Don’s Fumbly Thing

(Make of that title what you will…)

Don of Tallahassee lately submitted an entrance in my “Present your own theory here!” category.

But since he alread sports his own website, I think I’d rather redirect interested parties to his pages than draining visitors from him by discussion his theory here. The discussion might as well be lead on Don’s site as on mine.

So, please check it out and tell Don what you think of his ideas. If I understand correctly, Don’s premise is that each VM word is actually a shorthand notice of an ingredient in a recipe, with the first several letters giving the amount required, the subsequent letters giving the part of the plant, then the (abbreviated) name of the plant itself, and the preparation and so on. A string of words then make a complete recipe for a potion or an ointment or such. This “recipe structure” seems to be related to the mysterious structure which is underlying the VM word “grammar”. Don thinks this structure is the consequence of the compressed and formulaic notation used.

Personally I think Don is barking up the wrong tree. His system already now is immensely complicated, and it seems to get more and more intricate. (Which is a bad sign in any deciphering attempt.) OTOH I have to admit that Don is basing his decipherment on very high standards and tries not only to arrivate at just any recipe, but recipes that would have made sense. In other words, he modifies his decipherment until the list of ingredients and preparations might result in actually useful products, and cross-references previous of his finds. While it seems to be a fairly trivial task to identify which part of the word denotes the amount, which is the plant part, which is the plant name etc., finding out which syllable value — as an example — precisely stands for Dandelion, and which is Clover, etc., is mostly guesswork. A daunting task.

My biggest problem with Don’s assumption is that, while they certainly are formulaic, the VM words are just not formulaic enough to warrant the “recipe idea”. For a start, we have word lengths between one and some 10 letters, short labels, long paragraphs of running text — all this is difficult to reconcile with standard recipes, which could just as well be written in the shape of tables.

But then, hey, I didn’t exactly make earth-shattering progress with my Stroke theory either, did I?