Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

Had this strange deja vu at an IBM HRL seminar… I met there the CTO of PopTok, a start-up with a product that allows you to use short video clips from your favorite movies, TV shows, and music videos in your online conversations on Facebook or IM chats. So, if you wanted to express anger, you could use a short clip of King Kong throwing a tantrum; and so on. The clips provided come from well known movies that have become a part of our popular culture.

So, this immediately reminded me of the Star Trek TNG episode Darmok, one of the more memorable ones in the series IMHO. There, Captain Jean-Luc Picard has to establish communications with a humanoid alien that seems to speak in riddles, until Picard realizes that the alien’s nation can speak only through allusions to its shared folklore and mythology; so, if they want to denote the establishment of friendship after a struggle, they say “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”, referring to two ancient heroes that underwent such a process at that place; and so on. It’s a weird (and rather dubious, perhaps) linguistic practice – but then, as we used to reassure the kids when they were very young, it’s only a story… and it’s a good one.

Anyhow, expressing oneself by sending representative clips from universally known movie folklore instead of straight text seemed very similar to that alien practice…

1 Response to “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”


  1. 1 Josh Bancroft

    Shaka, when the walls fell. 🙂

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