Inspired by McCrum’s latest article [ed. but surely this is just a cynical marketing exercise? – see, for instance, the globish homepage], Obooki has developed a new language, designed primarily for those who wish to limit their currently extensive English vocabulary (or for use in experimental literature), which he has termed Obookish.

Obookish combines simplicity with richness by limiting itself to the 500 commonest words in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. A highly-advanced ability with the English language is a requisite for the study of Obookish. The language itself is incredibly tedious to compose in.

Here is the first paragraph of McCrum’s article:

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has just published a report Global Security: UK-US Relations whose headline conclusion (The “Special Relationship” is Dead) interests me. This, it seems to me, is potentially another milestone in the evolution of the phenomenon I’ve occasionally referred to on this blog as “Globish”.

And here is the same translated into Obookish:

The Place of Undermen Outward Things Thinkupon has without time’s waste put out a subject-speak – World’s Trust: UK-US Friendstate – whose great therefore (the “Heartfull Friendstate” is Dead) keeps me tied. This, it seems to me, is maybe another hencespring in the eternal change of the thing I’ve sometime spoken of on this writeplace as “Globish”.

I know – it comes out a bit Orwellian.


2 thoughts on “Obookish

  1. McCrum is pretty excited about his next book, eh?

    Nerriere […] was, I think, only too pleased to see his concept get […] some theoretical underpinning.

    Yes, it’s Herr Doktor Professor McCrum’s “theoretical underpinning” that’ll cement the practicality of those 1500 words into place for a century – or more!

    (I’m jealous of farofa’s “glibberish”.)

    Your obookish paragraph is good. Why not 500 of the least common Shakespearean words?: Hapax-legomenonish.

  2. There was a link in the GU comments to a review of Globish here. It’s a pretty dry review, but makes one point which struck me as true for a simple language, and was in fact the very reason (or at least a strong recent) why I suggested to learn Obookish you’d need a very good knowledge of English. – And that’s English’s prediliction for using phrasal verbs (of the type “carry out”, “run through”, “put off”). Having been hanging around language websites a bit of late, if there’s one thing non-English speakers complain about about English more than anything else it’s this obsession we have with phrasal verbs – and phrasal verbs whose meaning all too often has no basis in the meaning of the words comprising the phrase.

    In fact, generally it strikes me that constructing a language using only 500 words requires considerable grammatical genius and invention.

    I think this is a general rule of language which I’ve been thinking about for a while: that if you simplify one area of a language (e.g. vocabulary), there is a concomitant increase in the complexity of another area of language (e.g. grammar).

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