On Thursday, I wrote about the incredibly huge, complex, surprising worlds that exist under every hobby, pursuit, and subculture, if you just scratch the surface a little. So what kind of stuff am I talking about? Here are just three interesting examples.
Invented Languages – Not “natural” languages like English or Russian, but languages that a person or group sat down and created deliberately. Esperanto is the most famous, but there are literally hundreds of “conlangs,” or constructed languages. Some people learn Klingon. Some people learn Quenya (the language of Tolkien’s Elves) or its expanded form, Neo-Quenya. Geeky programmer types (not that I know anybody like that) might learn Lojban, a logical language – one of many. Hobbyists create their own grammars and vocabularies for fun, and share them with like-minded linguistic tinkerers. For an in-depth tour of this world, see Arika Okrent’s fabulous book, In the Land of Invented Languages.
Fictional Worlds (and their fandoms) – Trekkies, Whovians, etc. As an example, take Avatar: The Last Airbender. A kids’ TV cartoon that aired from 2005 to 2008. Only three seasons, just sixty-one episodes. How obsessed could people get?
Oh, you poor, naive soul. The Avatar fandom has all of the following, and more:
- Its own lexicon. “Bryke” means Bryan + Mike, and refers to the show’s creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. “EIP” is “Ember Island Players,” a popular season three episode. “FN” means “Fire Nation” – obviously.
- Its own violent history. No one can forget the long, bloody war of Kataang (Katara + Aang ship) vs. Zutara (Zuko + Katara ship). We lost a lot of good fans that year. To a lesser extent, ATLA (Avatar: The Last Airbender) vs. LOK (Legend of Korra).
- Its own memes. Standup comic Amon? Do the thing? Guru Laghima, an airbender? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s because you are a normal human being.
- Its own pet peeves. “What happened to Zuko’s mother?” She punched you in the face for asking that damn question.
- Its own articles of faith. “The Great Divide” IS the worst episode. You WILL cry at the end of “The Tale of Iroh.” And of course: There. Was. No. Movie.
Falconry – Using a trained falcon (or other bird of prey) to hunt wild game. I know nothing about this, aside from what I’m finding as I google it right now, but it is definitely a real thing that people really still do. Falconry is legal everywhere in the U.S. except Hawaii and Washington, D. C., according to the Ohio Falconry Association, which evidently is also a real thing that exists. (I’m honestly not mocking any of this, it’s just way outside my usual horizons.) To hunt with a falcon, you need a permit – i.e. this is sufficiently common that there’s a legal framework for it. You need to get frozen mice – or something else – for the falcon to eat. There is special equipment. There are different species and breeds. Falconry has even shaped the English language: the word “rouse” originally meant a hawk shaking its feathers.
All this stuff is crazy in its own way. “Crazy” isn’t derogatory; clearly I have spent plenty of time, myself, in more than a few little worlds. Mainly, I just love that they exist.