Publié le 10.08.2016

The English Method

Dear diary,

I was in poor shape, certainly; furious even, for I had left the comfort of my bed for this unpleasant scene; yet I felt scarcely scared. I had not even in mind the lore that sees bad omens into most of these creatures; nothing but disgust and anger. Two of the elders came and jumped near me, as if to report on my condition to the others. I gestured violently in their direction to have them leave. And back on the geriatric branch they came from they flew, their feathers inflated with utter vexation. I rose and regained my composure, cleaning my dressing gown with the back of my hand. Then I looked defiantly at them, and glanced around till I found the speaker of this parliament of owls. This remarkable creature was sitting atop a tired pinetree, and had the characteristic mixture of dignity and cynicism that makes for the best umpires of any gathering. I called it names.

Surprisingly, it answered. Not in the glum ondulation of its species, but in a series of sounds I could not recognize and that yet seemed close to one of the many articulate languages spoken on earth. Whatever it was, it sounded somewhat human. I was slightly surprised, and decided that this bird had more than met the eye, even the vast round eyes of an owl. Perhaps I should try another language to see if it reacted ? From the attic of my brain I drew what ancient greek I had left from my time in Athens; after all, a bird that was the symbol of the city goddess ought to speak the language of its followers. I was thoroughly disappointed. But the bird answered, once again in its strange mixture of hisses and elongated vowels. I then tried the many idioms I have butchered with my lack of gift for learning languages. I have lived for countless centuries and all this time I collected so many of those that I lost count. But each try met with the same result. As I methodically tried every one I knew, including some cant and slang that nobody uses nowadays but fore some polite academic desiring to understand graffiti on excavated walls, I felt dizzy again, this time because of the sound inside my head, this inner tower of Babel turned into a factory gone mad, spewing out sentences in every human cypher, resorting even to the languages of the old, mythical times, the Atalante with its backwards grammar and imaginary declensions, or even the monstrous agregation of unmatching phonemes that we spoke in Hyperborea. Finally, a Gaelic dialect did the trick and the bird, suddenly agitated, answered something in the line of : “Yes, that I can speak, hello !, hello !”

During all this long combinatory attempt at finding a way to communicate the other owls had watched politely at first, but had lost interest. They had disappeared one by one, only to come back with fresh worms to eat and the parliament was having a collective lunch break. When finally we managed to uncover what I thought would be our main method of exchange, nobody cared but the Speaker and me, for every other creatures was only preoccupied with feeding.

I wanted to know how the owl knew that old variant of Gaelic. “Surely, the druids have taught your ancestors their own language ?”. The speaker scoffed and answered something nasty about druids. “This is no proper way to talk, oh, bipedal pig, he added. This is just a commodity to teach you the Real Language.

- What language do you speak of, myopic roamer of the night ? (I’ll gladfully admit my mastery of insulting epithets was no match for this cunning rhetorician).

- Why, but the Universal Language, of course, the one everybody speaks, but your egocentric species, that insist on having not only one, but a wealth of them, and a beautiful waste of wealth if you ask me, oh, feeble ape. But hush now for I barely know the barbaric jargon I’m using, and we’re in desperate need of an interpreter.”

He said a few words in the first, human-like and yet unknown sounds he had used to answer every previous failed attempt at addressing him; and a small black bird, something like a raven or perhaps a myna bird, hopped in front of me. The Speaker and his official translator proceeded to teach me the Universal Language.

Entrée suivante Entrée précédente