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ijo ike pi toki pona

5 min read

toki pona li pona e pilin mi

Toki pona online is good and bad.  It's really fun when you can talk to someone in the little language and be understood, so much more so if it's somebody who's not an English speaker. I had some fun talking about sushi with a Japanese person in Toki Pona the other day.  It was super cool!

jan pi toki pona li pona ala e pilin mi

But where there is toki pona, there are annoying toki pona enthusiasts.  They're there to correct your grammar, which could be helpful if you don't understand it well and would like some help getting to know it better.  But they're not helpful if you just made a typo, or perhaps you know the language perfectly well but just forgot something, so them pointing it out to you doesn't improve your knowledge of the language, it just points out an inadvertent error.  LIke if someone you don't even know pointed out a typo in a conversation they were not part of.  "Thanks, but get lost, asshole.  People make typoes."

jan pi toki pona li ike e pilin mi

But worst of all, you get people who try to "correct" you on matters where they don't actually know more than you do, or where their "correction" consists of their own personal opinions about the language. Or maybe they're just douchebags. Members of the toki pona community have been complete dicks to the creator, Sonja Lang, from time to time, in the language's own forums.  I get the feeling that some members of the community feel like the language is theirs now, in the same way fanboys in nerd culture tend to feel that because they like a thing, they own it.  There was a certain amount of resentment towards the "official toki pona book" when it came out, because of course it wasn't everything the community wanted it to be, because it was what Sonja wanted it to be.  Which is fine with me, to be honest.  I like the book.  It's how I learned toki pona.

Anyway, yesterday, to cap off that delightful interaction with the Japanese person about liking sushi, somebody showed up and tried to correct my interlocutor's toki pona, telling them what they had "really said" -- and it was complete bosh.  The "correcter" mistook one word for another, they failed to recognize a completely basic sentence structure, they just screwed it up completely.  So they weren't even correcting an error, they were incorrecting a non-error.

I'm like "who is this ignorant douchebag?" and look at their profile, and I find out they've been a tp enthusiast since the early days, and they've published some lessons of their own on the internet, and written software for toki pona.

And I'm sorry, but they were just utterly, stupidly, "this is some basic shit, come on" wrong about an ordinary sentence in the language.

I don't know if they were drunk, or what. If this wasn't dead simple and obvious I'd doubt myself and think I'd misunderstood something and obviously this person with all this authority must know something. But it was dead simple and obvious.

I wrote back in English, explaining what the sentence actually meant.  Later on, I thought better of it, deleted the English, and explained in Esperanto. My Japanese interlocutor also speaks Esperanto, so I'll still be in touch with them about it. And I'm at the very least not going to be doing the annoying thing of trying to have a conversation in Toki Pona, and instead having a conversation quibbling about Toki Pona in English.  Which happens all the goddamn time.

Maybe this person is actually a great, charming, intelligent, well-informed person, who happened to be actually drunk, to the point that they misunderstood a sentence and thought it was a good idea to correct the person who wrote it.  And I'll find that out and be sad that I talked shit about them. It would be cool if that was the case.

But as it is, it fits into the pattern of Toki Pona People on The Internet Just Being Fucking Annoying.

Which is what drove me to Esperanto.


UPDATE: He explained himself further. It's not that he misunderstood the basic sentence (though he did misread some words), it's that he has a very specific theory about how toki pona verbs are supposed to work, and my usage contradicted his theory. (He pointed me to a thread in the official toki pona forums where he laid out his theory as authoritative.) I showed him that the way I was using the language (the obvious way) was in fact the same way that Sonja used it in the official Toki Pona book, and he said Sonja was wrong.

Yes, that is exactly the sort of thing I hate about toki pona people on the internet.