August 07, 2006

Dan Brown news update

The Dan Brown Language Issues department at Language Log Plaza is currently working on these stories, among others:

  • It was reported on NPR this morning that around two percent of the Britons polled about the Domesday Book think that it is a novel by Dan Brown. Two percent would translate to way over a million people in the British population at large. (The book is in fact an 11th-century catalog of taxable properties in Britain.) Let's face it, Dan Brown is now an unstoppable legend of such proportions that if he were claimed to have written Beowulf, no one would turn a hair. [Footnote: Dan Brown did not write Beowulf. It is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem more than a thousand years old.]

  • As foretold here on Language Log, Dan Brown's Angels and Demons (originally published before The Da Vinci Code and something of a rough sketch for it) is to be made into a film. It will at last become possible to see for oneself what it looked like when the constantly angry Commander Olivetti of the Vatican Guard "entered the room like a rocket", and when "His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack", and when a bit later he said something with "his insect eyes flashing with rage." Language is ill-suited to conveying such images; we need a visual medium, and Columbia Pictures is going to provide it.

  • Research by the team of interns employed at Language Log's Dan Brown Textual Analysis Desk has confirmed that Digital Fortress is not an exception to the stylistic principle that new characters will be introduced with NPs that begin with anarthrous occupational designations. On page 48, chapter 9 begins by introducing new character Phil Chartrukian thus: "Systems security technician Phil Chartrukian had only intended to be inside Crypto for a minute—just long enough to grab some paperwork he'd forgotten the day before." (I don't need to tell you old hands that Phil soon dies a hideous death, his body found burned and broken lying across an electrical generator.) On page 102, we get another new character: "Cryptographer Greg Hale stood in the opening." And one might also count page 260, where chapter 74 begins: "Director Leland Fontaine was a mountain of a man..." — but note that Director, unlike systems security technician, does get used as a title (like Captain or Chancellor or President), so this is not a clear case. The general rule stands, therefore: every Dan Brown novel introduces new characters with noun phrases in which an occupational term before a proper name occurs with no preceding article. And they then usually die horrible deaths.

We will keep you up to date with all breaking news about Dan and his works; just bookmark Language Log's main page and check every day at least twice.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 7, 2006 04:25 PM