The World Isn’t Yours

A lot of drugs come with what you might call rudimentary samizdat branding. Ecstasy pills regularly get imprinted with pop culture references for batch designation, for example.

But mostly, illicit drug names are a part of criminal anti-language, or at least they begin as such. If you don’t want the police or the normies knowing you’re doing a drug deal, you switch terms for things they won’t understand. Language becomes a club for members only and you need the passwords for entry. Cocaine becomes Charlie and so on. Even after the mask of anti-language slips and the terms become commonplace, they tend to stick around, because what’s criminal and taboo is also often cool.

In some refreshing instances, a kind of anti-branding occurs. Cannabinoids are dope because they make one stupid and sleepy, for example. Amphetamines are speed or whizz because they accelerate perception and energy levels, famously burning up tomorrow’s energy today.

The powerful drug scopolamine is known as Devil’s Breath, because once inhaled or ingested it renders the victim entirely suggestible. Usually, it is administered during a honey trap (often via lipstick) prior to robbery. I always liked the name Philip K Dick gave his fatally addictive substance in ‘A Scanner Darkly’ – Slow Death, the perfect combination of taboo sales pitch and truth in advertising.

But if ever I felt like viscerally objecting to drug nomenclature, it wasn’t when someone impressed cartoon figures like Donald Duck on a tab of E. Rather it was today, when I read about the drug WY which is wreaking havoc in India. WY stands for ‘The World is Yours’, a complete reversal of what drugs of abuse actually do, which is steal the world from those addicted.

This amphetamine/caffeine combo is disproportionately harming the already marginalised queer community in India, according to Vice magazine. A more insidious untruth I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered than this empty promise from drug dealers to fragile youth.

Anthony Burgess versus Stanley Kubrick

I had the pleasure last week of speaking at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, as part of a panel discussion to launch a new book entitled Burgess, Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.

The book is co-edited by Dr Matt Melia from Kingston University, and Georgina Orgill, the archivist of Stanley Kubrick. For those with an interest in the great brainwashing fable, in either literary or cinematic form, it’s a great read, from Matt and Georgina’s introduction, to the final essay.

The Ponying the Slovos team were honoured to be able to contribute to the volume, and eagerly grasped the opportunity to compare Burgess’s Nadsat to that which features in Stanley Kubrick’s script (and thereafter, the movie itself.)

Alas, as is so often the case with academic research these days, the purchase price is not so cheap. My suggestion is to ask a friendly academic librarian to consider purchasing it on your behalf. However, I can offer you a flavour of what we discovered, and subsequently wrote about in the volume.

M’learned colleague Benet Vincent has written up a fascinating article over at the Ponying the Slovos blog, explaining the differences between Burgess’s Nadsat and Kubrick’s.

I hope you will read it, and perhaps also get the chance to look at the book, not to mention its gorgeous cover.

‘Beyond Nadsat’ now in print and available for free via Open Access

Over at Ponying the Slovos, our ongoing project on invented languages in art and literature, I wrote a series of posts on Anthony Burgess’s other invented languages a couple of years back, of which there are more than a few.

These collected thoughts have now been expanded, revised and published in the peer-reviewed Hungarian journal of English literature, The Anachronist, and (almost all) the journal is free to read or download in the spirit of open access thanks to the publishers at ELTE, Hungary’s foremost university.

 View Vol. 20 (2022): Burgess and Droogs: A Post-Centennial Collection of Essays

In this paper, Burgess is used to demonstrate that the role of invented languages in literature goes far beyond the existing well-explored territories of Science Fiction (SF) or High Fantasy, though they predominate therein, and can also be found in historical novels, and even realist fiction, as Burgess’s variegated novels reveal.

This is Ponying the Slovos’s second publication for 2023, and it’s not even two weeks in. We might need a little lie-down!

Anyhow, feel free to read the article here, and the whole journal, all of which will be of interest to Burgess scholars, may be accessed from this page.

Gaslit by Goblins – the dictionary definition

There is dissent among the lexicographers!

Whereas last year the Oxford English Dictionary (with the somewhat American-sounding diminutive ‘vax’) and Merriam-Webster (with the more formal, and somehow British sounding vaccine) concurred on word of the year, this time they have diverged.

For the M-W, this year’s word is ‘gaslighting’, a not-especially-new term used to describe a kind of cruel psychological manipulation. However, the OED put their favoured options (which included a phrase and a hashtag!) to a public vote, and came up with ‘goblin mode’.

What is ‘goblin mode’, you may ask? Some Tolkienesque monstrous tendency to murderous behaviour?

Goblin Mode?

No, apparently it is a term of online usage which is defined as “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

In other words, the kind of behaviour one expects from people who consider hashtags to be words and eschew responsibility by putting their work out to a vote.

I feel like the OED has started gaslighting me. I’m team Merriam-Webster until the goblin mode ceases in Oxford.

Learning Resilience and Adaptability in an Unpredictable World

I recently got the chance to appear on the excellent Art of Problem Solving podcast on behalf of Sapienship, talking about how to raise and educate a generation whose jobs may not exist yet, or who may find automation erodes their employment opportunities.

To date, I haven’t spoken much on my personal site here about my work with Sapienship, largely because most of it has yet to reach the public domain. I expect that to change quite a lot in the next few months.

Anyhow, one of the benefits of migrating to an academic-adjacent position, especially one as wide-ranging as mine, is the ability to escape the narrow pigeon-holes of expertise which the artificial boundaries of academic disciplines enforce.

In my career, as noted elsewhere, I’ve had a number of very different roles. As a journalist alone, I gained expertise in a very varied range of topics and subjects including healthcare, politics and international sport. Hence it always seemed somewhat constrictive to me that academia was so insistent that I stay in my narrow lane, even as it nominally espoused interdisciplinary practices.

This is why my current areas of personal research are fundamentally interdisciplinary – in particular Religious Futurisms and Invented Languages. But it also informs why I have always been keen to teach students to be resilient and adaptable. I’ve finally been offered the chance by the Art of Problem-Solving podcast to expound on this pedagogical ethos and I feel especially privileged that in this area, as in many others, I find my personal values echoed and amplified by Sapienship.

I did not have a role model or a teacher to guide me how to become resilient and adaptable to a world in which change seems to be perpetually accelerating. I had to develop those skills myself, on the hoof, as I migrated from the Arts to Journalism to Academia and to the position I now hold.

Hopefully this podcast can help others to shorten that learning process, because the world is not slowing down anytime soon, and resilience and adaptability are going to become the defining traits of success, or possibly even survival, in the decades to come.

Waiting for Wakenight

I’m not really a Joycean scholar (though I did once publish on Joyce, Anthony Burgess and counterpoint here) so it’s taken me this long to come across the suggestion (attributed by Finn Fordham to an unnamed critic, presumably Danis Rose) that in addition to a Bloomsday, there may be a Wakenight also.

According to the unnamed critic, the Wake takes place (in the same way Bloomsday does – in a fictional alternative history which lives on the page and in our minds) on the night of the 28th of March 1938.

It’s not an especially memorable date in actual history. A couple of weeks after the Anschluss, Hitler gave a speech in Berlin. For a further sense of the era, Westminster was debating both the cinematographs bill and a civil aviation bill.

This means, of course, that I was born on the 33rd such Wakenight, in the morning, just as the river Anna Livia Plurabelle ebbs into the sea, her father, and dies (only to be reborn again on page one of the book.)

I’m not sure how we’d celebrate Wakenight. I’m not sure Joyce entirely foresaw people strolling in Dublin each June dressed in boater hats and munching gorgonzola sandwiches either. So I guess it’s up to us to choose our own modern and secular rituals for our own post-religious deities.


My modest suggestion, in keeping with the source ballad, is that we all drink whiskey until we collapse as if dead. Who’s in?

Speaking of the ballad, let’s have a quick round of it now, courtesy of the inimitable Mark Wale:

Percy Bysshe Shelley contemplates the linguistic topography of Middle-Earth’s Third Age

Inscribed in Black Speech of Mordor, not Adûnaic

I weep for Adûnaic—it is dead!

Oh, weep for Adûnaic! Extinct tongue

of sunken Númenór! Of men who fled

their language and their home to live among

elves, ents and hobbits, dwarves and orcish dung.

Oh Adûnaic! speech of kingly fools!

Forgot among the songs of the Third Age,

Sindarin, Quenya, even Dwarf Khuzdul.

Such linguistic neglect bringeth me rage.

No Adûnaic now in Middle-Earth

abides in minds of ents or mine-dwellers,

nor elves nor hobbits. Such a shameful dearth!

This lost tongue of rangers and Gondor fellows.

Why did the office manager for the Mauritian Police Complaints Commission offer to vanity publish an academic book based on research that I haven’t even finished yet?

You might recall my Rule of Academic Emails, which I introduced previously.

It states: If someone sends you an unsolicited email asking you for money in return for promising to assist your academic career, what they’re offering is unlikely to assist your academic career and may actually hinder it.

But what if they don’t ask for money? Well, then things can get interesting. Let’s take today’s mailbag as an example. Out of the blue, unsolicited and with no previous engagement or interaction, I received an email from a woman called Hiteesha Bachoo, who works for an entity called Lambert Academic Publishers, inviting me to submit an academic monograph to her.

Now, sometimes legitimate academic invitations do occur. Mostly they occur to senior academics who are already very prominent in their fields. They get invited to give keynote lectures at conferences, and to contribute chapters to edited collections of essays, because their very name and presence, not to mention the likely quality of their work, adds kudos and prestige to the whole event or publication.

But it’s possible for little people to get invitations too. If you are one of the few people in a very niche specialism or with very particular interdisciplinary expertise, you might get an invite out of the blue to give a talk or publish in a special edition of a journal, or an edited collection.

Usually these kinds of invitations, to mere academic mortals, come from people who already know you and/or your work. But very rarely a legitimate invitation comes entirely out of the blue. I was once invited by the very prestigious Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin to take part in an event on weird fiction, and was delighted to do so. They flew me over, put me up in a nice hotel for a few days and even paid me. So it can happen. Here’s the proof:

Beardy weirdy me in Berlin a few years back. The beard is gone but the weird remains.

Anyhow, let’s get back to Hiteesha’s email. She gets straight to the point immediately (presumably because she’s got a lot of other emails to send, but also perhaps for another curious reason which we’ll get to later).

Dear Jim Clarke,

publish your own book based on your research titled"  “The Lingua Franca of the Hedgerow”: Lapine Linguistics and Invented Languages in Watership Down ". New publications contribute to the development of the academic market.

I am Hiteesha Bachoo and represent Lambert Academic Publishing, one of the biggest academic publisher worldwide.

Your book will be published at no cost, with print-on-demand technology and distributed on Amazon, Morebooks, Hachette, Publishers Graphics etc.

Jim Clarke would you accept to receive more information about publishing your own book?

You might have questions or need details about publishing, so let me know how can I be of help.

Hiteesha Bachoo   Sincere regards,
Hiteesha Bachoo
LAP Logo

So, she’s not looking for money, or at least not yet. My immediate presumption was that some mention of charges would occur down the line. After all, the usual procedure is that authors approach publishers with book proposals. I know because I’ve written two in the past six months, and I’ve done so multiple times in the past. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen that a publisher might approach an author, but it’s certainly not the usual vector.

So, I did my journalistic due diligence. I googled LAP, and then I googled Hiteesha. Let me summarise what I found. Firstly, NOBODY recommends publishing with Lambert. As this discussion on ResearchGate indicates, they spam an AWFUL LOT of academics, and their book production is low cost, low value and generally considered to severely devalue academic work. Their books rarely if ever get cited either.

In fairness to them though, no one seems to have been asked for money on that thread. Despite that, they and their parent company OmniScriptum Publishing were listed on Beall’s famous list of predatory publishers, but as an imprint of a vanity press rather than out-and-out predators. Eventually I found my way to this article from a decade ago, which includes loads of interesting information and background on Lambert, plus links to half a dozen more articles about Lambert.

Basically, universities, research advisors and higher education research councils on at least four continents have been advising students not go anywhere near Lambert, despite their lack of charging. They WILL publish your book, and they will do so for free. They won’t edit it. They won’t proofread it. They will do absolutely bare minimum design work on it. They won’t promote it in anyway. They’ll simply prep the copy structurally for print-on-demand and then pocket any sales that come in.

Additionally, there is some dispute over whether they even claim copyright, but as that often happens in academia, at least at the journal level, it really wouldn’t surprise me. In effect, you’d be better off self-publishing your work on Kindle or Lulu. At least then you might get some money from sales and you’d retain your copyright. But from an academic perspective? Worse than useless for your career. A waste of your research. A devaluing of your reputation.

I did mention that I also googled my correspondent, Hiteesha, and how her email seemed extremely rushed as if she was very busy. Well, she clearly is. I found her on LinkedIn, where she transpires unsurprisingly not to be an academic at all. She holds a BA in Marketing from the University of Mauritius. Additionally, while she does fess up to working for OmniScriptum as a “Freelance Acquisitions Editor”, her day job is as a management support officer with the Mauritian Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Additionally, she’s currently overtly looking for work, in office management or digital marketing, but she’ll even consider data entry work. The poor woman is basically doing this work as a side hustle. She’s almost definitely paid on commission of the sales of the books she recruits. No wonder she wants another job, and no wonder she spent very little time on my email. She’s clearly got a lot more to send, plus an office to manage in Mauritius in the morning.

How do I know she spent very little time on my email? Primarily because the paper mentioned in it, the one on Lapine linguistics in Watership Down, hasn’t appeared in public in any form yet! It hasn’t been published anywhere because it isn’t finished!

The research will only be presented for the first time later this month at the Critical Plants and Animals Studies Conference in Cappadocia. A more developed paper is also in preparation for the forthcoming Watership Down anniversary conference to be held at Glasgow in September. (You’re more than welcome to tune in to either conference and critique the work incidentally! Better still, attend both and see the interesting additions we have in store for the second iteration!)

Yes, I did say ‘we’. Because this is CO-AUTHORED research which I am conducting with the estimable linguist Hülya Mısır. Who coincidentally did NOT get spammed by Hiteesha, or anyone else at OmniScriptum. Bit sexist of them if you ask me.

Anyhow, what’s the moral of this strange story? I can think of a few. You should always check and double check any unsolicited academic invitations. The shady corners of the academic publishing industry extend quite a distance back in time and are somewhat persistent. Someone’s making money out of this, and it isn’t the researchers or indeed the poor hustlers working on commission. Oh, and office managers in Mauritius should be paid better, so they don’t have to do this in their spare time.

Tiktoking about invented languages

Our invented languages blog/project got a shout out today from Grammar Girl on Tiktok, which I have to say is new for us.

Such is the proliferation of social media platforms nowadays that I kind of gave up some time ago trying to keep up. I don’t do Twitter, or Insta or Tiktok. I’m on Facebook largely out of habit and because it’s where I can find a lot of the people I often need to find relatively quickly.

I’d love to say I got burnt by Bebo or something, but really it’s just a combination of laziness, and a desire for order. It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve finally (after a decade of owning the domain) launched this site.

I can tell by the stats that having one’s own webpage, especially as an academic, is probably not the most effective outreach methodology. But it suits me, as it gives me a degree of control, and allows me to archive things.

Am I a luddite? Perhaps (definitely in many ways, only perhaps in this though.)

Therefore I have great respect for those, like Grammar Girl, who have embraced the changes and the platforms and found successful ways to communicate with new audiences.

And I have great gratitude when such people share the love with those of us who don’t have their magical powers.