The word "malglico"

The word "malglico" is a lujvo (a Lojbanic compound word), whose literal translation is "f###ing English". However, it's one of the few lujvo that really has gotten a meaning of its own through usage, instead of just the meaning of its components. What Lojbanists refer to when they say "malglico" (in Lojban or English) is unfortunate artifacts of English in Lojban text. This may be lujvo or tanru that close mimic well-known English expression (such as "to man a ship" or "to make someone do something"). In other cases, it may be sentence structures or word ordering that are obvious straight translations of the English, and take little advantage of the Lojban ways of expressing things.

This documents give some examples of malglico that has been seen in use, and my suggestions to "make them better". It is mostly intended for serious Lojban writers, but may also be of interest to others.

Over-use of the word "du"

Much too often, people use the word "du", which stands for the matematical operator "=", in cases where natural language uses "is" or equivalent. Thus, when they'd present their father to someone, they'd say "ti du le mi patfu" (this [that which I'm pointing at] = the father of mine). This is not wrong, but it's un-Lojbanic, and unnecessarily long. It's better to take advantage of the place structure that's already inherent in patfu (x1 is a father of x2), and say "ti patfu mi" (this fathers me).

More often than not, it's possible to say "ko'a broda" (ko'a=some unspecified sumti, and broda=some unspecified selbri) instead of "ko'a du le broda".

Over-use of the word(s) "le mi" (lemi)

In my humble opinion, the possibility of using a sumti between the article (ie. words such as "le", "lo", "lo'e", etc.) and the selbri should never have been introduced in Lojban. It's too similar to the "my book"/"his book" construct in natural languages, and make people forget about the real meaning of it. The sentence "ko cpacu le mi cukta" is equal in meaning to "ko cpacu le cukta pe mi". The word "pe" indicates only the weakest kind of possession, "is associated with/has something to do with". So "le mi cukta" does not mean "the book that I own"!

Use "le cukta po mi" when you own it because you bought it, or someone gave it to you for Christmas. If you say "le cukta po'e mi", you most probably are the author of it, or it is a part of your body (unlikely). These to kinds of possession are called, respectively, alienable and inalienable possession in linguistics.

Natural language offers other kinds of possession, such as the "my father" example above. A rule of thumb is:

  1. Learn the place structures of the gismu.
  2. Use them.

The assumption that "le" is equal to "the", and "lo" is equal to "a"

Firstly, no articles in Lojban determine the number of the things referred to. So, the word "lo" doesn't translate into "a" in every case, it just as often denotes "some".

Furthermore, the distinction between "le" (which is called a non- veridical descriptor) and "lo" (which is called a veridical descriptor) is fine, and does not cloesly follow the distinction between English "the" and "a".

The first importand difference between "le" and "lo", is that when you use "lo", the thing referred to must really be what it is referred to as. You can't call something "lo zdani" if nobody lives in it, never has and never will (such as a shopping mall or an office building). But with "le", you can use any name for anything. The sentence "le zdani cu fanri" is true, if what you referred to as "le zdani" is a factory. "lo zdani cu fanri" on the other hand, must be false, as long as there are no houses that are factories.

The second important difference is that when you use "le", you think of something in particular, and when you use "lo", you do not.

The assumption that plurals translate into mass articles

Lojban has no mandatory distinction between singulars and plurals. If you want to indicate numbers, you are free to do so (either with exact numbers, or with words such as "su'o re" (which means "at least two"). But without quantifiers, the numbers are left unspecified. "le prenu" could mean both "the person" or "the people", deopending on context.

The articles "lei", "loi" and "lai" denotes massification, ie. considering the one(s) referred to as one single unit. This does not necessarily mean that more than one is referred to, but it most often is. It makes little sense differentiating between "one man" considered as an individual or as a mass.

The use of "fi'i" as a mechanical response to "ki'e"

("ki'e", by the way, means "thank you", and "fi'i" means "make yourself at home"/"you're welcome".)

Westerners are used to thank back when someone thanks them. It is considered impolite to just stand there and don't reply when somebody is thankful to them. However, you mustn't use "fi'i" indiscrimately when speaking in Lojban. Bot "fi'i" and "ki'e" are so-called attitudinals, or emotion words, and if you say "fi'i" without feeling sincere hospitality towards the listener, you are lying about your feelings. And lyings is unforgivable, whether it's about feelings or objective facts.

If you must say something in response, use "je'e", which means "I see" or "OK".

Arnt Richard Johansen,