Luckily however, the internet can be used for the power of social good. Google Book Search is the working man's friend, a practical scythe for the unwashed academic proleteriat to cut through ivory tower dumbocracy. Vive la résistance! When I compare my crosslinked notes to new information, I far too often am finding two, three or fifteen different versions of the same inscription. And always to add to these intolerable contradictions, no helpful photos of artifacts to be seen anywhere. While certainly not being a deliberate conspiracy, I remain forever in awe of how the headless bureaucracy of academia abets historical obfuscation so perfectly by burying access to primary information under a heap of tertiary re-interpretations that are next to impossible to verify without quitting one's nine-to-five.
So yet again, in the spirit of my other error-exposing blog entries like Religion in Etruria: A comedy of errors that keeps on giving and Voodoo linguistics in Etruscology: the imaginary word 'naceme', here's another example: page 137 of The Etruscan Language (Bonfante) . Unbeknownst to the neophyte, this page is boobytrapped with transcription errors, incomplete theories and incorrect interpretations of Etruscan grammar. An entire page of fodder for future blog entries! Here you will find TLE 28 cited as mi qutun lemausnaś ranazu zinake (note the difference made between the two sibilants, s and ś, in the last name Lemausnaś). Yet, if you happen to reject author-cults and commit the heinous thoughtCrime of reading multiple sources like a healthy iconoclast, you may run across Helmut Rix's Etruskische Texte wherein he publishes the same inscription, but with a twist of lime. In contradiction to the Bonfantes, Rix writes the two sibilants as exactly the same here on page 19.
Now, since academics are bred to compete fiercely with each other for namefame (aka "academic career"), Rix sought to express his individuality by reindexing Massimo Pallottino's TLE 28 as ET Fa 2.1. Logically, a global, multiple-university effort to maintain a single index system for Etruscan inscriptions which would be easily accessible to the public would be really swell, wouldn't it? However, that would be expecting too much from the human species who would rather forget history so that they can repeat it. Unless you're unnaturally obsessed like myself, a typical reader may not even notice that Etruscologists are playing "alphabet chess" with our minds. How would any average reader remember that TLE 28 and ET Fa 2.1 are the same artifact unless the author is kind enough to remind us of this, right after offering their bastardized transliterations. Of course, doing so would only encourage readers to verify sources.
Rix himself is also masterful at alphabet chess. In the same book, Etruskische Texte, he transliterates the first word in ET La 2.4 (also known as TLE 24 in Pallottino's system) as mi. The full inscription is according to him: mi araziia laraniia. This is the first person pronoun "I" which starts off many votive inscriptions whose subject, strangely enough, is the votive object itself "speaking" to the reader. Questionable as that might seem to newbies, there is an exact Faliscan equivalent of these types of Etruscan inscriptions (eco quton Evotenosio "I am the vase of Evotenos") and we just need to accept that this linguistic analysis of mi as a 1ps pronoun is perfectly sound. So what's the problem? The problem is that it isn't spelled as mi but rather as ni. and this picture of the artifact here proves the transcription obfuscation I am trying to counteract:
The first character at top (reading right to left) is quite clearly the letter nu followed by iota. These two letters are simply not attached making the letter mu here impossible, and the alpha of the next word immediately follows, providing insufficient room for it anyways. Despite all our naive desire to impose some sort of postmodern spelling system on Etruscan to iron out unwanted scribal inconsistencies, we just have to accept that the first person pronoun happened to have an occasional variant ni  (see John Adams, Bilingualism and the Latin language, pp 160-2). It's not a scribal error. I have an issue with authorities who whimsically write letters that aren't there since it washes out important details and sanitizes away a deeper understanding of this forgotten language, warts and all.
So it leads me to conclude that Etruscan literacy among Etruscologists is less than 10%. Shocking! Positively shocking, I must say. Hehe.
 Variation and spurious phonetic change in the first person pronoun is very common in world languages. In Japanese, for example, watashi has been shortened to atashi, specializing itself as an effeminate variant used typically by women when amongst other women. In Cantonese, the first person ngo is shortened to o by many young speakers.
(Aug 15/07) Just after finishing this post, I found yet another inscription cursed by inconsistent transliteration, TLE 320 (aka CIE 5312 or ET Vc 1.91) :
- Rix claims: ramθa viśnai arnθeal tetn[i]es puia (from Etruskische Texte, p.116)
- Bonfante claims: ramaθa viśnai arnθeal tetnies puia (from Etruscan Language, p.90)
- Colombo/Karlsson (Upsalla): ramθa visnai arnθeal tetnies puia (from De Etruskiska kvinnorna [pdf])
- Corssen: ramθa viśnai arnθeal tepnes puia (from Über die Sprache der Etrusker, p.70)
- Dutch website citing Pallottino: ramθa visnai artnθal tetnes puia (see here)