The Ruricolist is now available in print.


The Kptsha-Knr (preferred spelling) were a reclusive tribe of hunter-browsers discovered deep in the rainforest by university researchers who got lost on their way to Seattle in 1922. They had been isolated from outside contact, with Europeans or with other natives, for their entire history. In fact, they believed themselves to be the only people in the world.

The language of the Kptsha-Knr, Qx, was a true isolate, having no relationship to any other known language (although recent efforts have been made to link it to Basque and Etruscan). Qx exhibits many unique features, not least a grammar described by the first researchers as “polyanalytic” and a quality of “neutrality” between speech and nonspeech sounds which allows the language not only to be spoken but also clicked, coughed, sighed, sputtered, swallowed and sneezed.

Once Kptsha-Knr researchers had subjected the university researchers to the surgical liberation necessary for them to pronounce the language, they began corroboration on a dictionary. This thousand page scholarly folio dictionary (Qx declensions and conjugations are mathematically incompressible) would become a bestseller on the strength of a popularized ethnography of the Kptsha written by a visiting journalist, I Saw The Captchas: Among the Backwards Primitive Subhuman Others: As Told by the Dauntless Manly Discoverers Who Penetrated Their Stagnant Isolation and Exposed Their Feeble Barbarism to the Hard Gaze of Civilized Man. (The book is curiously difficult to find in modern libraries and appears to have been removed from a number of catalogs with white-out.)

A brief “Captcha craze” caught the imagination of the world. For a time it seemed that everyone was doing the Cap Cha Cha, singing Captain Captcha’s Cap Chap, or sporting slang straight from the Captcha lexicon – who can forget F. Scott Fitzgerald’s immortal Time for Knprd or Dorothy Parker’s,

Say you’ll come up
And we’ll brgrp.

But the fad could not last, and the Captchas were forgotten and neglected until finally, in the 1950s, their culture was destroyed by the arrival of rock and roll.

The Captchas might have faded from memory entirely were it not for a film made in the last years of the Captcha craze, Captcha the Flag. An early talkie, the film’s wooden acting, hokey script, and “dialogue-coach voices discussing with gravity the fine points of roasting a chipmunk” (during the scene in which the Nameless Heiress has discovered a half-starved Henry Stark in the woods after her plane crash) endeared it to the hipster subculture of the 1990’s. (The film is not available in restoration, due to the difficulty of separating the dialogue in the Captcha scenes from background static.)

Thus when programmers in the early 2000s began discussing the idea of a countermeasure for spam that would be “like the Navajo code, only more so,” the Captcha lexicon was the natural choice. And so the Captcha, extinct, unremembered, unmourned, speak once more.