Tonight (23rd March 2014), Coast to Coast AM talk host George Noory will be discussing the Voynich Manuscript with “spiritual artist and musician Stuart Davis” and PR-hungry Voynich theorist Stephen Bax.

Well… at least the musician guy sounds credible. 😐

I have to admit that, not so many years ago, I would experience a frisson of excitement whenever I heard about the Voynich Manuscript’s being picked up by the media. Back then it would get no more than one or two genuinely substantial mentions per year, whether in Cryptologia, Nature, New Scientist, or wherever: and I was fascinated to see how the Voynich cultural meme developed over time.

But over the last few months it has been mentioned in so many goshdarned articles that the same phenomenon instead induces a wave of nausea – my stomach sinks and I wonder “how are they going to misrepresent Voynich research this time?”

For instance, Stephen Bax seems doggedly determined not only to recapitulate every single error made in Voynich research up to 1970 (e.g. …
* reading Voynichese as an obscure-but-lost-or-maybe-polyglot language;
* parsing Voynichese as if it were a simple letter-for-letter language;
* looking for obscure language matches for possible herbal cribs;
* assuming that any published research must have some Rastafarian-truth-in-all-truths viability; etc, etc),
but also to represent his own nine wonky words as if they somehow define cutting edge Voynich research.

In fact, the mistakes Bax has made (and indeed continues to make) are about as stolidly retro as rockabilly quiffs.

But, of course, the chances of anybody outside the Voynich world having the history and cryptology chops to call him on this are terribly slim. Would George Noory ask him why he is so certain that Voynichese is actually a language, when…
* the dictionary statistics are all wrong, with words often differing by a single letter;
* different letters have different preferences for positions on the page;
* indeed, “p” gallows tend to occur in pairs halfway along the top line of paragraphs;
* frequently occurring groups like “aiiv” and “aiir” are apparently the same as medieval page references;
* and so on?

Incidentally, Bax’s most recent ‘find’ is that the plant depicted on f6v is Ricinus communis, the castor oil plant. Father Petersen, Ethel Voynich, Ellie Velinksa, and even Mazars and Wiartz (2006) all think this is a good match, so he’s kind of kicking at a long-opened door here. However, when Bax suggests that EVA “qoar” (which recurs 11 times throughout the manuscript) might be the name of the plant, I think he’s just being equal parts overoptimistic and foolish, and showing his ignorance about how Voynichese works.

Perhaps at any moment in history we get no more and no less than the Voynich ‘experts’ we deserve. What a horrible thought. 🙁

21 thoughts on “Coast to Coast AM does the Voynich Manuscript…

  1. Petebowes on March 23, 2014 at 9:21 pm said:

    I feel your pain Nick ..

  2. Samba June on March 23, 2014 at 9:39 pm said:

    Well, retro is in now, for instance, vinyl is making a comeback, similar time-frame…. 8^)

  3. bdid1dr on March 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm said:

    Samba June — my ribs are sore and I can’t ROFL any more!I’m out of breath (on top of a recent pneumothorax). Any relation to my Greek festival dancing botanist friend at UC Santa Cruz?

  4. In case you were wondering here are the variants of “qoar” and corresponding occurrence in the manuscript:

    qorar 1
    poar 2
    qoear 3
    qor 23
    qear 1
    toar 3
    loar 1
    qodar 11
    qotar 63
    oar 16
    koar 1
    qoor 8
    qoal 4
    foar 2
    qokar 152
    qoair 4
    yoar 1
    doar 1
    qopar 5
    soar 2
    qolr 1
    qolar 2

    It also has 190 distinct 2-character variants, but why bother.

    The VM’s word graph is not compatible with known languages, even allowing for abbreviation or simple transformation.

    Translation efforts, such as Bax’s, typically lead to propositions such as anagraming, because of the unnatural language constraints.

    I’m curious to see if that will happen.

  5. bdid1dr on March 24, 2014 at 3:06 pm said:

    Nick & Job, I’m surprised you’re giving him (you know who) so much attention (not that I’m jealous or anything like that). Por qua?
    “Voynich” manuscript. Why not call it ‘Boenicke-408’, as do museums all over the world, name and enumerate their various manuscript holdings?

  6. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 12:19 am said:

    An excellent source of translating any discussion which appears with any of the botanical illustrations in Boenicke ms 408 — is the “Hippocrene Concise Dictionary of NAHUATL-ENGLISH/ENGLISH-NAHUATL (Author: Fermin Herrera) Aztec. It can be purchased from Amazon for a varying very reasonable price.
    A good example: English ‘yucca’ = cuauhcamohtl, iczotl. The ROOT of the yucca plant is the source of ‘amolli’, ‘tlapaconi’, ‘xapo’, xapohtli’. All of these terms are referring to saponacious (soapy) plants, of which there are many.
    The entire blue-flowered (which actually should have been purplish) plant (which is also labeled ‘soap plant’ in Badianus), is also saponacious — BUT it is the plant’s entire vegetation (especially the above-ground parts) which are crushed into use as soap-emollients. So, you can now cross-refer that specimen in B-408 (which is actually a member of the saponaria ‘soapwort’ sub-species known in casual English terminology as “Bouncing Bet”).
    Since I have not (yet) been able to contact Boenicke to get a photo download of the first three-or-four folios, I hope you, Nick, or ‘somebody’ will follow-up on this I.D. Have I just discovered the origins of the word “emollient”? Or did you already know all about this particular folio in the “Voynich”?

  7. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 10:02 pm said:

    Nick, please don’t have a nervous breakdown over ProfB’s nonsense besides all the other nonsense which is appearing more frequently than ever. Please focus on giving some of your most frequent visitors/contributors some feedback (ahem, me for instance). Maybe the ‘feedback’ will ease your way to publication of a sequel. I know I am not the only follower of your various blog pages.
    Hang in there! (Breathe — om mani padme om, om mani…)

  8. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm said:

    post script: If “om mani padme om” doesn’t work, find a local group of ‘Krishna’ who chant and dance (when they are having a rice & fruit picnic — free food for anyone who joins the dance). Mind you, my experience with the Krishna was at a picnic in Golden Gate Park (San Francisco) in the 1970’s before I moved to Key West.

  9. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 10:30 pm said:

    ps, Job: The illustrations are all accompanied by an Aztecan scribe who was taught to translate, and write with the newly-invented “Na-hua-tl’ script, the ‘latin terminology” for his native botanical specimens and their useful qualities.

  10. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm said:

    I’ll be backtracking in B-408 to determine how many times the scribe(s) wrote the words beginning with ‘q’ – without the ‘u’ – which usually accompanies any ‘quo-ta-ble’ ‘quo-ta-tion’ or ‘quire’. When I was girl, I wore a quech-que-mi-tl: a blouse or, in my case, what looked like a small triangular-shaped ‘poncho’. It was a gift from my Mexican baby-sitter (who primarily was taking care of my younger sister).

  11. bdid1dr on March 27, 2014 at 12:21 am said:

    pronunciation of quech que mi tl : ketch kem it il

  12. bdid1dr on March 27, 2014 at 1:55 am said:

    Well Nick: I’ve cracked B-408’s folio 1v: xi-tom-a-tl-ce-re-geus-aes-am-ox, ox-ll-ec-e-geus-ceas-es-peci-as-a-tius : which translates to the latin terminology for the botanical specimen: Physalis ixocarpus. Which is the ‘tomatillo” plant in South America (and in the US and Mexico, and Baja Peninsula). Here, in California we use it in “Pico de Gallo” and salsa, mainly.

    The white part of the fruit/vegetable being exhibited is the papery husk which surrounds the fruit. (In folio 1v, the fruit is ripe and ready to eat fresh from the vine. I prefer to make a green tomatillo-pear-cilantro pico de gallo with fresh tortilla chips.
    Yum! 🙂

  13. bdid1dr on March 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm said:

    The pear in this pico de gallo recipe is the ‘Bartlett’ pear, NOT the “tuna” (fruit) of the nopali. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “tuna” also being used in Mexican recipes.

  14. bdid1dr on March 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm said:

    If I add to the general confusion by mentioning the possible uses (modern-day recipes) it is probably unavoidable unless our current-day puzzle solvers can relate my remarks to their own, personal, experience within their ‘age group’. Hmmmm?

  15. bdid1dr on March 29, 2014 at 8:02 pm said:

    PS (post script): I think I’ll head back to Nick’s earlier blog page which discusses the Nahuatl script, and pick up where I left off. I’ve been trying to avoid the nonsensical radio, tv, and other media’s so-called “Voynich” translations and ‘discoveries’, which basically have hit the ‘bottom-most’ entries on the Top-Ten-Discoveries “Hit Parade”. CYA later, here and there!

  16. bdid1dr on April 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm said:

    Well, Nick:
    It appears that the “Guardian” hasn’t picked up on my translation of the very first botanical specimen appearing in the “Voynich” manuscript (folio 1v): the TOMATILLO — which is fully portrayed with papery husk intact. I’ve not only identified it, but also discussed its historic and current uses (a la Nahuatl dietary habits).

  17. bdid1dr on April 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm said:

    At the moment I’m just speculating (and pencil-ing) f-2r (dent-d’lion?) and f-3r (saw palmetto?). We’ll see — in a few days from now.

  18. bdid1dr on April 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm said:

    Possibly bracken fern for B-408, f-3r. (?) Still looking.

  19. bdid1dr on May 1, 2014 at 12:44 am said:

    Yesterday and this morning I translated “page thirteen of the “Aztec Codex Borbonicus” — which was ‘under the auspices of the goddess Tlazolteotl’, who is portrayed wearing a flayed skin, giving birth to Cinteotl’.
    I had to use my magnifying glass to find the crouching naked figure which had the flayed skin (bloody side forming a ‘red blossom’ over the head and shoulders of the crouching naked woman. The rest of the story being told by the seated figures finishes by identifying Tla-zol-teo-tl’s last child:
    Aztec women gave birth by crouching on their heels (usually in a shelter of some kind). One can find Aztec, Toltec, Mayan monuments of stone portraying “royal” women giving birth. So far, this is the first manuscript portrayal of the birth process I’ve been able to find anywhere.
    Go figure — many of the trails I’ve followed lead to Fray Sahagun. Fabulous! I am now thanking all the professionals/professors/artists/linguists — who have been so generous with their manuscriptorial donations to the WWW. Of course, Nick, you’re at the very top of my list !
    bdid1dr 🙂

  20. bdid1dr on May 1, 2014 at 12:57 am said:

    It is most likely that the ‘flayed skin’ was that of the ‘ocelot’ (wild spotted cat). This is only my hunch — because my father had a ‘pillbox-shaped’ hat custom-made for my tiny mother shortly after I was born (1943). Long story-’nuff sed’ !

  21. bdid1dr on May 13, 2014 at 4:13 pm said:

    Sahagun discusses both the ocelot (smaller, more pale ‘spotted wildcat’) and the jaguar. I’m now going try to ‘spot’ the cat in the Vms/B-408). I’ll get back to you if I find anything interesting. Can you or anyone determine if the entire Vms is written upon animal skin? May there be a possibility of a page or two being paper?
    I’ve resumed my translations of the Vms, now that I have the alphabet and syllabary to cross-reference the Nahuatl, Latin, and English discussions. I can now go back to those pages of discussion (in the Vms/Boenicke) which are not accompanied by illustrations. I can also go back to the pharma/recipe pages and do a more thorough translation of the combinations of roots, leaves, and liquids which re-appear in the last few pages of B-408.
    Have you found a cafe or restaurant, local to you, which could accompany a draft beer with corn tortilla chips and pico de gallo? You might even be able to voice your opinion of that ‘salsa’: Aye, yay, yay ! (voice of the rooster) !!
    I hope you’ve visited the Mexicolore website which is maintained by an educational institution in your part of the UK. You might even be able to correspond with them and maybe validate my identification (and discussion) of the ‘tomatillo’ plant which is the very first botanical item (folio 1v) of the so-called ‘Voynich’ manuscript.
    bee dee eyed one der

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