Conversation With the WordMan

An Interview With the Inventor of Words


PJJP:           It’s my understanding that you are the one who invented language.

WordMan:  Words.

PJJP:           There is a difference?

WordMan:   Yes.

PJJP:           A matter of degree, perhaps?

WordMan:  Precisely.

PJJP:           Tell us about the invention of words … the process involved.

WordMan:  It is a technique both intricate and arcane. A lost art.

PJJP:           But new words come into existence every day.

WordMan:  … merely variations upon my basic themes.

PJJP:           So then you claim to have created the bases upon which all later constructions have been executed.

WordMan:   In all modesty.

PJJP:           In all languages?

WordMan:  Only what is now known as Proto-Indo-European.

PJJP:           Can you give us an example?

WordMan:  Take, if you will, the word pate(r): a pair of syllables, three consonants and two vowels. (My grandfather invented the distinction between the two but it was my own father who first understood their true significance.)

PJJP:           I see.

WordMan:  The word is a splendid example of intuitive foresight. When setting it down, I immediately realized that inherent within itself was not one but many words. Subsequent developments have borne out my initial assumptions.

PJJP:           How So?

WordMan:  Pate(r) has served as the prototype for the Sanskrit pitar, the Persian pitar, the Saxon fadar, the Greek pater, the Latin pater, the English father, and so on.

PJJP:           I see. Can you give us another example?

WordMan:  This one is similar yet different; it involves names.

PJJP:           Names?

WordMan:  Yes, certain of these I’ve chosen only because of the phonetic effect they create when link together.

PJJP:           A case in point?

WordMan:  Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

PJJP:           Oh, come now.

WordMan:  Clytemnestra and Agamemnon … Tristram and Isolde … Cyril and Methodius.

PJJP:           You are testing me.

WordMan:   Not at all.

PJJP:           You knew that these linkages would one day occur.

WordMan:  Only that certain potentials existed. There are many more that have not surfaced as yet, perhaps they never will.

PJJP:            What is your proudest achievement?

WordMan:  The one word that carries all the following meanings:

  • the whistling of an arrow
  • the sound of a shepherd’s pipe
  • the splashing of water
  • the hissing of a serpent
  • the scuffling of feet

PJJP:           And what might this word be?

WordMan:  I don’t recall offhand. It’s Classical Greek I can tell you that much.

PJJP:           You don’t remember?

WordMan:  I am old man; at times, my memory seems made of wax. Now there’s an interesting word, wax. Ultimately, it is connected to the Latin vellum, veil.

PJJP:           Go on.

WordMan:  It’s a long, complicated and boring tale.

PJJP:           Are you ever surprised at the permutations that ensue?

WordMan:  Certainly. I was delighted when my original word for a physical contest, agonia, was ultimately transformed into the mental component of the struggle, agony. I’ve never quite reconciled in my mind how thinking, thumb, thing, thousand and thingamabob all sprang from my original conception.

PJJP:           … sounds quite perplexing.

WordMan:  We are barely touching the surface here.

PJJP:           We’ll have to continue this at a later time.

WordMan:  Remind me to tell you how a limited stretch of continued existence came to be called as such (time). It’s an incredible tale.

PJJP:             I’m sure it is.



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