FAQs

What is Ptydepe?
Ptydepe is the made-up language used in Václav Havel’s The Memo. The protagonist of the play, agency director Mr. Gross, receives a memo written in the language that he can’t read. As it turns out, the purpose of the memo is to inform Mr. Gross of the people upstairs’ opinion of Ptydepe. He can’t read the memo about the  new language, because it’s written in the new language. Office life, right?

What’s the context for made-up languages? Are there others?
Are there others! Lovers of literature, television, film, and theatre have been exposed to everything from Tolkien’s Sinadrin, to Star Trek’s Klingon language.
There also exists a world of “constructed languages,” which are similar, but have more real-world influence. Thanks to the magic of the internet, there is a wealth of info on two other very different constructed languages, two of the most famous being Esperanto (the infamous “Universal Language”), and Loglan.
For more on Loglan,   listen to Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast.

How did the name “Ptydepe” come to be?
There is a theory about that.

The cryptic name “ptydepe” was most likely based on an abbreviation. Abbreviations were frequently used by the bureaucrats out of necessity, especially in the military with its vast array of cryptic abbreviations which the soldiers had to memorize. For example, “Petemide” was the name given to one such commanding officer because he spelled the abbreviation “PTMD” with funny-sounding spelling “Pe-Te-Mi-De”. (“Proti-Tankova.-Mina-Delostrelecka” means “Anti-Tank-Artillery-Shell.” It should correctly be spelled as “Pe-Te-eM-De”.) Havel’s “ptydepe” was most likely inspired by such an abbreviation. “PTDP” spelled as “Pe-Te-De-Pe” which Havel changed to “ptydepe” for easier pronunciation. Or perhaps his commanding officer spelled it “Pe-Ty-De-Pe” or “PTy-De-Pe.” In Scene 11 Havel makes one such joke–the clerks are giggling when one of them mentions that due to the maximum redundancy of ptydepe a brief summons to the military HQ filled thirty-six single spaced pages. “Chorukor” may be from the abbreviation “Cha-eR-Ka-eR.” “Ch” in Czech is a unique sound and the letter that alphabetically follows “H,” “ch” sounds somewhat like “kh” in English which is used to transliterate it.(excerpted from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Vaclav+havel+and+his+memorandum.-a0339527502)
 
For more on invented languages, Arike Okrent wrote a book called In the Land of Invented Languages, and is known as an expert on invented languages.
Want more on Ptydepe? Come see The Memo.

Watch the trailer for the show below.

[vimeo 89136887 nolink]

Find more info on SCT’s production of The Memo HERE.

BUY TICKETS TO THE MEMO