Lambda λ

LAMB-DA! YOU WILL LOVE ME!

“superchlorine,” you say, “this makes absolutely no sense. Sure, ‘lambda’ has ‘lamb’ in it, but then ‘lampoon’ has ‘lamp’ in it, so are you going to draw a ridiculous lamp or something next? Why are you doing this?!”

WAIT, it has more meaning than just, “Ooh, ‘lambda’ has the substring ‘lamb’, I’mma gonna make a comic outta that.” You see, the copula — essentially the verb “to be” — in Japanese is “-da”. So to say “__ is a lamb”, you would say “lamb-da”. So lambda = “__ is a lamb”. Har, har! Funny, right?

Even funnier in a geeky linguistic-y way is that in lambda calculus, lambda is a function that binds a variable to a predicate. This means that whatever value that variable holds, that value will have the property of that predicate. E.g. in λx.p(x), where x is a variable and p = “is tall”, we’re saying that “x is tall”. If x = “Adam”, then the lambda function plops “Adam” in p, and gives us the result “Adam is tall”.

Now, back to lambs. “is a lamb” is clearly a predicate — it gives some object the property of being a lamb. Above, I said that lambda = “__ is a lamb”. Why the blank space? Japanese drops subjects — so if you want to tell someone that you (he/your little sister/your pet snake/etc) are(is) eating, you can get away with just saying “Am eating” if it’s clear in the conversation that you’re talking about yourself (that guy/your sister/your pet snake/oh you get it already right?). So, if you look at just the sentence “Am eating” with no conversation context, the subject is kinda…variable. Variable subject with a predicate in Japanese? Lambda calculus? Lamb-da? LAMBDA!

Oh, so much linguistics geekery. I am almost embarrassed, but not quite there yet.

Anyway, Japanese version:

LAMB-DA! YOU WILL LOVE ME!

And a Korean version, which is kind of pushing it because you would say “lamb-ee-da” in Korean instead to avoid adjacent consonant sounds. I was having too much fun making these graphics though, so here you are:

LAMB-DA! YOU WILL LOVE ME!

Idea thanks to a friend who pointed out that “lamb-da” had a different interpretation in Japanese.

  • 咩咩

    Haha, I didn’t think of Korean; I never know Korean copula was also “da”.

    • http://superchlorine.com/ cL

      Well, technically, I’m a bit incorrect here. The copula is “i-da” (이다). With a noun that ends with a vowel, like “cookie”, you can drop the “i” from “i-da”, and say, “cookie-da”. However, if the noun ends with a consonant, like “lamb”, the “i” shouldn’t be dropped. So it actually should be “lamb-i-da”. If you say it really fast though, the “i” is less audible. ;)