Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gloob died today

It was an incalculable loss to mankind. He was the last of his people, the Gleb, and the last speaker of their language, Glebbish. Gloob leaves behind a cultural and spiritual void of immeasurable dimensions. At their peak, the Gleb spread across two square miles of virgin rainforest. Their language contained at least 24 distinct nouns describing the shape of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, and each of those nouns had its own declension. With Gloob, not only did that unique linguistic heritage die, but so too did the the deep, spiritual relationship between the Gleb and the Wakawaka tree. A special way of seeing Wakawaka leaves has vanished. Our planet is impoverished by his passing.

And so on and so forth, blah blah fuckety blah. How many times have you seen this shit? The last speaker of a very minor language dies, the last repository of a very minor and very primitive culture dies, and a certain portion of the human race goes into paroxysms of grief and pontification.

Did you know Gloob? Were you affected by his death? Was anyone you know affected by his death? Has the vast engine of industrial civilization paused for the slightest fraction of a second to acknowledge it?

Did you know anything about the 24 (at least!) distinct Gloob nouns for the shape of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, and their 24 (at least!) different declensions? Has their loss impoverished your usage of English? Do you give a shit? Other than linguists, does anyone who didn’t know Gloob care?

Gloob may have been a wonderful chap. His death may be a lasting sorrow to those who knew him. But in spite of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, the effects of his death don’t extend beyond his immediate circle. Or perhaps Gloob was a rotten son of a bitch and everyone who ever came in contact with him is celebrating his death. The pontifications will be the same in either case.

There’s a good chance that while you were reading this a very good man died somewhere, causing lasting grief to those who loved him. Let’s call him John. Unless John was a major world leader, odds are you’ll never know about him or his death or the sorrow it caused. John’s death will have no effect beyond his immediate circle. Most likely, John was a speaker of English or Mandarin or Spanish or Arabic. His death will have no effect on those languages or world culture or our relationship to the Wakawaka tree. The only difference between John and Gloob is that no self-important bloviators will pontificate about how John’s death diminishes us all.


TGirsch said...

Apropos of not much, I'm adding "fuckety" to my lexicon.

Also wondering where you come down on this.

David said...

Hmm. Wow.

Intellectually, I can kind of see the point. It's distantly related to the argument in favor of phonetic spelling. Anyway, the language will probably change in that direction eventually without anyone pushing it.

But emotionally, I'm horrified. It's an irrational reaction, but I can't help it.