Cunning Linguist

For The_Vulture‘s prompt.

Thanks to cluudle for the Shakespeare line and Zoe_E_Whitten for the txtspk line.

Commenters: 14

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary
James Nicoll

He was, he admitted, a bit of a hoarder. He took things because they looked pretty, or because they were a shortcut to what he wanted to say. He shifted, evolving so much he could barely recognize his former selves, except in the random piece of clothing he kept around for nostalgia’s sake. He changed ties at a whim and faces when it suited him, and his clones across the globe did the same, so that they could barely understand each other when the day was done.

Misspellings ached a little in his joints, like a cold day, but he knew, better than most, how spelling would change in time, and so he accepted those as growing pains. New words, too, felt funny around his ears, and he’d been surprised to wake up one day with a few extra digits, but this was, after all, the digital age.

He listened to immigrants (to him, anyone for whom he was not the first language was an immigrant, no matter where they lived or where they were born) sweetly twine him with their native tongue, and he pressed up against Spanish and Russian and French with equal glee; he had always been a polyglot-sexual, and that would never change.

Shakespeare had been a friend, but had a maddening habit of giving him new socks and ties and handkerchiefs and then insisting they’d always been there. Chaucer kept trying to nail things in place, but that had never suited his style. These urban poets, now, did some interesting things with their tongues, moving him in ways he hadn’t been moved since Wordsworth. (and Dickinson, but best not to speak of that).

The texters, now, that was another matter. He glared at one thumb-typer, bending him into strange contortions, bending, spindling, and mutilating him in the name of quicker communication.

“‘Quicker’ is not the same as ‘better,’ my lad,” he muttered, reaching out to touch the phone.

“R u free 2nite 4 a d8?” morphed at his touch into “An it please you, an assignation would be pleasing.”

“The fuck?” the boy muttered, but the reply was already on its way:

“Eeee! ‘Twould please me, aye.”

Giggling, he moved on, touching phones and unfolding himself as he went. He could, with a little work, stretch himself even further. This was going to be fun!

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35 thoughts on “Cunning Linguist

    • Yes, icon love. That quote at the beginning is one of my all time favorite quotes to carry around. Now I just wish I could track down the posting a linguist made (I think female) about going on book tours after writing a general audience book on language. She said that she was getting tired of people always bringing up, “What can we do to stop kids today from corrupting the language?” At first she tried bringing up that the only languages that don’t change were dead languages, but that wasn’t being received well. So instead she decided to change tracks and agree, but say that the people weren’t upset enough, “Yes, English has been corrupted, but it’s worse than you think. We must undo that terrible event known as The Great Vowel Shift.” (or words to that effect) And most of the people who were making the complaints would then rather stop speaking than admit ignorance of what she was talking about.

      • Or we should get around to standardising vowel pronunciation of English internationally… Anr don’t get me started on Bathurst.

        • Bathurst? Also, we have three different accents, at least, within my state, much less the county, much less Australia vs. UK vs. South Africa vs. India vs. US vs. Canada vs…

          • It’s a town in my state which was named after Lord Bathurst. Colonial period foibles/flattery/general buttering up. Where do you break the word up into syllables? We say Ba-thurst. The English seem to say Bath-urst.

  1. Another applicable quote: “And you know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids in the Ninth Century Pre-Atomic, and no more legitimate than any of the other results.” H. Beam Piper in Fuzzy Sapiens (chapter 9)

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