And Gutenberg Lived Here: What’s The Plogli Word For ‘Take A Hike?’

When I went to college,

all of us language major types,

high-minded as we were,

did our bit for world unity,

by learning Swahili.

Don’t ask me.

It was the thing at the time.

Then, in grad school,

after I met my mathematical other half,

we moved to Cologne,

where it was de rigueur

to learn Celtic.

Yup. I’m serious.

Germans are mad for all things Irish.

If you doubt it, read Heinrich Böll’s Irish Diary.


So there I was.

Trying to learn Celtic.

From a book called “Teach yourself Irish”

used in a course

taught by a marvelous seventy-five-plus year old comparative linguist,

Bavarian by birth,

and with the strongest, most undecipherable Bavarian accent I had ever heard,

when he wasn’t speaking perfect Irish.

Or Oxford English.

Or one of about 28 other languages he spoke.

And brilliantly too.

But just, unfortunately for me,

not German.


after discovering how many words in Irish

actually “had Bavarian roots,”

if you just derived it, indo-germanically speaking,

and skipped about three evolutionary steps…

except of course, for the Irish words like bin,

which ends up in English as bin (think dust bin)

-Or was the thing about evolution the other way around?

Hey, it’s been a while, ok?

(In case you are interested, there is a fantastic book,

by Karl Amery, Das Königsprojekt,

which you can probably find in English translation,

about how the Vatican actually used HG Wells’ Time Machine

to go back in history,

to get back the throne of Scotland,

actually stolen from the Bavarians…

Where was I…  ?

Ah yes…


After I actually, really, truly, indeed, did get my required course papers for linguistics,

(application language Irish)

surely highly useful outside of Ireland,


and promptly recognized that although I could derive a lot of words,

like whiskey,

I would have to wait till I spent time in Ireland

before I really learned to speak Irish.

From this page, to God’s ear.


moving right along,

my next stop on the language learning trail was…



Which, although the idea is good,

in my opinion, has just far too many words from standard European languages,

like English, Spanish, French, etc.

Hey, exotic ought to be exotic, right?

Besides, by that time, I was teaching, writing, making music,


and without time.


enter the livelihood-killing competition…

Klingon for beginners.

Three times as many per class as my pitiful “you ought to speak German if you live in Germany!”

A huge success among free-lance language teachers.

And travel agents.

Register for the course and the comic con on the same day!


since the university I was  originally working for suddenly closed its local operations,

and the preferred language for other English language teaching posts over here

is Scottish, London, Welsh, Irish, Jamaican,

or any other variation you can think of except for…


I left the field of English as a second language, German for foreigners, etc etc.

With a heavy heart, I have to admit,

since the people in my courses fascinated me.

Hope you have as great a time as I did, nephew mine,

who we are proud as punch of

for just graduating in linguistics,

with top honors,

despite full-time work,

and a family.

You are the best.

Oh, and since I just read this morning

that the University of California at Berkeley

“will offer a summer linguistics course inspired by Dothraki,

one of the fictional languages spoken on Game of Thrones…”

Jump in fast, everyone,


Hey, who knows.

Maybe if the linguistics field keeps developing like it is,

one day, to get a job,

you will have to have a language degree from




the Plogli words for


and Yale.

Happy Summer Semester, everybody.

Copyright 2017

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s