Monday, 29 November 2004

The Gostak Distims the Doshes

One SF story I read a long time ago was "The Gostak and the Doshes". Basically, the protagonist finds himself in a "universe next door", an altogether kinder and saner one. One which is so much like our own that he's perfectly at home. Until War fever breaks out, over the Engtalians' stubborn refusal to admit that the Gostak distims the Doshes.

The protagonist becomes increasingly befuddled and frustrated trying to figure out exactly why this whole society is being plunged into war. What is a Gostak? What is a Dosh? What is distiming?

What is the Gostak? The thing that distims Doshes.
What is distimming? What the Gostak does to doshes.
What are the doshes? Things that the Gostak distims....

That's about all I remember about it, but it made a distinct impression on me, as I last read the story about 30 years ago - 2/3 of my lifetime ago.

But now, thanks to the Internet, I can find out where the phrase came from, and buried in an explanation of how to program in the language PROLOG, the following :
"As an able but little known writer has remarked:
Suppose someone to assert: The gostak distims the doshes. You do not know what this means; nor do I. But if we assume that it is English, we know that 'the doshes are distimmed by the gostak'. We know too that 'one distimmer of doshes is a gostak' . If moreover, the 'doshes are galloons', we know that 'some galloons are distimmed by the gostak'. And so we may go on, and so we often do go on"
The quote above is from "The Meaning of Meaning" by C.K.Ogden and I.A. Richards; quoted also by Dr. Miles Breuer in "The gostak and the doshes", an S.F. tale of countries driven to war through the force of incomprehensible slogans.
Then there's oddities, like "The Gostak Distims the Doshes: Economic Warfare in 27th-Century Apalacia", which has the following definition :
Doshery (doscĂ©ria) — A natural region in which doshes are found and may be harvested.
As well as this interesting (and plausible) piece of Alernate Future History :
Mundane War (2712-2720 A.U.C.) — The world war (bellum mundanum or bellum universum) between the Roman, Han, and Quechua empires. Major theaters were: (1) India, where hostilities began when Roman legions came to the aid of the Indian Emperor against invading Han armies; (2) Persia, where Aryan and Roman legions fought a second Han attack; (3) Australia, where Quechua and Han colonies fought each other; (4) Hippolytana, where Han and Roman colonies fought; and (5) Luna, where Roman and Quechua colonies fought. Major fleet actions occurred in the South Pacific Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, and cis-Lunar space as well. Europa, Cingutana, Brasilia, and trans-Lunar space (including Mars) saw little or no action.
Other Gostak and Dosh-related facts, this time ones you won't find on the Internet anywhere else. The Miniature Figurine maker Martian Metals (before its warehouse was tragically burnt down), included coupons - "doshes" - with its products that could be sent to their Gostak for distimming (and earning of additional products). It was a quirky, whimsical company that produced quirky, whimsical products, and is sadly missed these 25+ years.
Then there's the Gostak deck for the Dvorak card game, which contains the following crucial information:
Doshes can be distimmed, coppled or snerked, and some of them are morbled. Podules can be flimmed or foomed. Vebs can be wunked. Fum and shim are quantities or generic adjectives. Some Players are piminy.
Which should be self-evident to the reader at this point.

Oh well, at least I'm not alone in my fascination.

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