Friday, February 22, 2013

Short Story: Miss Communication

Another snippet of my novel An Analysis of the Cardassian Language. This one's from Chapter One:

'Note to self,' I thought, feeling myself blush, 'Don't wear a knit bra and a knit top together around cute, intelligent guys.' But I'd brought a sweater, so I put it on.

"What's this vision you keep hinting at," I said, recovering my dignity, "about linguistics as a tool for social change?" I asked not only to change the subject, but because I was burning to know. I myself wanted to find the universal language patterns that would allow me, in partnership with a good computer programmer, to create software that could translate just about any language into just about any other language. The possibilities were staggering. This software, loaded on either a regular computer or a small, tough device built for the purpose, could empower indigenous businesspeople all over the world. It could let ordinary individuals build relationships across cultural boundaries, lessening international tensions on the grassroots level. It could reduce war, oppression and poverty by building bridges and eroding misunderstanding, fear and hate. But I wanted to hear what Derek had in mind. I knew it was going to be good.

His smile showed his dimples. I was beginning to suspect that when the dimples didn't appear, he was just being polite. I smiled, too, because I had a feeling I was going to have plenty of time to test that hypothesis.

"It's simple," he answered. "Purity of language. I'm applying for a grant for it."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it starts with a study to find the pure form of the language. I'm hoping to begin with German first."

"Naturally. You must be fluent."

"I am, but that's not why. German is a whole lot less corrupted than English or even Spanish. It's a good place to start. The world isn't ready for the purification of English yet."

I still had no idea what he was talking about. "So you find out the pure form a language, and then what do you do after that?"

He shrugged. "It's a long shot, I know, especially with the way things are trending lately, but the hope is that people, governments, will embrace the pure form of the language and reject the corrupted versions."

I wasn't sure I liked where this was going. "For what purpose? What would that do?"

"Our cultures have been weakened," he explained. "It's insidious. I'm not sure if you've ever looked into it, but you may be surprised how many words from inferior cultures have gotten in there, even in German."

We managed to part on friendly terms, mostly because for the rest of the meal I pasted a smile on my face and just listened and made small talk. It wouldn't do to stalk away in a self-righteous huff: it was kindness that would reach this man, if anything could.

Finally it was over. We confirmed that we had each other's numbers, and I took a taxi back to my cousin's.

I paid the driver and got out, and then realized I'd had him stop in front of the wrong building. Should have just given him the address and let him do his job. Fortunately, he didn't hang around to watch me walk. After two buildings I got out my copy of Connie's door key and turned to go up the front steps.
And that was the last I saw of Chicago.

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