Scribbler’s Saga #56 – A Black Belt in Peeler

Posted: January 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

A friend dropped a question where I could see it on Facebook – if you could be a Highlander type character, where would you come from and what weapon would you choose (not limited to swords)? Interesting question, especially since I didn’t want to Me Too once chainsaw appeared in someone else’s comment. For my version of an immortal wanderer doomed to duel and behead other immortals, I went with Sir John Cleese with a vegetable peeler.

Okay, exposition and explanation, like yesterday. Some cheeky Brit pretends to be Monty Python alumna Sir John Cleese and sends out slightly altered versions of the Independence Revocation Letter. The clockwork regularity of this snark filled shot across the bow surfacing when Republicans win the White House suggests to me a horrified Labour voter (the Orange One might convince Tories to join this bandwagon, a post for any site not named Smoking Lizard).

Basically the Queen using Sir John Cleese as mouthpiece and fall guy sends notice of taking back America due to the moronic (GOP, this meme disappeared during the Obama Administration) current administration. The snotty missive asserts we owe two hundred years of back taxes, Her Majesty doesn’t fancy a state (Kansas originally, but recently Utah) and that as newly reclaimed Crown Subjects our domestic arms race will be limited to vegetable peelers. My reply to the Bush 43 era version that dumped on Kansas has since been lost to the delete button, but the salient point for this post was me boasting – “I have a black belt in vegetable peeler!”

And so when prompted by a goofy question about immortal duelists, this moment bubbled back up. Suddenly, I’ve just created a fictional martial art that now needs a name. Enter my copy of the iTranslate app, the real purpose of this post on a writing column.

I write a decent amount of fantasy that requires two words in Church Latin uttered by wizards likely to piss on the complicated ritual spells in Dungeons & Dragons. Occasionally, I also need to render whole sentences in Spanish (or at least Spanglish, I live in California). For all of these, I use iTranslate entering words in English and then copy down what comes up in the output line if there’s something usable in the Roman alphabet. And the simple fact of regular use pretty much covers the review part of this post, because I haven’t used the audio translation feature due to a lack of travel or needing to order dinner.

My spells come out like Imperius Flama (fireball) or Dormir (sleep) and I’m constantly aware that in an effort to get something on the page and move on, I expect actual speakers to laugh hearing me say this shit out loud. Mostly, I think the machine doesn’t always know if I wanted the verb, noun or the adjective usages. You might get different results based on verb tense, case and irregular declension. For instance, if I hadn’t grown up in Amer-glish, Past and Future Participles or even Imperatives would fuck me up one leg and down the other.

I only need translations working in prose. English dialogue with Said in Spanish in the attribution craters the reading experience in a book. However, the opposite is true of screenwriting where all dialogue is given in English under the Parenthetical header indicating the target language. Pretty much the army of assistants and interns that read scripts whined creating a new rule for the format Nazis.

What did I get as output from the app lazily using Japanese to name The Sublime Art of Deadly Vegetable Peeler? Too many words given that real Japanese martial art names aren’t usually more than three or four syllables depending on a Do (Way of) or Jitsu (Fighting Method of) suffix. Even dropping vegetable from the input line still gave me Kawa Muki Utsuwa.

I have no way to know if the app thought I wanted a noun or verb, because my Japanese is limited to what can be picked up from Godzilla, karate class and cool anime. But, count ‘em seven syllables of Roman transliteration just offends me at a basic level and it becomes eight syllables when you try out Kawa Muki Utsuwa-Do.

Now, I get to thinking that the Sublime Art Of Deadly Vegetable Peeler is actually a rarified skill likely to merge with other rarified combat skills to justify classes longer than one session. I keep hearing from various thriller novels about poor souls wiped out with all kinds of everyday objects with specific repetition of chopsticks. Certainly, Trevanian’s novel Shibumi that asserted death by chopsticks and the related death by soda straw was a blast to read. No word on real or bullshit.

The thought of using chopsticks as a possible name for this facetious Japanese martial art for weaponizing regular stuff intrigues me. Why? Look, when humans get pissed off we kill each other at dinner.

Wikipedia asserts that a French king decreed rounded table knives to solve the violent dinner problem. Asian cooking developed chopsticks that only allows one knife in the room, held by the chef. Fictional movie assassins might say at their high school reunion – “I once murdered an Argentine presidential candidate with a salad fork. What have you done since graduation?”

Similarly, Emily Post instructed dinner guests to avoid religion and politics adroitly trying to regulate cause without also going for the logic of disarming guests. Lastly, roll tape on Game of Thrones “Red Wedding.” So if the name of the overall martial art derives from chopsticks, makes sense…at least to me.

Chopsticks in begets Hashi out in iTranslate. Two syllables. Three syllables when you go for Hashido. Hmmm! Bushido (Way of the Warrior). Kendo (Way of the Sword). Aikido (Way of the Harmonious Spirit). Yeah, in this context Hashido (Way of Chopsticks) sounds like it could be a martial art initially limited to the dinner utensils, but later expanded to include all kinds of everyday objects.

Even though my patience with holding the joke about the Sublime Art of Deadly Vegetable Peeler wore thin after chopsticks, I did need one other choice. Tools. Yeah, because boil everything down to first principles this fighting art is all about improvising weapons from tools. I got Tsu-ru-do (Way of Tools) out on the backend. Obviously, I like Hashido better.

So now that I’ve adroitly and humorously padded a three paragraph post about a translation app that I happen to use and told you to leave translation out of screenplays, I have one remaining question. Who wins the vegetable peeler duel between Toshiro Mifune and Sir John Cleese?

I suppose this one depends on which of Mr. Cleese’s Python characters shows up. His many asshole cops and Grammar Centurions have a chance against the master depending on conferment of Script Immunity in the script. But, the Dead Parrot Guy or Ministry of Silly Walks Guy is already dead and doesn’t know it yet. Good writing to you.

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