a word with a particular syntactic function; swearwords can be both kinds of expletives at the same time!)

I don’t think swearwords are inherently wrong. All the same, foul language demonstrates a lack of respect for people offended by it. Swearing may not be wrong, but disrespect is.

This prevents me from using a really awesome word: badass, the latter half of which comprises a vulgar noun. I can’t find any other word that means the same thing. Most swearwords have euphemistic equivalents. Instead of swearing, I use words like heck and blazes and (when I need an extra-strong intensifier) freaking.

Badass has no such equivalent. It represents the absolute pinnacle of awesomeness, unmarred by even the slightest hint of insecurity, ambivalence or self-consciousness. No other word in the English language does the concept justice: not impressive or cool or even gnarly. Censoring the word for everyday use—bad-ss or bad@$$, for example—is just silly.

Constrained by courtesy, I may never have an inoffensive word for this wonderful idea. Alas!

187. TMTF’s Top Ten Adjectives in the English Language

I like words. (You may have noticed I tend to use quite a lot of them.) There are several kinds of words, and adjectives are one of my favorites. An adjective is a word that describes something. Hot and dark and caffeinated are adjectives.

Some adjectives are particularly evocative, fun or colorful. Today I’ve decided to share ten adjectives that are, for one reason or another, delightful.

TMTF is excited, proud, satisfied, exhilarated, happy and honored to present…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Adjectives in the English Language!

10. Soporific

Tending to induce sleep or sleepiness

Looking at this word makes me yawn.

9. Awesome

Evoking awe or amazement

Compared to the other words on this list, awesome seems rather bland. I include it because of its endless usefulness. In a literal sense, it denotes something that inspires awe, such as the starry heavens or the Tenth Doctor’s sideburns. In a figurative sense, awesome is an emphatic way to express extreme admiration for something. Incidentally, did you know awesome and awful once meant exactly the same thing?

8. Sepulchral

Suggestive of graves or tombs

I’m not sure why I find this word so evocative, but it makes me think of crows, gray skies and weathered mausoleums. It’s also a splendid word for describing certain professors, classrooms or schools in general. Writers, take note.

7. Abominable

Hateful, loathsome or extremely bad

Bad is a plain, common word. No one cares about bad. If something is abominable, however, take warning! Despite its invariable association with snowmen, abominable is a wonderful way to disparage something.

6. Ghastly

Shocking or horrifying

This adjective, suggestive of grim words like ghost, is a stronger way of describing something than unimpressive words like scary. This particular adjective is best when emphasized or spoken loudly. “That Twilight book was simply ghastly.”

5. Quixotic

Noble or romantic in an unrealistic, deluded manner

I like Don Quixote. More importantly, quixotic is fun to say: quik-SOT-ik. Ain’t it great?

4. Brobdingnagian

Big

The word big is actually quite small. The word Brobdingnagian is enormous. That is all.

3. Mephistophelean

Showing the cunning or wickedness of a devil

This word makes me think of pitchforks, pointed goatees and red tights. On a more sophisticated note, it’s a great word to throw around when discussing politics: “I think that politician has a streak of Mephistophelean hubris. What do you think?”

2. Lush

Vibrant, teeming with life

A word doesn’t have to be Brobdingnagian in size to be a good adjective. In a single syllable, lush evokes (at least in my imagination) vibrant scenes of green jungles or reefs swarming with colorful fish.

1. Pulchritudinous

Possessing great physical beauty

This one makes me smile because it’s so dashed ugly. I mean, look at it. Pulchritudinous. It’s ghastly. The adjective sounds like a description of some revolting, misshapen medical anomaly. “His untreated wounds, which had begun to ooze, were sickeningly pulchritudinous.” This is, without question, the most delightful adjective in the English language. Just… don’t ever use it to describe your spouse or romantic interest, all right?

O people of the Internet, what are your favorite adjectives? Let us know in the comments!

171. Quirky Bible Translations

During Holy Week, TMTF will feature the Help, I’m a Christian! series, beginning on Palm Sunday, March 24, and concluding on Holy Saturday, March 30. Regular posts will resume on Monday, April 1.

There are many English translations of God’s Word. How many? I’m not sure, but I prefer not to spend years of my life counting.

I often read the Bible, and when I do, I prefer the 1984 New International Version.

Yes, I'm this guy.

Confession: I am a Condescending Bible Translation Guy.

In my twenty-two years, I’ve stumbled upon some Bible translations that are best described as… quirky.

Here’s part of 1 Corinthians 13 in the plain English of the New International Version.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Here’s the same passage in the HWP Bible. That’s the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible, in case you were wondering. Read this excerpt aloud. Read slowly. Savor it.

Wen you get love an aloha, dat no goin pau eva. Da guys dat talk fo God, bumbye no need fo da tings dey say. Wen peopo talk diffren kine, bumbye nobody goin talk lidat. Da stuff da smart guys know, no matta, bumbye no need. You know, we ony know litto bit. Wen we talk fo God, we get ony litto bit fo tell. Bumbye, goin come da time wen everyting stay perfeck. Dat time, no need fo da litto bit kine stuff no moa. Small kid time, I wen talk jalike one small kid. I wen tink jalike one small kid. I wen figga everyting jalike one small kid. Now, I big, dass why I no do da tings da same way da small kids do um.

Right now, us guys can see stuff, but ony jalike wit one junk mirror. Hard fo figga wat we see dea. But bumbye, goin be clear. Us guys goin see everyting jalike was right dea in front our face. Right now, I ony know litto bit. But bumbye, I goin undastan everyting, jalike God undastan everyting bout me.

So now, get three tings dat stay: we can trus God, an we can know everyting goin come out okay bumbye, an we get love an aloha. From da three tings, da love an aloha kine, dass da main ting, an da bestes way.

Then there’s my favorite offbeat translation of Scripture… the lolcat version.

Luv no haz endingz. Tellin the futurez, tungz, an alla stuffz u know wil die. We haz knowingz a bit, an we haz profacy a bit. We no haz two much tho. O, wait. Win teh perfict coemz, teh not perfict will dyez, lolol. Wen i wuz a kitten, i meweded leik a kitten, thinkded liek a kittenz, an I chazed strings liek a kittenz. Wen i wuz becomez a cat, i NO WANT kitten waiz ne moar. For nao we see in teh foggy mirorr like when teh human gets out of teh shower, but tehn we see faec tow faec. Nao i haz knowingz just a bit, tehn i will haz all teh knowingz, as i haz been knownz.

Nao faithz an hoepz an luvz r hear, theses threes, but teh bestest iz teh luv. srsly.

Yes, this is a real translation. The entire Bible has been translated into lolspeak, the Internet language of funny cat picture captions. After all, the Apostle Paul did write about becoming “all things to all people.”

 What’s your preferred version of the Bible? Are you a Condescending Bible Translation Person or do you prefer idiomatic versions like The Message? Let us know in the comments!