Over the weekend, David Nash drew my attention to a book that he found on Amazon, that purported to contain bilingual crosswords puzzles in English and Wageman1.

I was a bit perlexed by this, since, well, Wagiman doesn’t have much in the way of practical applications such as second-language learning, that is, of course, beyond the community of Wagiman people. It should be noted at this point though, that this book is not being marketed towards the small community of non-Wagiman speaking Wagiman people, but to a North American audience.

The book is published by a mob called Webster’s Online Dictionary, who I take to have no connection whatsoever to Merriam-Websters, given the look of their respective websites. Theirs appears to contain worldlists of hundreds and hundreds of languages, many of them minority languages, and it seems some of them have been converted to print, albeit in the bizarre form of bidirectional crossword puzzle books.

Here is the product description, as supplied by Amazon, and likely supplied by Philip M. Parker, the person behind Webster’s Online Dictionary:

Webster’s Crossword Puzzles are edited for three audiences. The first audience consists of students who are actively building their vocabularies in either Wageman or English in order to take foreign service, translation certification, Advanced Placement® (AP®) or similar examinations. By enjoying crossword puzzles, the reader can enrich their vocabulary in anticipation of an examination in either Wageman or English.

A translation certificate, Advanced Placement certificate, in Wagiman?  Really?

The second includes Wageman-speaking students enrolled in an English Language Program (ELP), an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program, an English as a Second Language Program (ESL), or in a TOEFL® or TOEIC® preparation program.The third audience includes English-speaking students enrolled in bilingual education programs or Wageman speakers enrolled in English speaking schools.

EFL, ESL, TOEFL or TOEIC programs being run anywhere near Wagiman country? Really?

However, I can see in this book a benefit for some eventual teaching of Wagiman language in the local school, to help increase literacy in Wagiman, but unfortunately, the book uses an outdated orthography and may actually undermine increased Wagiman literacy efforts.

I wouldn’t want to financially support someone who – it appears – has taken a wordlist published in the public domain2 and has created something proprietary, like a book, with the goal of profit in mind, but I think I might still have to have a Wagiman-English crossword puzzle book on my shelf, just for the fun of it.

  1. Wageman was one of the variant spellings. Others include Wakiman (Cook, Austin) and Wogeman (Tyron). []
  2. I find it ironic, furthermore, that while the original wordlist was a public domain web-publication, Webster’s Online Dictionary prohibits automatic harvesting of any of their data. I doubt that they copy-pasted each and every entry from the wordlist. []