Monday, April 13, 2009

Martian Language and Culture: An Introduction

Martian has 216 forms of “spoken” “punctuation”, all of which appear to be represented by sharp kicks; only an experienced Martian speaker can tell the difference: the beginning and intermediate student has to be content with asking the Martian to repeat himself and paying close attention to the reply. Functionally, each form of punctuation appears to be roughly equivalent to either the comma or the semicolon, or the expression “and another thing that gets me is…”

Some have argued that the Martians have no language proper, but rather "a string of endless random signs interrupted by abrupt punching and running away."

The actual rules of Martian (as much as can be inferred) seem to vary greatly depending on who is speaking, who is being spoken to, what is being talked about, whether the speaker likes talking about it, etc... Each Martian effectively has its own idiolect, which changes daily. A further complication is that it is considered rude for one's actions or behavior to have any relation to one's language. The only certain constant is the punching or kicking for which the Martians have 7,653 synonyms; a Martian sentence is not really considered complete unless it has about 30 of them

The most popular human cultural product for Martians is Garfield: this is because Garfield the cat closely resembles a character from their classical pre-drought literature. Martian “Garfield” is not a cat, but a malign demon that lives inside Martian “Jon Arbuckle's” primary non-ruminant stomach. Like Garfield the cat, however, Martian Garfield is malicious, selfish and cruel, primarily concerned with eating, sleeping, insulting Jon and defecating inside of him.

The only notable point of difference it that these actions eventually drive Martian Jon Arbuckle to acts of incest, cannibalism and murder, (though the order varies by strip).

Hence the t-shirt now popular among humans:

Garfield shits inside me

[This is here transcribed using XIPA Method I, the arrows indicating roughly the kind, angle and intensity of the kicks.]

Martian Romances

Martian romances are basically tales of disenchantment. Almost every Martian Love Epic has a scene after the couple first realizes their great love for one another where they meet a recurring stock character, an old hermit that describes, in exhaustive detail, the challenges the pair are to face and the adventure ahead, culminating in a dire warning. Everything the hermit says is, without exception, completely wrong and does not happen. Scholars believe this character was invented to insure the story was properly disappointing and to prevent people from interrupting.

The couple then embarks on a heroic journey together which is invariably longer and less interesting than the couple had anticipated. All that follows is all falling, accreting action, in the form of complaints, veiled criticisms and long, drawn out arguments, which form the heart of the Martian romance, as captured in this justly famous line,

''At first you were interesting. At the first time, of you, this report: more interesting

Today speaking
I view other [mental content] time of your communicating from time of period of consciousness beginning
sleep following"

These “grievance duets” expand in intensity and frequency, for the remainder of the romance, sustained entirely by the couple, with the exception of the occasional passer-by who is dragged in:

Why are you doing this
To me? If I could burn you, by [ejecting] my [spleen-head] [off] setting it on fire
On the sacred mountain
And hitting you with it
I would.
I only work here.

This last line, being one of the most famous in Martian Literature.

In any case, the frequency, intensity and personal criticism of the exchanges grows and grows, until they express clearly the mutual desire that the other is dead. This typically leads to a tender scene in the fourteenth or twenty-second act where one of the couple, typically through a series of reversals and annoyances, discovers the other and believes them to be dead, whereupon they express their relief and gratitude in a gentle aria of soaring hope and violent ill-treatment of the beloved’s “corpse.” The “resurrection” of the dead partner generally causes dismay and complaint. This “Romeo and Juliette” plot mechanism is a favorite of Martian romances and will often be featured in them up to five or six times in the same given romance.