Ggrurlgrum: The Urgg English Dialect
Marngling Inklish into Mulg
Part of the ability of skit-prose ("skip" for short) to relay what's happening without any visuals or even narration relies on extreme attention to detail of the dialogue, because that's all there bloody is. People from different walks of life speak with distinct difference in their vocabulary, grammar, way of talking, and what they talk about. A bouncy five year old playing on a Springfield swing set is going to speak very differently from a financially depressed city mayor who recently had to pay the bills to build the new park for the whining kids. A million dollar rap artist shot from a panhandling poverty to billion dollar fame, is going to speak differently from a CEO of a billion dollar company who lost everything due to a stock market crash and is back panhandling himself. A macho farmer from Kansas will speak differently from a gay British pop star, or a tourist from Japan who just learned English last month. Nowhere in any art medium are these subtle details as important as in skit-prose. Even in an audio skit or DVD commentary, you have the voices of the people or characters to distinguish them. In pure text without any absolute cues who might be speaking, every possible method of distinguishing one character from another must be utilized.
Even colored depth lines only gives us an idea of which set of characters are speaking, not an absolute idea of who within that set of characters might be talking. Nowhere in skit-prose (as it now stands), is a colored line used for only a single character. There are always at least two people speaking. If there are only two, and they carry on a long dialogue, then you might have a very good idea of who's talking by watching the alternation of every other line. But usually there will be other depths intermingled, and a character might pause while another line is spoken and then speak again just after it. Hence the format of skit prose (which is a very intentional set of methods for very intentional purposes, discussed elsewhere) creates the utmost importance on relaying who is speaking via context, dialects, vocabulary, speech, and grammar.
In the case of the Urgg (a slimy greenish obese alien race of Blorkk bent on the taking over and/or destruction of Earth), you can tell very well when one is talking, because their speech impediments make it quite obvious. Indeed, the more a person is different from another, the more their way of talking is likely to be different as well, so it makes sense for an entire nother race to speak (and act) very differently from a human. Not only different in some haphazard way, but in a way that gets across something particular about what they're like simply based on their speech. For instance, we're unlikely to imagine an elegant ascended elf-goddess saying, "Glurg, go purg the mogrusmat before that pea-brained Earfer gets back here with the nuclear smorshal warmper destrucshun device." Speaking this way is an excellent way of recognizing an Urgg as well as letting us imagine what their speech might imply about what they look like, what their morals might be, or how they're going about doing whatever we think they're doing.
However, reading and writing dialogue in this way can become quite confusing quite quickly if we have no clue what the hell an Urgg is saying. It might be humorous if an Urgg can barely speak English, but of course this doesn't relay what they might actually mean any more than R2-D2's cute but tragically unintelligable beeping. Then, unlike with R2 (or any medium with audio at all), there's the potential to not even understand what the slurred speech even sounds like before we even figure out what's being said. (E.g., if we translated an R2 sentence as "doopey do durbeep do lit dee doop," we may not even know how this is pronounced, let alone what it might mean). We have a difficult but important and very achievable job: striking a balance between the utter mangling of the English language and being able to understand the slightest thing the Urgg are saying.
Perhaps the most important factor in accomplishing this is to develop a familiarity (as readers and writers) with how the Urgg speak, much like an American learning the subtleties of British English, or an Antartican penguin squawking differently than the desert penguins of Australia. If effort is taken to establish a regular Urgg dialect, it becomes incredibly easy to read Urgg English as you become more used to it. So. the following are a few starting ideas on the basics of Urgg speech that will develop more as time goes on. Let's start with a few common Urgg characters & phrases particular to the Urgg that will serve as key foci for developing Urgg English:
Note that none of these are Urgg takes on English words; they're words entirely unique to the Urgg, so this gives us a foundation of what their pronunciation of English might be like. We have a lot of the sounds: 'g', 'gr', 'ur', 'lg', 'r', 'u', & 'm'. We'll put these together in that (totally non-contrived) order to spell "Ggrurlgrum." [GRURL-grum]. We'll say that Urggs speak Ggrurlgrum, so whenever we see this word in text, we can look at the letters and be reminded of all the common Urgg sounds that will be intrinsic to Urgg English. While tough to pronounce, saying the word "Ggrurlgrum" (as a reader or writer) will be excellent keystone practice in your Ggrurlgrum-learning endeavor. Note that many of the Blorkk (as well as the Frangles) terms are even tricky just to type, and take some getting used to; such is their creative and interesting nature.
For instance, the Frangles terms "frwoa" and "Okuaka" can take some getting used to when reading or saying or typing them. This has a lot to do with their origins and method of coining them, specifically, creating pronounceable words and terms from acronyms ("frwoa" means "FRactal Work Of Art", and "Okuaka" means "Only Known Universe Anybody Knows About"). That's the nature of Xangles, Frangles, and Blorkk; to do new things small or large with art and the mediums its presented in, but any significant bettering of anything usually takes a little work. You can read Xangles / Frangles / Blorkk material randomly and get a rough idea of the style and strangeness (for instance, just reading a few lines of Urgg dialogue will tell you a lot about their nature and their method of speech) but can appreciate it more as time goes on, like learning more about the Star Trek or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings universe as you get more into them.
Let's take a few random sentences and imagine how the Urgg might pronounce them. Keep in mind we need to develop a largely standard system rather than just randomly changing letters around until the word has enough g's and r's to sound Urgg-ish, as well as be readable and pronounciable enough to read. Also, an equally important mandate will be to make the words humorous rather than just silly or dumb sounding. Keep all that in mind as we go. We'll start with a Klingon quote from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
An obvious possibility to consider first is that perhaps urggs can't pronounce anything other than the phonetic sounds of our example terms. This is probably isn't so, since the words likely only represent a cross-section of all their speech, but for simplicity's sake let's start with that idea, as it's the most we can be absolutely sure about of the workings of Urgg phonetics.
We have lots of r's, so we have the consonant in "our," but the closest thing we have to the "ou" vowel in "our" is the sound "or" in "Norgug" and "smorshal," and "ur" in "Furglegrug" and "Blurka." This is extremely important as dialects are a slight deviation from a language, so the subtle differences are half of what separates one dialect from another. (Not to mention being even more important in a medium where that's one of our primary clues as to what the hell's going on) That none of the seventeen example urgg words don't have a "ou" sound as in "our" is pretty important. This suggests that it's something generally uncommon to Urgg speech, and hence might be a slightly difficult sound for them to adjust to, one they might tend to slur over. So, to translate "our" into Ggrurlgrum, we'll try replacing it with some of the closer vowels we do see (i.e. "or" and "ur"). In brackets will have a clearer pronunciation of the sounds we're talking about, which will emulate standard dictionary pronounciating to the extent that whoever xote this page was un-lazy enough to pick one up and read it.
our >> 1. or [ORR] 2. ur [UHRR]
Next we have "gods." Again we have lots of g's in our Urgg words; however, if we look closer, almost every one is paired with another consonant! This is a prime phonetic example of how Urgg speech is meant to sound slured and gloppish and grumfled, just like we'd expect from sluring, glopping, grumfling aliens. Even further, we don't see a word starting with 'g' alone, but see five of them starting with a 'gr'! For five gr's to exist as an initial consonant, and not one 'g' alone, says something major about pronouncing a word starting with the letter 'g'. Clearly, we should probably simply add an 'r' to start turning "gods" into Ggrurlgrum. We do have the vowel in "gods" in "mogrusmat," so that's all set (and it's in the same position too: the second letter), but the ending consonants become another problem. None of our example words end with an 's', and we might from the fact that we do have three s's that an urgg word could end in 's', but we shouldn't assume anything just yet. (The possibility of making the Urgg words plural--i.e. "smorshal warmferS"--isn't intrinsic to the nature of the words, but rather a necessity if we're to pluralize a word in English. That is, perhaps the Urgg are less likely to make a word plural if they have difficulty with an ending 's' consonant; again, we shouldn't assume).
Another thing that brings the ending sound of "gods" into question is the d, which creates a different combined ending consonant sound altogether, especially since we don't even see a 'd' anywhere at all in our examples! So not only do we not have any d's at all, we have an additional "zz" sound from the combined ending consonant "goDS," and neither 'd' nor 'z' (nor an ending of 's), are sounds in any of our words! For all we know this is just a bad selection of words, but even if the Urgg can pronounce 'd' and 'zz', it's not likely to be a key sound that defines them, like the seventeen given words. We should strive to develop pure Ggrurlgrum, but when we try to find and ending sound for "gods," we really see nothing that sounds anything like the "zz" sound of the ending syllable. In fact there's little like "zz" at all. Probably the closest thing we have is a 'g':
gods >> 1. grog [GRAWGG] 2. grub [GRUHBB]
Now don't be too quick to toss out these words simply because we wouldn't know what they meant when spoken alone. It's important to develop pure Ggrurlgrum before comprehendable Ggrurlgrum, because it will lead to understanding how much we have to deviate from it to create an understandable dialect. Also keep in mind, one type of Urgg joke can be to purposely write the Urgg as speaking completely uninteligibly, to the point we might joke about needing a translater! So, the closest pure Ggrurlgrum we have to our first two words of Worf's quote are the following..
"our gods" >> 1. ur grog 2. ur grub 3. or grog 4. or grub
For our next word ("are"), we don't have any vowels that sound exactly like the initial "ahh" vowel, but we have some very close sounds. (This is perfect, because we can use this slight variation to distinguish Urgg speech and still be understandable). Let's take the 'a' sounds from "Urgg", "smorshal", "mogrusmat", and "mulg", and then for the ending consonant, add an extra sound, since we only a see an 'r' alone without another consonant once out of fourteen instances of it! But we do see 'rg', 'gr', 'rsh', and 'rm', suggesting something about the density of Urgg speech and how they might tend to add extra consonants when speaking English. Out of these, 'rg' seems to disrupt the original word the least, and is the most common pairing of a consonant with 'r' anyway, so let's use that.
Extract similar vowels to the "ah" in "are" >>
Urgg - smorshAl - mogrusmAt - mUlg
Translate ending R consonant of "are" to >> RG
Final "are" possibilities >> urg ahrg aerg uhrg
Finally, the last word of our parsed sentence: "dead." Again, we don't have a 'd' anywhere in our examples (which occurs twice in this one-syllable word), and don't exaclty have the "EHH" vowel anywhere either! We don't have any of the exact sounds is this single word, so this is surely going to come out poorly pronounced. The closest thing do a 'd' is definitely a 'g', and we even have multiple to examples of g's without any other extra consonants (unlike the 'r' which is always paired with another consonant except for one spot). So let's use 'g' for 'd' and pull out any vowel sounds that might sound close to the 'ea'.
dead >> 1. gug 2. guhg 3. gag
Now let's put together our phrase ("Our gods are dead"), keeping in mind this is only the most orthodox Grurlgrum which we'll have to modify to be more understandable, just the like Urgg would have to adjust their speech to learn English!
If we put together something that sounds close to our sentence by intuition, we might get something like "Or grog urg gug" or "Ur grub aerg gag," etc. Note we have 48 choices of pronounciation (2 x 2 x 4 x 3) just for the first four words of our quote! We're beginning to see the possibility of a complex language, just like Klingon or Elvish or Pikachu, except for the moment we're just working on an Urgg Dialect of English (Ggrurlgrum). What's interesting, though, is that with all the varied ways the Urgg might pronounce English words, we now have the possibility of multiple dialects within Grurlgrum! Even a particular urgg might talk slightly differently from another, just like our five year old swing set kid would speak differently from the CEO or rap artist. If we really wanted to establish an involving, fleshed out system, we could draw out the details of how one urgg faction or group or planet might speak differently than another and alter a system a little for each individual urgg.
Make a strong note that this attention to detail is much more functionally important to our work than the act of simply polishing things up. As griters ("Urgg writers"), we could use this sort of system to maximize the reader's feel of who's talking and what's going on. Even if the reader doesn't pay attention to such details consciously, they will certainly pick up on them in the back of their heads, which will in turn have a major effect on their imagination regarding what's happening, and imagination is even more critical in skit-prose than even regular prose. At the least, spending careful time developing dialects would allow the reader to read the dialogue more easily and understand what's being said better as they subconsciously pick up the language.
Eschewing the details and estimating a rough Ggrurlgrum translation of our Worf quote, perhaps we'd get something like the following:
Now we have a raw Grurlgrum sentence; whatever particular sentence we came up with. (That is, we could have followed the same proccess with any given set of words than the ones we started with; also note that this particular sentence was written by instinct rather than a very careful examination of every exact sound, so there may be a better pure-Ggrurlgrum translation, but let's work with this one). What we have to do from here is two major things; make the sentence: A. understandable, and B. humorous. Perhaps the funniest words in this sentence are "Kleengung" and "grubble." There's something just slightly intrinsically humorous about the words themselves which might have been diminished if we'd chosen different words (for instance "Geehun" or "nubble"). Let's simply do this by instinct--which is all any Blorkk griter does at this point anyway-- and then analyze whatever the hell we did:
This is an improvement in readability, but the more we bring the sentence closer to perfect English and back to the original, the more we diminish the alien feel of the slimy green gloppy Urgg. One thing to consider is that this sentence is more readable if the writing is very consistant and the reader has picked up on certain replacements. If a 'd' is always replaced by a 'g' in the latter half of a word, then it takes much less focus to see the word 'gog' and 'deg' and determine the urgg is trying to say 'god' and 'dead', than it would take otherwise. Still let's revise it one more time since it still isn't very readable for long periods of time.
Now we have an excellent and usable Ggrurlgrum sentence; a good ratio of readability to urgg-ness, one we're finally likely to use in a skip skit. Perhaps it's even too clear (or not clear enough), depending on the ratio of readablity to ggrurlgrumability we're aiming for. What we've done is simply eliminated (or lessened) any Ggrurlgrum words that made the sentence hard to parse, and kept the ones that: a) would be the most difficult for the Urgg to say, b) would be likely to be common usage (such as "grey" which the reader would start to recognize very quickly as "they"), and c) contribute a humorous phonetic tone, or one token of how the Urgg speak; this allows even an individual sentence to stand out as very urgg-eque, which is insanely important in a medium founded on the individual line.
In this case, we've kept "gogs" because it sounds funny even though we wouldn't recognize it out of context (and because the meaning is very clear by the context of the sentence and likely that preceding it). Then we chose to put back "dead" even though not a single sound in it is a key Ggrurlgrum sound, because "gogs" is so funny and "deg" is not. Plus, in a four-word sentence we have to have some original words or we don't have any sentence-internal context to compare anything else to, and hence won't understand any of it by itself, which would tax the reader's focus more on things before and around it. Hence if we want a readable sentence, we should cloose "Our gogs are dead" or "Our gods are deag." Our personal choice here is the former. To someone else, perhaps the latter sounds funnier. In another situation, such as if it's very obvious what "gogs" means (maybe a human asked "What gods do you worship, Grog?"), we might have chosen to slur both words ("Our gogs are deag"), of which the word "dead" might become clear once we get to "wurriors slew them." Of course it would be much more preferable to have context before the fact rather than after it; this is clearly a major factor in crafting the context of the dialogue--rather than just the language--to be understandable.
For the second sentence, we've kept all the major English words except for a few minor spelling changes as minor as the errors a child learning English might make, so we at least have all the major phonetic sounds if not the correct spellings. Partly this is to clear up what the word "gogs" means by context, because part of the reader's focus will be on using all the relevent context surrounding a word they don't understand, to clarify it. The misspelling already lowers the readability of the sentence, plus the reader will be concentrating harder to use that sentence to guage meaning before and after it, so completely misspelling more than one or two major words in close vicinity is about our limit in taxing the reader's patience. Plus, the second sentence serves as a bridge between two slightly less understandable sentences, rather than have two in a row.
For the last sentence ("They were more trouble than they were worth"), "grey" would be a common Ggrurglum pronunciation of "they," so we can definitely keep this, plus the meaning of the pronoun is very inducable from the subject before it. Yet we've chosen to put back the second instance of "they" because we like "grubble" so much and we need the most clear context around it to figure out what it means. Note the extreme importance of our very subject matter: "gods." If we don't know what this means, then we definitely won't have a clue what the three pronouns after it are referring to. Not only do the pronouns need to be somewhat understandable as to what words they are, but so does what they refer to! Over all, our choice to keep "gogs" instead of "gods" is one with major consequences to everything else in the sentence. Do we think "gogs" is that funy? It's a griter's choice.
In fact, all our choices in these examples are personal ones as griters; there are thousands of pure Ggrurlgrum sentences we might have started off with, and even more choices of how we might have watered each down for readability.
Note one final time that to whatever extent our final sentence is still confusing, there are still many things to help the reader understand the mangled words if they just read enough Blorkk skip, such as: 1. The familiarity of having read a word many times before (If urggs always say "grey" for "they," we learn to recognize this immediately). 2. The internal context of the sentence ("Gogs" is more likely to mean "gods" when we read the full quote). 3. The external context (i.e. if a human asked "What gods to urggs worship?"). 4. The setting of the depth established earlier (Are we in a church? A war council? A spa?). 5. What the particular character in question often talks about (Maybe Grog always makes comments about religion, or rants his general opinion on this particular issue quite often). And so on. Of course, we could keep watering down the sentence indefinitely until it was exact, to whatever level or extent a studious urgg might be educated, or an automatic translater refined, or a griter in horrific fear of low hits due to nobody understanding a damn thing that's being said.
This should give the reader and writer of skit-prose a good starting idea of how to read/write Urgg Dialect English (Ggrurlgrum). It's really the best starting idea you could have, given the fact this is about the farthest us griters have got with the idea anyway! (For a lesson on how to write general skit-prose, see Reading & Writing Skit-Prose Lesson 1, and for an example of Urgg characters, read the Mulg Skit Depth 1, although in this particular skit--an original skit of the original Urk saga before it went online--the characters are written as speaking regular English).