August 27, 2005

Disowning The Brothers Grimm

No, I don't want to disown Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, the first of whom is something of a hero of historical linguistics. I want to disown the movie The Brothers Grimm, and I'm doing this on behalf of linguists everywhere.

What the movie has in common with the real world is: two brothers named Grimm, early-19th-century Germans who were involved with fairy tales. As far as I can tell, that's it. Imagine a Life of Noam in which, through the miracle of miniaturization, the heroic Chomsky (played by Brad Pitt in a revealing latex bodysuit) takes a band of brawling adventurers into the deepest recesses of the human brain, to recover bits of the language organ for sale through his start-up company -- a sort of cerebral 21st-century Fantastic Voyage. Appalling.

In any case, not a movie to put on the recommended viewing list for students in your intro linguistics classes.

[Update, 8/30/05: Correspondents have now suggested two alternative scenarios. First, from Andrew Malcovsky, on his blog, a proposal that sticks much more closely to the historical facts than Terry Gilliam did, yielding something that might be entitled The True Adventures of Will and Jake.

And then from Tim Fitzgerald, who finds my Brothers Grimm/Chomsky comparison unfair (since "these two men have been chosen for their role in storytelling"), a counterproposal for "a much more apt comparison":

... 200 years from now a movie (or whatever form of mass entertainment they may use) on Spielberg's harrowing attempt to fight off dinosaurs from the Temple of Doom with the help of his loving extra-terrestrial friend.

Ah, California Spielberg and the E-Temple of Doom. Please, don't write to tell me that Steven Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. I know that. But he belongs, truly belongs, to California].

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at August 27, 2005 02:12 PM