Your anti-terrorism dollars at work

My Yan-nhaŋu archive DVDs have been impounded by customs. I need to give them a detailed description of the contents, track lengths, who the video is of, who recorded it, and various other pieces of information. After all, they just look like videos of people weaving, but they may actually be bomb-making videos. That table may look like a paradigm of pronouns in different cases, but they’re actually secret terrorist training mnemonics. And that front cover I showed you could be a map of dirty munitions sites. And when they find out that the audio files on the videos are in a language that no one at the FBI can speak*, the fun will really begin.

*despite their request for agents who have competence in Broome Pearling Lugger Pidgin.

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7 responses to “Your anti-terrorism dollars at work

  1. I take it it’s US customs en route from Australia?

    If possible, please raise as public a stink as possible. Contact your local public Congressman. Get some newspapers on both sides informed. This is outrageous, and can affect so many linguists at so many ports of entry, and calls for more than just a rebuke of one zealous bureaucrat.

  2. Yeah, there’s some pretty subversive stuff coming out of Broome. What about the latest Pigram Brothers CD. “Hula hula wobbly nura”. Whats all that about? Sounds pretty dangerous. They might need to recruit a Nyulnyulanist to get to the bottom of that one!

  3. Joe, I’m sure you don’t need a translation! and yes, in the wrong hands, that could cause severe injury. :)

    It was US customs/export en route to the UK. Trouble is, I can’t prove that they were worried about terrorism. It could have been DVD piracy, for example. When this sort of thing comes up, the response is always that a) the UK has a right to know what is being sent into their country, b) better safe than sorry, and c) “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to complain about.” The fact that the level of information they required was completely unreasonable will be neither here nor there.

  4. Linguistics must be a front for all manner of subversive activities! My blog stats tell me a fair number of people arrive at my blog after searching for Google Earth conspiracy theories about the Bering Strait. Iñupiaq is just a front I use to hide the secret code.

  5. I would love to hear more details on this, particularly on how it turns out. I hope you’ll post more about it.

    Remember, Navajo was used by the U.S. in World War II as a secret code, so perhaps they think that’s what this is. As for conspiracy theories about the Bering Strait, my eye doctor is from there and was trying to peddle some of those to me, but I think it’s nothing but an Optical Aleutian.

  6. Pingback: update on archive materials « Anggarrgoon

  7. David, that’s truly terrible :)

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