April A-Z Blogging Challenge: P is for Poinsettias (a microfic)

The Meme Master Post

P is for for posturing, and peacocks, and poinsettias

This is a sibling piece with N is for Nereid and O is for Octopi.

If Scheffenon, high on the Northern Sea, was the strange step-child of the nation, then Orschëst, down by the southern border, was its misbehaving youngest child. Scheffenon talked to strangers because they had money and trade goods. Orschëst talked to them because they were fun.

The woman of Orschëst were known across the world for being elegant. Fashions that would end up in Scheffenon in fifteen or fifty years began with a woman’s whim in Orschëst. And not just Scheffenon; Orschëst fashions traveled the known world.

If Orschëst women were fashion-setters, their young men were something else indeed. In that age when they were no longer children but had not yet learned the wisdom of adulthood, they preened and postured like peacocks. “The Orschëst Poinsettias.”

They competed: who could wear the brightest colors, the most colors at once. Whose boots could sport the most extreme cut, whose doublets could have the most buttons. They competed for their hair – wearing it longest, shorted, most braids or highest styling. There was not a young man in Orschëst who looked what the rest of the country would call normal, not from the time he was given his first belt-blade to the time he first convinced a woman to keep his calling card.

“It’s like they are continually drunk on the show,” more than one tourist from the midlands has been overheard saying. “Like they’re afraid what happens if, for one minute, they stop showing off.”

The more astute tourists have noticed, that while every city in the nation has their statues, Orschëst has only one. The Faceless Lady, as she is called by those who do not know her name – and nobody speaks her name aloud – stands in the center of Orschëst. And every young Orschëst Peacock in his feathers will stop by her statue, showing off his brilliant plumage. “Dancing for the Lady,” the tourists call it, and never wonder why the boys look so frightened when they dance.

In the same universe as Around Elephants and The Club, which is probably the same setting as Edora & Rodegard (here & here), and which now DEFINITELY needs a setting name…

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0 thoughts on “April A-Z Blogging Challenge: P is for Poinsettias (a microfic)

  1. and which now DEFINITELY needs a setting name… Things Unspoken. And seriously creepy. Did I mention the creepy?

    • … *looks it up* *looks it up again* I have been saying that word wrong my whole life, and everyone I know says it wrong too!

      • Eh, not your fault. Fact is, we tend to insert a [t] into an /ns/* sequence, for physiological reasons. It’s because we can’t move our articulators instantaneously. For [n], • the tongue has to touch the palate all the way across, to block the breath flow through the mouth completely and send it all through the nose; • the velum† has to be lowered to open the nasal passage to the air; † That’s the flap at the back of your palate; you can’t usually see it in a mirror. Not the dangly bit that you can see hanging down, especially when the animator’s view dives down the throat of a screaming Tiny Toon or other cartoon character; that’ s the uvula (Latin for ‘little grape’, I kid you not). • and the vocal cords have to vibrate to produce your voice. But for [s] you have to • shape your tongue into a groove in the middle while keeping the rest of the contact, to let the air out a narrow passage and create the hissing sound of [s], • raise the velum to block the nasal passage, so all the air goes out through the tongue-groove, • and relax the vocal cords to turn off the voice, to make an [s] instead of a [z]. Timing is critical. If the cords go lax and the velum closes before the groove forms, air pressure builds up behind the tongue, and when the groove finally° opens to let it out, we hear the release and pop of a [t]. And IIRC, the tongue moves fairly slowly. So “poinsettia” is very apt to slip into “pointsettia”. But unlike more familiar words like “since” (→ [sɪnts]) and “sense” (→ [sɛnts], homophonous with “cents”, often prompting a pun), the name of the plant is long and rarely seen, and it isn’t analyzable into smaller parts (except maybe the “-ia”, which doesn’t help); and [pɔɪnt] is a familiar word that probably acts as a psychological attractor. So we wind up thinking that “poinsettia” includes an extra “t” after the “n”. * I’ll explain the brackets and slashes if you really want. ° We’re talking maybe tens of milliseconds here.

    • Yes, yes there are. And it rather painfully needs a map and to figure out where Edora & Rodegard stand in it.

    • Good question! I think I probably didn’t want the umlaut (except to make it look more fancy <.< ) I pronounce it, in my head, first syllable like ore, second syllable rhymes with chest.

      • So “ORE-shest”? I think I probably didn’t want the umlaut (except to make it look more fancy <.< ) Oh, god, it’s the Beowülf / Blue Öyster Cult / Mötley Crüe / Motörhead / Queensrÿche Syndrome!!!!! I have several plausible ways to pronounce the “ë”, but I won’t inflict them on you.

        • Call it the processing-German-Expense-reports syndrome. I know the high ascii for ü by heart. Please do tell. Also, a better fancy letter would be awesome.

          • Well, ë is actually used in some systems for a high-mid (=”close-mid”) back unrounded vowel, IPA [ɤ] (that’s not a gamma, it’s called “ram’s horns”! or sometimes “baby gamma”). See (and hear!) Wikipedia’s IPA vowel chart with audio. It’s at the right-hand vertical edge of the diagram, to the left of the vertical line, second row. Hmm, if you like it… it’s U+0264, which is 612 in Microsoft’s perverted use of decimal for codepoints. Click the arrowhead to hear an example. It doesn’t sound very elegant in English, but it is definitely phonemic in many languages.

            • *listens a few times* So… ORE-schuhst? (Also: listening to this chart is like listening to a constipated French man eating lunch…)

              • So… ORE-schuhst? Yeah, that’s about as close as you can get with English respelling. Mmm… yeah, you’ve established that there’s a bunch of different languages in use around here (I like the use of italics and different colors to distinguish them in translation!), so they’re perfectly entitled in-‘verse to have phonemes that are unfamiliar to other people. (Also: listening to this chart is like listening to a constipated French man eating lunch…) Well, yeah, if you listen to the whole thing at one sitting! That’s like reading through a dictionary… No, I take that back: The dictionary is more fun.

                • It’s kind of interesting, though. Similarly (although yes, not as fun) to reading a dictionary. Pronunciations are /intriguing/.

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