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Limits & Quotas on Language

I previously wrote a piece about the limits of language, since one of my favorite authors, China Miéville, often leans on what language can and cannot do, as a theme in his novels. Something I quite like.

Over a game of Code Names with three friends, the conversation turned to speculative scenarios where words could only be uttered so often in a day.

If you ran out of chicken, you could trade or pay for more.

Then there came the problem of how you would ask for more of a word without using the word.

Better make sure you had enough poultry to spare if your chickens were low.

One could arbitrage. Collect words ahead of say, a presidential debate where the topic was known in advance.

Or sell umms and ahhs to clumsy speakers.

Maybe using umms and ahhs goes into fashion and having them is a luxury that the high-status elites can afford. Like ragged t-shirts that cost $50.

How might this start?

Maybe with Twitter or Snapchat. Twitter gets too noisy and limits users to one tweet per day. Snapchat wants to make some money and limits users to one snap a day. In app purchases get you more and teenagers’ parents are surprised by their next credit card bills.

And there is the free speech thing.

Someone who effectively wants to take certain words and phrases and ideas off the map can try to do so if they can corner the market (or hack the market, since it is setup on blockchain, triple entry!)

There’s a free speech thing, here, too.

As for the poor comedian, he will often have to imply his joke and hope his audience intuits his silent punch line.


This is contemporary science fiction, with blockchain word marketplace and a prediction marketplace (with a word sector deriving from world events).

How to deal with translations?

Posted on 8/4/2018

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