Linguistics in The Land of the Lost

The past 3 years of my life have been spent pursuing my M. A. degree part-time at Signum University. I’m getting a degree in Literature and Language with an emphasis in Imaginative Literature (Science Fiction and Fantasy). Part of my degree includes a requirement of two language classes. This past spring I had the opportunity to take my first language course, and boy did I pick a doozie–Language Invention through Tolkien. This is by far the most challenging class and one of the most fascinating classes I’ve taken thus far in my grad school career.

While I was fully expecting to get a crash course in philology and Elvish from my professor and Tolkien Scholar, Dr. Andy Higgins. What I was not expecting was to learn a particularly fascinating tidbit about some classic retro children’s television–Land of the Lost. While Sid and Marty Krofft were out breaking ground in innovative children’s programming with their life-size, colorful puppetry and mystical fantasy worlds, they also set a new standard for science fiction and fantasy television and film. Land of the Lost has the distinction of being the first television series to invent a language specifically for a TV show. The language of Paku, spoken by the Pakumi people, was invented by UCLA professor of linguistics, Dr. Victoria Fromkin. Not only is this the first art language invented for television, it is the first instance of a television show hiring a professional linguist to develop a language for television.

All of this was fascinating to me for many reasons.

1). Who does that for a kid’s show, especially in the 1970s?
2). I also had to ask–“Wait a minute, didn’t Klingon come first?”

Before I could fact check my professor, he stopped me in my tracks. (Really kids, 99% of the time, you shouldn’t have to fact check your professors; I just have a big ego). Land of the Lost aired from 1974-1976. The first instance of spoken Klingon occurred in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), where Mark Lenard introduced a few key phrases; however, the Klingon language did not reach its final form until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) when linguist Marc Okrand was brought in to fully develop the tongue of our favorite warrior race.

There you have it, Retroids, the first invented language for television wasn’t Klingon, it was Paku. You can now pull this fascinating bit of trivia out of your pocket at parties to impress your friends, or you can take a look at these helpful links to teach yourself Paku!

The Paku Dictionary

The next time you watch a science fiction/fantasy show with an invented language, raise your glass to Professor Victoria Fromkin, and of course, Sid and Marty Krofft. Without them, some of our favorite shows and films would be a little less fun. Until next time,

“Qapla’!”

“Yub nub!”

and

“Kasa!”

Sony Watchman

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In the 1980s, every kid wanted a Sony Walkman so that they could listen to their cassette tapes on the go, but it was dads everywhere who wanted to own a Sony Watchman so they could watch football from wherever they happened to be.

The Watchman debuted in 1982 and there are dozens of different models. The older ones, like this one, contained tiny black and white CRT displays. Later, Sony switched to LCD displays. Sony quit selling the Watchman in 2000. Now that all television broadcast channels are digital the Watchman is unable to pick up any TV stations, which is why more and more of them are ending up in thrift stores like the one I found this weekend.

What Would “In Search Of” Have Sounded like with Rod Serling Instead of Leonard Nimoy as Host?

In 1973 Rod Serling narrated the TV documentary “In Search of Ancient Astronauts” which was based on the book “Chariot of the Gods” by Erich von Daniken. This show and its follow up “In Search of Ancient Mysteries” in 1975 would serve as pilots for the popular TV series “In Search Of” (1976-1982). Serling was originally chosen to host the new show, but do to his untimely death had to be replaced with Leonard Nimoy. We will never know if “In Search Of” would have been as popular under Serling, but you can get an idea of what the show might have sounded like by watching “In Search of Ancient Astronauts”. Enjoy.

The Only Entry in the Genre of Housewife Rap: General Hospi-Tale

general-hospitale

What happens when a local radio talent and the producer of Blondie’s “Rapture” get together? One of the most embarrassingly amazing novelty rap songs ever recorded. “General Hospi-Tale”. The song, a rap parody about the ABC soap “General Hospital”, was released by the studio group “The Afternoon Delights” in 1981. The song enjoyed moderate success on the radio. It peaked at number 23 on the R&B charts and number 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but by the time they finally released the song as an EP, the novelty had worn off and it fizzled.

I am pretty sure my Mom liked this song. She was a big fan of GH back in the 1980s, before she switch to AmC. If you have not heard this before you are in for a real treat: