Prehistorik Man

At one point, a tutorial character in this game tells you that you must "learn to run like a dog."

This is a cartoony platforming game, which is to say, it is an SNES game. As you have no doubt realized, dear Reader, they are essentially synonymous.

I could touch on the fact that I could tell within ten seconds of beginning to play that this would be a reasonably enjoyable platformer simply due to the kinetic quality of movement herein; I could discuss the nature of Every Game Ever as an exercise in burying oneself in platforming games until every time you see a mushroom or turtle, you want to jump on it; I could hold forth on the essence of platforming games in general, which is to say repetition of a task until it is performed sufficiently well to proceed to the next task, and how the playing of a platforming game is one of countless exercises both necessary and recreational that acclimatize us to the exploitation and alienation of capitalism that is built upon such repetition.

But instead, I shall discuss the letter K.

Why “Prehistorik Man”, when the conventional, or should I say prescribed spelling is “prehistoric”?  My immediate response is that to produce that hard K sound with the letter K, rather than the letter C, is somehow more primal, more basic, more caveman-ish.  To use the letter C, with its multifarious phonetic uses as S, SH, CH, and so on, is a more sophisticated act than to rely on the simple, one-to-one phonetics of the letter K, and a prehistoric man must be primal and unsophisticated in such a way.  The K in the title makes it more barbaric, more instinctual, and thus more representative of the thematic content than the C, which would render the title merely descriptive.

And thus, the word “prehistorik” encapsulates our teleological picture of history, our ethnocentrism – perhaps more temporal than geographical or even ethnographical – and our prejudice.  A child spells thusly, according to phonetics instead of convention, and we liken our ancestors to children, imagining them to be undeveloped socially, linguistically, ethically, philosophically, artistically, just as they were demonstrably undeveloped technologically.  This is no doubt partially true, although which parts those are I will leave to an anthropologist, but it troubles me.  The force of linguistic convention is not a mark of sophistication, nor is it a mark of superiority – it is the result of classism and oppression, a weapon by which those in power can suppress and undermine the very speech of those without power, muting them in any discourse if not silencing them outright, because they don’t know how to speak or write “proper English,” regardless of how effective their communication actually is in the appropriate linguistic context.

But I don’t think that’s what really bothers me about “prehistorik” instead of “prehistoric.”

It seems cheesy and unnecessary to replace the C with the K. Cheesy, or perhaps corny – why do we use these food-words, incidentally, to express this sense of inauthenticity or inability to move away from clichéd convention?  Regardless, I doubt the decision was made with any reference to the kind of (self indulgent, masturbatory) reflection above.  It was made for the same reason that a site is called instead of, or La-Z Boy (which is pronounced lay-zee, rather than lah-zee, of course) instead of Lazy Boy, and so on.

What is that reason?  I can only surmise that it is an attempt to differentiate these titles from the common nouns out of which they spring, to make them into names that exist independently, disassociated from the every-day terms and objects upon which they are constructed.  It is a marketing tool, if a very basic one; maybe it is specifically an attempt at branding, at generating uniqueness through distortion of language.  I have an immediate negative reaction to it, and maybe it’s exactly the kind of reaction I have to any kind of immediately visible marketing attempt – the kind of cynicism we’ve all developed as a defense mechanism.

Or maybe the guy who gave the game its title was German.