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"Luke, tell your uncle if he gets a translator, make sure it speaks Bocce!" - Beru Lars to Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Blue-ray edition.

Wookieepedia describes Bocce as such:

Bocce was an interplanetary trade language comprising parts of multiple languages. It was created by the Baobab Merchant Fleet to allow communication between starcraft pilots, crews, and support personnel of various species. Though not commonly used by most, any experienced pilots or spacers would know a few Bocce phrases in case they came across those that did not speak the pilot's native language.

But Larses were moisture farmers. They didn't seem to fly/trade off-planet, and clearly from the rest of the movie Bocce isn't necessary to communicate on Tatooine (even in Mos Eisley unless one talks to alien spacers, which a moisture farmer isn't likely to do - they'd probably sell the water to some merchant/water seller and not to individual pilots, if you think logically about basic economics).

Is there any plausible explanation in-universe as to why Larses wanted a specifically-Bocce-speaking translator droid? (any canon level).

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    I can only assume that the Bocce language wasn't exclusively used for communication among spacers. Also, it was clearly an afterthought for the Larses - they needed a translator (not sure what for though) and as long as they were spending money on one, why not one that knew Bocce as well? – Mr Lister Feb 17 '13 at 14:31
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    @Keen - Not backed by specific positive fact, but (a) I'm pretty familiar with EU and don't recall any instance of Larses traveling off-planet; and (b) Basic economics. Farmers and small scale miners generally don't travel long distances to sell a reasonably cheap product - it simply isn't profitable allocation of time/resources. They sell to a wholesaler/merchant, who handles distribution. If Lars spent time selling to every individual pilot in Mos Eisley, he'd have no time to... y'know, moisture harvest. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 18 '13 at 15:36
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    (c) As far as off-planet - again basic economics - Larses trading WATER, one of the most expensive and rare things on a desert planet, would be infeasible in off-planet scale (e.g to other planets) - that'd be done by worlds that have abundant cheap water. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 18 '13 at 15:36
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    I wonder if you are looking at it from the wrong direction; perhaps the last one he bought only spoke some obscure dialect, and he's verifying that this one can at least handle the basic 'Lingua Franca.' A comparable statement would be 'And make sure this one speaks ENGLISH, this time!' – K-H-W Feb 18 '13 at 19:07
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    @Hawk: a pidgin language like Bocce is highly unlikely to be used for writing anything technical. Heck, it's unlikely to be used for writing, period. – Martha Mar 11 '13 at 23:46
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The Larses would trade in Mos Eisley. Bocce is a language common to spacers and many spacers would trade at Mos Eisley. Having a protocol droid that spoke Bocce would allow them to trade with the spacers with out needing a third party interpreter, that would want to be paid for their services.

While they may start out with water they would use that water to grow crops in sheltered farms. And since republic credits are useless on Tatooine there would be a lot of bartering that would be needed to get supplies and equipment. Having a droid to facilitate that would be helpful.

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    Republic credits were worthless on Tatooine. For a specific junk dealer (why couldn't they trade them to Jabba, who presumably used them?). 30 years ago, roughly, in-universe. Given that the empire's probably issued new currency, that may be accepted. – Clockwork-Muse Mar 12 '13 at 18:55
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    @Clockwork-Muse - Jabba was a criminal, and a thug. He was known for shady deals and cheating. Anyone wanting to trade with jabba would want to use an intermediary anyway to avoid becoming Rancor Chow. – Chad Mar 13 '13 at 13:54
  • @Chad: Given that the Empire rules Tatooine (many of the stormtroopers there are from a local garrison) I'd say Imperial credits are accepted there. – Jeff May 5 '14 at 14:13
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    @Jeff - Actually Tatooine was controlled by the Hutts not the empire until ANH when Leia sent the droids there to find Obi-Wan. It was then that the empire decided to occupy and take control of Tatooine. – Chad May 5 '14 at 14:55
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    There were credits of some sort being used in Mos Eisley - how else did Luke & all the other patrons pay for their drinks in the cantina? Plus the payment Obi Wan promised to Captain Solo was presumably measured in currency. So the Larses required a Bocce translator when "trading" (read purchasing supplies & equipment) from merchants in Mos Eisley. – RobertF Feb 13 '15 at 15:06
10

They specifically discuss the vaporators with Threepio, indicating that he will be tasked with some form of maintenance or operation of them.

Given the 'Used Universe' nature of Lucas's galaxy and the lack of native-built technology on Tatooine, it's certainly possible that the Lar's vaporators are not uniform. They are likely to be a variety of makes and models, and possibly include some that were rebuilt using non-standard parts. Like every farmer, everywhere, they probably have had to improvise.

As has been discussed to death elsewhere in this question's responses and comments, we have no direct canon evidence.

My theory, based purely on speculation, is that one or more of their vaporators was programmed in a language they could not identify, but Owen had managed to get by using Bocce. By ensuring that the droid spoke Bocce, they would ensure he could operate the vaporator at some minimal level, even if he did not recognize the other language involved.

Further, from a relationship standpoint, Beru makes a specific point of needing Bocce, and the reminder frustrates Owen. My guess would be that Owen bought a 'new' vaporator against Beru's wishes, assuming that he'd be able to work it despite not knowing the language, falling back to Bocce if needed. I would further assume this vaporator has been nothing but trouble. Their minimal dialog exchange certainly had the feeling of 'old married couple bickering' to me, and the language seemed to be the specific sore point.

1

The Larses needed a translator to communicate more efficiently with the various droids utilized in moisture farming. As for why Bocce would be necessary, perhaps Lars traded with spacers at Mos Eisley or Anchorhead, topping up their water stores in trade for whatever goods they were carrying.

In response to an earlier reply, water isn't cheap on Tatooine, and clean liquid water is somewhat uncommon in space. Therefore water would be a valuable trade commodity for the Larses and other moisture farmers. It would be shipped off planet because ships would need to top up water rather frequently, as starships are not designed with large water holding tanks. It would be impractical to go to "water planets" to get water, as fuel costs alone would make such trips ridiculous.

Bocce is a lingua franca, but it is not analogous to English, as it is not spoken as a primary language by any culture or government. It is a constructed language, and the only reason Lars would need a droid to speak it is to communicate more readily with a wider range of beings, OR he had a particular droid/being he needed to communicate with and he knew it spoke Bocce.

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Since there is virtually no canon to fall back on here, all we can do is speculate. So, to speculate:

  • As any married person knows, the exchange between Owen and Beru could be over a million different things. For instance, maybe they had a bet on what language their evaporators spoke and Owen lost? Maybe Owen has a trivial reason to dislike Bocce (similar to the way I, as a Redskins fan, despise things from Dallas). Maybe there was an embarrassing incident when Owen and Beru were first courting in which Owen misspoke a Bocce phrase, and has been teased by her for it ever since?

  • On a fringe planet where resources are not abundant, I agree with Jeff's assertion that the Larses probably often had to improvise and get resourceful. In fact, I would apply that assertion to everyone on the planet. We know from canon that Bocce is both a trade language and a machine language, so I would imagine this to be a nearly invaluable language on Tatooine. If Owen's reaction to Beru reminding him to find a droid that speaks Bocce isn't marital, then perhaps Owen just finds Bocce to be distasteful? Maybe it's sort of like the way some Americans take offense to hearing a language other than English being spoken in America? Maybe Owen just doesn't like being reminded that he has to use secondary quality equipment? Maybe Owen feels the same way about Bocce that Mac users feel about PCs?

  • Although Threepio relates his knowledge of Bocce to Load Lifters, that doesn't necessarily mean that his knowledge of Bocce will be used for evaporators, load lifters, or any other machinery. How is Threepio to know the purpose of needing to know Bocce, other than to guess based on the equipment he sees around him? It is his programmed personality to be solicitously helpful, so he would be likely to offer remarks that help him relate to and please his owners as much as possible.

  • From an economics standpoint, we would need much more information than has ever been provided in order to make any educated guesses as to whom it would be that the Larses sell to. But whether they fly off-planet, sell direct, sell to a supplier, sell to the Hutts, or any other business dealing, there's a very good chance that Bocce will be spoken some or all of the time, since it is a trade language. Remember, not only do they need to sell their harvested water, but I'm sure there are many other business dealings that the Larses engage on a regular basis. You know, like purchasing droids.

Ultimately, there are many many reasons why Bocce would be needed, and they may not relate at all to the story line. There's really nothing in the canon that places a limit on the potential reasons, so literally there are an infinite number of possibilities.

I think the whole Bocce thing is mostly for flavor, not intended to be a part of the plot. Writers frequently leave things like this to ambiguity so that your mind will fill in the details (thus personalizing the experience to YOU) without getting bogged down in the logistical details. In other words, its up to you to fill in the gaps in whatever way you think best fits.

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Using George Lucas's logic (machines are far more important than people, especially in movie making and story telling) I always assumed (sic) Bocce was a machine, aka programming language Lars needed a droid to communicate with Evaporators. Recall that C3PO said:

"... of course I speak Bocce, it's like a second language to me. ... your Evaporators are similar to Load Lifters in many respects..".

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    Given the question cites Bocce as being a pidgin related to piloting, not a machine language, I'm not certain your answer is relevant. – FuzzyBoots Aug 15 '14 at 13:54

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