What Does the Gostak Do?

Via io9: ‘The Gostak distims the doshes. This is a sentence that has no meaning in the real world – except the one that is has built up over its extensive history. Learn about the gostak, the doshes, and their surprising science fiction connection…

The sentence was first written editor and progressive educator Simon Ingraham, who believed that one of the “uses of language” was to “keep the grammarians busy.” The point is that, while the sentence has no meaning in the real world, it has a perfect, understandable, and self-contained meaning inside that sentence. The doshes are things that are distimmed by the Gostak. Distimming is what Gostaks do to doshes. And, well, the Gostak distims the doshes. We know what it means. All we need is more context to understand what is actually happening. We feel that, if we could keep reading for a few more paragraphs, we could pick up what each of these things actually are – the way we pick up almost all language.

This elusive lack of context has led to a lot of people playing with the sentence in different contexts. The Gostak shows up in a lot of areas. One of the most notable was “The Gostak and the Doshes,” a science fiction story by Miles Breuer. In the story, “The Gostak distims the doshes,” was a political slogan that made people furious. A visitor tries in vain to get people to explain what it is thats so bad about this idea, but cant even find out what any of the words mean. People didnt know what was being said, but they still couldnt bear the idea that that Gostak was out there. Distimming.’