Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Wizard Language and the haphazard words

The Wizard Language and the haphazard words

Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth. Its name was so, although to tell the truth, there was more sea than earth.
The inhabitants of the Earth, in fact, used the words in an odd way. For example, consider the fishes. When they all swim together they call it school. But fishes don't go to school like kids. Wouldn't it be more logical to call it swimming-team?
Also the important things were often very confusing. They always spoke about "rights": the right of education, for example, meant that all the children could (and should!) go to school.
The right of health, then, should have meant that everybody, hurt, or sick, should have had the possibility to go to the hospital.
But who lived in a country without any school, or that, because of the war, could not leave home, or who didn't have enough money to pay the hospital (and this, in the poor countries, is more a rule than an exception), these rights were actually some lefts: they didn't worth a flying fig.
Since they were not true for everybody but only for who could afford it, those things were not rights: they become privileges, or special benefits reserved to few people...
Some times, even, the powerful of the Earth used to call "peace operation" the one that, in reality, was an operation of war: they used to say exactly the opposite of what they actually meant.
And then, on the Earth, there wasn't agreement between men about the meanings anymore: for some people wealth meant having ten thousand billion, for others it meant having at least one potato to eat.
What a mess! So much confusion that one day the Wizard Language could not stand it anymore.
Language was a very powerful wizard, that a long time ago had invented the words and had given them to man.
At first there had been some confusion because people did not know how to use them, and if one said artichoke, the other thought of a kangaroo, and if one said spaghetti the other meant gorilla, and at the restaurant they did never understand each other.
Then the Wizard Language stuck to every word a precise meaning, so that the words always meant the same thing, and for everybody.
Then the artichoke has always been a vegetable and the gorilla a furry animal, and there was no more the risk to find for a mistake a big furry animal in the dish, with its large head covered with tomato sauce.
This job to give a precise meaning to words, had cost a lot of effort to the Wizard Language.
Now, seeing that men did not care about his work, and that they continued to use the words haphazardly, he decided to teach them a lesson.
"Words are important - he liked to say - if you change the words you also change the world, and then you do not understand anything anymore."
One night, therefore, he started to mess things up a little, moving a syllable here, one there, combining vowels and consonants, making anagrams with nouns. In the morning, in fact, nobody could understand each other anymore.
To all of the hotels in a big town he attached the letter B to the rooms, which became brooms. The people lodging in those hotels woke up the next morning, and instead of laying in their beds, they were riding brooms like a bunch of witches.
He changed the c of car with an f, and it became far, and who was looking for his car he could find it only very far away.
To the cakes, instead, he changed the c to l, and they became all... lakes, so that the kids couldn't eat them anymore. And they were not good to be thrown in somebody's face either.
In the schools he had fun, at the time of the roll call, to make an anagram with the word present, and if before a student was present now he was serpent, and the teacher ran away terrified.
Then satisfied a personal whim: he completely removed the word war, which he invented by accident, and didn't like it.
So a great leader of the Earth, which at that time was about to declare war, had to stop in mid-sentence, and they didn't do anything about it.
He had also turned the cannons into cannolos, Sicilian cannolos, of course, and who was fighting found himself all covered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit.
This went on for several days, with dishes that became fishes and swam away, bricks that became cricks and buildings start complaining for the pain, rice that became mice and the cat wanted to chase them.
What a mess! Too much confusion and the men could not stand it anymore.
Then they sent a delegation to ask him to reset the words, and with them the world.
"All right - said Language - but only on one condition: that you begin to use the words with their correct meaning.
The rights of men must be for all men, really all of them, otherwise just call
them privileges. Equality must mean that everyone is truly equal, and not that someone is more equal than someone else. And about the war...".
"About the war - interrupted the men - we've thought... you keep it, it's a word we can do without."

Cecilia Strada

English translation of mine, with help by Rowena.

Cecilia Strada is the daughter of Gino Strada and Teresa Sarti, founders of the organization Emergency that has the main task of giving medical assistance in the countries mangled by wars.
You can find the original story, in Italian, over here. As you can imagine the translation was a difficult task, because the puns cannot be literally given in English. I hope Cecilia doesn't mind if i had to make significant changes to try to preserve the general meaning.


tychecat said...

I have a fraternity brother - a Nicaraguan by birth - who is delighted with language and spends much of his time discoursing on the foolishness of words and their meanings - I'll send him a copy of this - both in Dario's english and in Strada's Italian.

dario said...

I'd be pleased to know his comments about ;-)

cecilia s. said...

mi piace, mi piace..ciao dario :)