Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dr. Sparkle: Lootstealer

Now that the Chronsega 8 madness is over, it's time to get back to work on Chrontendo. This episode should come out in a sometime timely fashion, barring certain "delays" (more about this at the end of the post.)

For the time being however, I'd like to point out this rare intersection of two interests of mine: video games and linguistics. Recently, the fast-talking videogame personality Ben Croshaw/Yahtzee did one of his Zero Punctuation videos on EA's Medal of Honor: Warfighter. I really have no idea whether or not MOH:Warfighter is a good game. Croshaw didn't like it, but the odd thing about his review is that he spends the first couple minutes ranting about the name; or rather, the word "warfighter." Croshaw finds something inherently ridiculous about the structure of the word, comparing it to saying "numbers accountant," and claiming that it causes fits of laughter whenever he utters it.

I just hope he doesn't wear that hat in real lif-- ....   Oh.
This review managed to draw the attention of the popular linguistics blog, Language Log, which is run by Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania and Geoff Pullum of the University of Edinburgh. LL often posts about notable language issues in pop culture. Liberman points out that "warfighter," rather than being a word made up by EA, is a standard term for members of the US military and has been used by the DOD since at least the 1980s. It turns up quite frequently in government documents related to military matters. The US military needs to have a general term for members of the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy who are engaged in combat activities. Currently, the preferred term is warfighter. These kinds of games love putting military jargon into their names, so "warfighter" does not sound at all out of place.

I suppose Croshaw can be excused for not being familiar with the word, since appears to be British (or perhaps a very pretentious American.) But his insistence that the word is somehow internally redundant is a little weird. After all, you can do of things with war other than fight it: warmonger, war profiteer, etc. Likewise, people engage in all sorts of fighting; there are firefighters and prizefighters. Some people even do their fighting in the streets. Perhaps Croshaw has heard of these street fighters?  And, as one commenter on LL pointed out, other games have already used the term, such as Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter.

Also: Saint's Row: Whorefighter
Croshaw's remarks fall into the larger category of a language peeve: a word, phrase or usage that upsets certain people. Often, there is a cultural, national or class bias behind these peeves. Older people get upset when new words are introduced into the language or the meanings of existing words change.  Folks who consider themselves educated (or better yet, "cultured") dislike certain popular or casual English words/phrases. Grammar Nazis haunt internet forums, trying to impose imaginary grammar rules (like "split infinitives.") Some people can't abide foreign words entering the English language -- I recall some years ago a reader's letter in my local newspaper complaining about the use of the word "tsunami." I myself peeve at times. I violently disagree with 1Up's Bob Mackey's use of "oral history" in this series (Dr. Sparkle contributed a brief and terrible entry in this article.). And if you EVER confuse "jealousy" with "envy," I WILL curb stomp you.

BTW: Language Log has a number of entertaining and informative articles on language peeves here.

In other sad news, I'm sure you are all aware that Nintendo Power has released its final issue. The cover is a nice call back to the very first Nintendo Power.

And, it yet more sad news for Chrontendo fans, a major distraction has been occupying my attention lately.  After months of letting the graphics card on my computer sit idly, I have finally broken down and bought Skyrim. Don't blame me! It was $25 on Amazon! I couldn't resist. Don't worry, I will be working on Chrontendo between sessions of slaying dragons and rooting through people's dressers and nightstands. And seriously, why does everyone is this game leave food lying around everywhere? Who keeps an apple pie on the end table next to their bed?


Mind Tank Studios said...

From the credits of the Zero Punctuation video: "And yes I know Warfighter is the name of a real life military communications system but that is somehow even more laughable".

Regardless of its validity, it's just one of those words that sounds silly, like a lot of military jargon. The fact that EA were clearly searching for the closest possible word to "Warfare" without provoking an Activision lawsuit just accentuates it.

Kamiboy said...

While I do not like the man, I feel he has a point in a way.

Society's perception and acceptance of certain words or certain word combination is a question of local oral culture.

If one encounters a perfectly valid word from a grammatical point of view but which one is not used to one is prone to finding it strange sounding.

Of course even the most grating new sounding words tend to grind away their rough edge the more frequently one encounters them.

Take the name Nintendo chose for their previous home console for an example. The word Wii was ridiculed wantonly at first but now it appears normal to most.

As for older words, or names, who in their right mind would call their child Gaylord these days?

Oh, he is Australian by the way.

Discoalucard said...

Have you ever gotten into an internet argument over the validity of the word "gameplay"? I'd advise not to!

Doctor Sparkle said...

DA - Why? Did that happen to you? When I saw the Zero Punctuation rant, I immediately thought of a certain Nietzsche-loving videogame writer who has some kind of philosophical problem with the word "gameplay." All of this falls into the ancient tradition of getting pissed off over some word you don't like. A subgenre of this tradition is the Brits getting their knickers in a twist over American words making their way into the UK. I don't know if that is Croshaw's angle or not. Is the guy really Australian? He sounds English to me.

In reality there is, of course, no such thing as an invalid word, and there is very little logic or consistency to how new English words are created. I don't see how "warfighter" is any less inherently ridiculous than "ghost recon" or "black ops" (or the name of any Japanese RPG.)

The odd mention of warfighter in the credits as a "military communication system" makes the whole thing even odder. It's not like warfighter is an uncommon word. It's been used for over 30 years and a Google search for "warfighter -medal -honor" brings 13 million results. Bear in mind I have nothing against Croshaw; I just have a fascination with language peeves.

Canageek said...

Dr. Sparkle: Yahtzee is a British-expat living in Australia. Part of the problem is that there are a number of words already in the English language that make a lot more sense then warfigher: Combatant and warrior spring to mind, and I'm sure I could find a considerable number more off the top of my head.

InsaneDavid said...

The problem is that "combatant" is a word that an 11-year-old at a locked case of video games can't pronounce when talking to the clerk.

parish said...

The funny thing is, I was catching up with some recent Chrontendos last week and found my teeth set on edge when you did exactly what you're chastising Yahtzee about about some Famicom games. May the circle be unbroken, friend.

parish said...

Wow, I wrote "about" twice in a row. Terrible. Pretend I actually wrote that as "Yahtzee about, regarding some".

Discoalucard said...

Yeah, most of that stems from a certain hilarious game "philosopher" but it's crept up in my site's forum debates too. Most of it seems to stem from a weird fascination to undermine the validity of games that focus more on storytelling/experience.

Which is relevant at this very moment given the salty tears spilled over The Walking Dead, an adventure game, winning the Spike VGA awards last night, which has "no gameplay" apparently.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Parish - "I don't practice what I preach because I'm not the person I'm preaching to."

Anonymous said...

I like how Parish missed the dig about fedoras. Fedoras are wonderful things, yet they look terrible on you. Sorry, dude.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should relax by reading some of Cyril Lachel's articles in Defunct Games.