This is the story of Language. It was a happy language that was perfectly content to rollick about in the deliciously crisp, dry pages of old textbooks. It would observe the odd citation or two, scurry between parentheses, then leapfrog colons with gay abandon. But one fateful day, it stopped all of this.
On that one fateful day it stumbled across a newspaper clipping. This clipping was a detailed list of statistics, and the statistics were not good. Not good at all! Language saw that it was the least used language in all of grammardom. It was genuinely horrified at how little people were speaking, reading, or writing it. This was unacceptable! Language would have to find a way to rectify this shameful situation!
Later that evening, Language was sitting sullenly on the couch with an untouched beer and lukewarm pizza, watching the last episode of ‘Onomatopoeia Maker Gangs’ on DisFlix. A solution came to mind while the end credits crawled their way up the screen. What if Language became more ‘hip’ and ‘with it’, and tried keeping up with the modern social networking trend? The teens were all on TwitFace and TinderTok, weren’t they? If so, that’s where Language would have to be too.
So, the next morning Language got up early, fixed itself a coffee, and created an account. It tried to read a popular thread on TwitFace regarding a recently released video game sequel. Apparently, the majority of hardcore gamers were up in arms because a fan favourite character had been unceremoniously clubbed to death with a giant, frozen tuna fish by a trans bodybuilding fisherman. The vitriol was so incendiary that flames were coming off the screen and flicking Language’s face. How was Language meant to figure in all of this?
In three minutes flat, Language had gotten a headache so bad that its left eye started to twitch. Language hadn’t expected it would be so hard to get attention, let alone gain a semblance of popularity. But no one was taking notice of Language’s inherent availability. No one cared. They refused to use their words wisely, choosing instead the pointed noxiousness of stabby-face emojis, and terms such as ‘SJW’ and ‘incel’. Even one person seemed to have slammed their keyboard in a fit of fist-punchy rage as their comment read: ‘mITjof;maieu#ruqQ@450y!!))q5yv!!!’ Not the most articulate of responses.
Still, Language wasn’t going to give up.
It would have to change its focus. Pimply teenagers and other such infantile persons who suck up to the cult of video games were never going to rule the world after all. Language decided to jump into a different thread where people were discussing world politics. That would prove to be a more intellectual, polite and respectable discussion, wouldn’t it?
Holy crap, no.
In three minutes flat, ‘enriched’ with a dozen quirky insults, a motherlode of obscene declamations and a twitching right eye, Language shut down its laptop and resolved to switch to real life interactions from that point on. It would simply walk out onto the street and strike up a conversation with the first person it saw. Should be as easy as one, two, three, right?
The first person Language met on the street was a boy in a black hoodie who was diligently spray painting a huge, luminous, yellow ‘F’ on a nearby wall. The wall was as white as the boy was black. Was this a racial thing? Was the boy protesting something important? Language pondered this a little bit and then slunk away without talking to said boy. Language felt a little ashamed about this but it simply didn’t know what to say. Much better to interact with someone else.
Language came across a bald man next. This bald man was the whitest white that Language had ever seen—well, the whitest white that could be seen within the total graffiti wall of tattoos covering the bald man’s body. Said bald man was drunk, naked, and spoiling for a fight. He would be sorely disappointed on that front because in order to have a fight people would need to lay down next to the bald man in the gutter, grab one of his arms, and flail themselves with it. That’s how drunk he was. Language couldn’t quite comprehend the bald man’s slurred ramblings, but it did wonder if they were invocations of Hitler’s divine power and how all lives mattered—except for the black slaves. Language moved delicately on.
A bit further down the street, Language was glad to see an old lady, strolling about all neat and tidy and… friendly looking. Language could almost see the pleasantness of their potential interaction in its mind’s eye, how it would take her gently by the elbow and lead her across the street, and how grateful she would be. And later in the park they would discuss Oscar Wilde’s witticisms and Tchaikovsky’s compelling compositions over a cup of tea. But when Language approached the lady, she started to jab her stick at it, yelling her head off, calling Language a pervert and a paedophile. She was in the process of calling 911 when Language wisely took leave of the scene.
That night Language slept bad, really bad. Language tossed and turned in a cold sweat like it was an Olympic event, then finally gave up and jumped out of the pool… er, bed. Where had everything gone so wrong? Mopping its saturated brow with a corner of the doona, Language vowed to change the trajectory of its life. No more trying to get people to speak in its tongue, to write in its vernacular. That would prove to be an utterly fruitless endeavour in the long term.
The next morning, Language went to the Committee Of Linguistics Over Normal Society and submitted a resignation letter. Nowadays, you can see Language at the Governance Of National Arts Dupont Square where it performs as a street mime under the stage name ‘Nil Of Tongue’.
by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
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