Not So Perry So-So
On Pragmatics, Fieldwork, and Imperialism
Əəәəᶕᵊ Ӛәəəәɚ Әәӛәₔ
It was with great displeasure that I first encountered Claude Searsplainpockets’ treatise on my native tongue, which he had the gall to describe as “The Laziest Language on Earth” (SpecGram CLIII.2, 2007). Naturally, we call our language and ourselves Ə.
The appellation “Perry So-so” is one bestowed upon my people by our neighbors and oft-time enemies—the Ain clan of the Ojuwarbə tribe of the Twətæmai folk. In the Ain Ojuwarbə Twətæmai dialect, “perry so-so” means “a people who deserve animadversion the first time, extra vituperation a second time, and as much obloquy as possible a third time.”
The work of Searsplainpockets on our language is several orders of magnitude more insulting than that.
My paternal grandmother is one of those whom Searsplainpockets has labeled “the dropouts”. She came to live among the Ə, after leaving college in the 1960s only to discover the world to be a place she described as “not worth living in.” She met and married my grandfather, one of the greatest Ə philosophers, and in due time bore my father, whom she helped raise as Ə. My father and mother, also great philosophers in their own right, were too consumed by the rigors of contemplation to raise me, and so that task fell to my paternal grandmother, who was never much of a philosopher herself, not having been raised from birth in the Ə tradition. However, it was she who taught me her native Interlingua as well as a smattering of Ido and Ελληνιστική Κοινή.
I left the Ə Urheimat eighteen years ago as part of a once-every-twelfth-generation combined anthropological expedition and anti-Rumschpringe, chosen no doubt in part because of my multilingualism. I have spent almost two decades absorbing this decadent world’s philosophy, ethics, religion, science, mathematics, medicine, and law. In two short years I will finally be able to return to my home and remind my people why we live the life that we do, and impart the few nuggets of wisdom accumulated in my time abroad—and these are precious and few: trolley problems, surreal numbers, Turing machines, beta-adrenergic antagonists, Speluncean Explorers, and antidisestablishmentarianism being all of your world worth taking back.
Despite his meager attempt at understanding the Ə language and culture, Searsplainpockets could not have gotten it all more wrong. Our fertile valley, indeed, provides for us like almost no other place on earth; and in such a place, a turn toward sloth would indeed be natural, almost inevitable. We escaped that fate, as a people, through the proper application of philosophy. For more generations than can be counted, the Ə have favored contemplation over consumption, thought over action, an inner life over the external world. Our language has been beaten to a razor-sharp edge by the hammer of reason on the anvil of commitment.
Our people prize silence, subtlety, and stoicism. Searsplainpockets has mistaken these lofty ideals for the banal sins of laziness, lackadaisicality, and even lecherositude.
The Ə are masters of pragmatics. Personal, ancestral, and societal history, head tilt, micro-expressions, body language, relative body position, absolute temperature, relative humidity, inverse airspeed, and the interplay of light and shadow inside the closed mouth of the unborn grandchild of those who have died sine prole are among the myriad features that are not grammaticalized in Ə, yet constructively interfere to adhere an inescapably singular meaning upon any utterance one might make in the given context. Thus, no utterance is necessary, other than that needed to indicate that an utterance would occur at the specified moment, which in turn reflects and refracts the context into the next ineludible meaning.
When one such as Searsplainpockets utters “Can you pass the salt?”, you outsiders may see past the surface meaning and deduce that the salt should be passed, and think yourselves deep. To the Ə, a more profound, more true, more fundamental meaning, a meaning such as the knowledge that the longing a solitary soul feels in your ethically decadent and ideologically cannibalistic culture for any real connection—internal or external, to self, to others, to the universe, to the abyss—must go utterly unconsummated, eternally unrequited, and ultimately unrecognized because you are each a locked prison cell of emptiness and mirrors, devoid of meaning, without denotation, a connotative construct of the ceaseless reverberations of long-forgotten echoes, unnaturally nurtured by neurotic neural networks of negativity. All this is as deep as a baby’s bathwater to the Ə.
Our most playful conversations, while “playing” “video games”, might go like this (transcribed in the woefully underdeveloped International Phonetic Alphabet, following Searsplainpockets):
Speaker 1: ə↑
Speaker 2: ə↑↓
Speaker 1: ә
Speaker 2: ə:
Speaker 1: ə::
Speaker 2: ә↑
Speaker 3: ə:::
Speaker 2: ә↓:
Speaker 1: ə::::
A full translation of this conversation is beyond the scope of this paper—and, frankly, beyond the capability of most of its readers—but Speaker 1’s first utterance, in this context, begins, “The unfortunate intellectual hegemony of the dialectic surrounding video games as entertainment-cum-literature fails to concede the ubiquitous nature of the insouciance of personality in the face of existentially unquantifiable predispositions regarding the role of society in the rearing of children and the nurturing of adult relationships among the socially ostracized, who....” and continues for 18 to 20 more paragraphs. Speaker 3’s rebuttal—couched in the ineffability of Recursive Last Thursdayism when conjoined with the amorality of applied number theory—is wrapped in a delectable self-referential multifoliate pun that gently, insufficiently, and necessarily assuages the deep and indelible ennui this conversation advokes. It is beyond mere poetry.
Sadly, Searsplainpockets’ understanding of the so-called “go-getters” is yet more incorrect, though his analogy with computer modems is more insightful than he knew. One of my areas of specialization in my time away from the Ə has been computer science; now I can describe in words Searsplainpockets may understand (or at least have explained to him) what the tone-modulated utterance of our clerics means. Their holy chants are essentially a formulaic call-and-response; however, the complexity is such that, as best as I can determine, the patterns represent a fourteen-dimensional Game of Life. As the Game of Life is Turing-complete, so is the sacred intonation of the priests. I do not know what it computes, only that it has proceeded every day for at least twenty-four generations.
That brings us at last to the ineptly-named “mellow ones”, Searsplainpockets’ description of whom is so off base that I cannot contain myself well enough to even reply coherently.
My sanity-preserving hobby during my time among the unenlightenable ones has been to improve the orthography of Ə. The variety of schwa-like characters available is moderately refreshing, though ultimately insufficient. Nonetheless, I have transcribed my own name in this system. It is still inexact, but serviceable. I believe my fellow Ə will embrace it as a subject of contemplation, though it is unlikely they will adopt it for any practical function.
More research is necessary to properly unravel the intricacies of this system. Said research will have to fit into the next two years, because after that I am out of here!