[ Issue 23 ]

Bandersnatch fascinates Emily Bronto

Bikwil is proud to feature Bandersnatch


Harlish Goop just can't keep away from Bandersnatch, can he?

This time he looks at some pseudo-techno-German that reminds him of Bikwil's own "language of the mind".

Computers were not always in the desktop or portable form we know today. Far from it.

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A Word in Your Pink Shell-like — Harlish Goop


Bandersnatch time again!

Those of you who remember our editor’s article on Grace Hopper in Issue 11 (January 1999), will be aware that computers were not always in the desktop or portable form we know today. Far from it. They occupied huge rooms (sometimes whole floors) that called for special air conditioning and fire extinguishers, and had scores of faithful acolytes attending to their every need — operators, analysts, programmers, card punchers, schedulers . . .

The first computer I ever saw of this type and size dwelt antiseptically and aloof behind a defensive glass wall — a majestic existence for a hunk of metal with electricity flowing through it. After being taken on a sort of magical mystery tour over the electronic drawbridge into the presence of this object of pilgrimage, I have to confess I emerged half an hour later little the wiser. Not much magic, but still plenty of mystery, for me at least.

Things looked up, however, when our guide pointed out a typewritten notice in pseudo-German on the wall beside the public counter. Having had some prior acquaintance with German, I laughed louder than the rest of the group, who, though twenty strong, could only muster three giggles between them.

Bikwil readers who have no German at least have Bandersnatch, and by now therefore will have no trouble appreciating this legendary computer-room warning. Even so, before I reproduce the notice, I should apprise you of something. If perchance you have already seen something similar and are struck by one or two slight differences, please remember that since its origin (most likely at Stanford University in 1959) this sign has been round the world hundreds of times. It is therefore certain to have accrued variations over its forty-year lifetime, some of them even printed in blackletter-Gothic.

The overall effect remains the same, however.

As I explained in my last column on Bandersnatch (Issue 16, November 1999),

the secret . . . is to retain the “syntactic markers” of English, as linguists call them — prepositions, articles, etc. — while inventing your own plausibly English “content words” — nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on . . .

Well, the Stanford Uni sign goes one step further, taking the function words from German but the content words from English — albeit Germanized English. In its way, it has the look and feel of the EuroEnglish frivolity readers will remember from Bikwil No. 14 (July 1999) on the Feral Joke Collector page.

Here at last are a couple of versions for you.


Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen das cottenpickenen hands in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.


Das machine control is nicht für gerfinger-poken und mittengrabben. Oderwise is easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowen fuse, und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Der machine is diggen by experten only. Is nicht fur geverken by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseenen keepen das cotten picken hands in das pockets, so relaxen und watchen das blinkenlights.

In a witty example of turn-the-tables, German computer operators have developed their own versions of the poster in fractured English, one of which goes:


This room is fulfilled mit special electronische equippment. Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is allowed for die experts only! So all the "lefthanders" stay away and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working intelligencies. Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked andeswhere! Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished the blinkenlights.

Here’s an Infobahn variation I recently came across:


Das Internet is nicht fuer gefingerclicken und giffengrabben. Ist easy droppenpacket der routers und overloaden der backbone mit der spammen unt der me-tooen. Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das mausclicken sichtseeren keepen das bandwit-spewin hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das cursorblinken.

It goes without saying that after so much rampant jabbering techno-nonsense it may be of some relief for you if you turn immediately to the paglet featuring our old friend Larick. On the other hand . . .

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