21 Comments

  1. “So instead of communicating using simple language, they do it entirely by means of literary metaphor?”

    Not necessarily. It could have been done using simple language offscreen, before this cartoon’s events, only Mrs. Crabby didn’t like the answer, so she tried again, this time with an intermediary. In this hypothesis, Frazz recognizes the source of the literary allusion in panel 2 (and I don’t mean Frost).

  2. Well, the meta-question becomes how did jokes where people use convoluted metaphors where the punchline is the reveal they were asking something simple and direct become a recognized form of humor, when in real life any such indirect obfuscation would never be recognized is utterly unnecessary?

    And why *does* it feel so amusing and clever to make a literary allusion in a banal circumstance? It’s clearl that we all feel clever when we do it. So we can imagine hypothetically carrying it to the absurdity of the situation in this strip?

    But that is the joke.

  3. I had figured that what she said in those two panels were just the lead-in to her actually asking Frazz to change the thermostat. But since Frazz is a know-it-all, it’s reasonable to assume he figured it out without a direct question.

  4. ” But since Frazz is a know-it-all, it’s reasonable to assume he figured it out without a direct question.”

    He’s rolling his eyes in panel 2.

  5. And now my (decaf) coffee’s cold, as this thread sent me boldly to articles I’ve not gone to before! Apparently quite a lot going on in the little phrase Darmok and Jalad! Nice (wordy) discussion at

    https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/star-trek-tng-and-the-limits-of-language-shaka-when-the-walls-fell/372107/ https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/star-trek-tng-and-the-limits-of-language-shaka-when-the-walls-fell/372107/

    My apologies if my link to the Atlantic article fails. Earhart in the Pacific!

  6. Yeah, “Darmok” was my first thought too. I’d still like to see a remake of that episode where Picard is stuck with a society of cineastes: “Rick and Ilsa on the tarmac,” “Thelma and Louise at the cliff,” “Charles Foster Kane drops the snow globe.”

  7. Vaguely relevant: there’s a chapter in one of the volumes of THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN by Gene Wolfe (I think it’s in the 4th, THE CITADEL OF THE AUTARCH) involving a character whose religion allows him to say nothing that is not a quote from its holy book. In spite of this constraint, he is able, by stringing together sentences from different portions of the book, to construct and relate to his colleagues a long “new” story which is coherent to them (and to the reader).

    I should look at my copy to refresh my memory of the details, but no time right now; My gostak is distimming the doshes again, and I need to referee.

  8. A LOT of Trek viewers absolutely HATED “Darmok” when it aired.

    I did, too, but for me, the main problem is the main plot hook of the story doesn’t work. If the entire language has devolved to references to the historical sagas, then there’s no way to teach those historical sagas to the young, and the language dies out

  9. “If the entire language has devolved to references to the historical sagas, then there’s no way to teach those historical sagas to the young, and the language dies out”

    Not necessarily. Language isn’t actually ever taught and it isn’t a linear skill. It’s something we pick up be osmosis. Quite possibly these beings don’t actually *know* the stories as such be can’t distinguish the motives of the story from the references. And these beings *aren’t* human and won’t have the same language centers in the brain the same way.

    My issue is more how the heck could the universal translator ever have worked to translate a language like that isolated from the culture in the first place. That doesn’t make any sense. But Star Trek (despite it rabid devoutees’ insistence otherwise) is *FULL* of such inconsistencies.

  10. larK… now *THAT* was funny.

    “Berber, at CIDU there were many allusions to Darmok before GoDaddy caused the comipocalypse.”

    My favorite being the following; yes, it’s a repeat… but it’s worth repeating:

  11. “My issue is more how the heck could the universal translator ever have worked to translate a language like that”

    If some other language was descended from the same roots, but didn’t have the 100% allusion thing grafted onto it, then the words might be reasonably mapped to the allusion language, even if the meaning couldn’t be.

    Some non-canon resources claim that the Universal Translator is at least a partly psionic device.

    Of course, it’s really a Plot Device, to save the producers the trouble of coming up with a new and functional language for every new species encountered, and to avoid subtitles and half of every episode being people learning how another language works. Better to just Device Ex Machina that tedium away.

    I’ll give ST:NG one bit of praise… they dropped the “law of parallel development” like the stupid idea it was. But the retcon that eventually explained why all the aliens looked like humans with bits of foam rubber glued to their faces, while it DID wrap up that “mystery” nicely, was way lame. And the fact that what happened on one episode of the show never seemed to have much to do with any other episode(s) was annoying to people who like details that add up to one big picture.

  12. “I’ll give ST:NG one bit of praise… they dropped the “law of parallel development” like the stupid idea it was. ”

    It was not entirely dropped. They still used it in the most stupid ways. Remember the Mintaka? Proto-Vulcans in the bronze age. In one sense it was a clever gibe on all the OTS epsisodes were they go to the planets where the Roman Empire Never Fell, the Soviets won the Cold War, Europe never discovered North America or whatever and figured… hey, if the “law of parallel development” works for *human* cultures why wouldn’t it work for *alien* cutures…. so we get … Vulcans in the Bronze Age! … which makes no real sense: why just because the utterly alien race is supposed to be “logical like the Vulcans” would that mean they have to *look* like Vulcans with pointed ears and arched eyebrows?…. Well… the “law of parallel development”….

  13. Original-flavor Trek had a few weird things, as well… Vulcans are partial telepaths (except when they’re not). Romulans and Vulcans are the same species. No mention of any telepathic Romulans.

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