Overheard in the Linguistics Student Lounge—Chesterton Wilburfors Gilchrist, IV SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 3 Contents Are words Real? are Words real?—Lynn Guist

Journey to the PIE Heartland

T. Traveller

It was in the light of the full moon that I set off. I set my pack on my back, bade farewell to the keeper of the lodging house, whose “Hello I’m     Steve  ” badge glinted in the flickering light of the soon-to-break overhead beacon. I handed him coins and set off into the crisp, evening air.

It was now or never. Before me lay the as-yet-unrealised possibility of being the first of my kind to experience actual Proto-Indo-European first hand. Not deterred by the complete lack of archaeological attestation, I had long ago decided to trust the reconstructions of Linguists over anything discovered in muddy holes by people with questionable taste in headgear.

For this unique journey, I had procured a machine with unusual abilities. If I could get the coordinates right, it would plot a course right into the Proto-Indo-European heartland. I had learned to pilot such machines a few years ago, taught by a man whose easy manner reassured me that he had taken many journeys in such machines himself.

I placed my pack carefully in the capacious cargo area, opened an anterior portal and sat at the controls. The machine was made aware of my presence by a pocket communicator and so the console illuminated and the primary motion augmenter started at the touch of a single button. Soon I was on my way.

It makes no sense to speak of journey times in such machines but my internal temporal sensors had hardly tripped when I arrived at the large communal structure where I knew a gathering was to take place.

Near the entrance to the structure I found row upon row of brooches, with markings on them. Wishing to blend in so as not to alert my informants of my presence, I took one and attached it to my clothing by means of its pin.

There was a feast in progress. A line of PIE speakers was forming in front of two low wooden platforms. At the first, they seemed huddled in almost worshipful reverence around the dispenser of a dark brown elixir. This lady, who appeared to be treated as some kind of goddess, seemed uninterested in the proceedings around her. Doubtless she was used to such scenes. The countenance of the worshippers visibly changed after their encounter, especially as they drank the elixir.

On the other low platform was food: a selection of brown and beige dishes, some of which resembled pastry. Most of the species gathered there would follow the same routine. They would worship at the shrine of the goddess of the brown elixir, remove a serving of food and stand in rough groups, enunciating at various volumes.

I visited both platforms to ensure an authentic experience. The elixir tasted of mud and fresh earth and brought to mind 1990s shell suits and backwards baseball caps. It did, however, stimulate my central nervous system.

The food was quite hard, sweet and tasted like it was purposefully left by a disinterested teenager. I took a second helping and found myself back at the elixir platform.

Soon tragedy struck. My training had taught me to say “my father’s brother’s house lies across the river” and “my temple contains a sheep” but I had never learned basic greetings or, alas, how to use PIE to ask for the community human waste unit. I panicked.

I approached an informant and said, in my best PIE “my water, my water”. He stared. I found another, a female. “The god of rain inside me”. No response. One last try before a wizened informant. “My entrails make great river.”

And now, sweet relief. He gave me a condescending look and responded in disarmingly good English. “Very clever, smarty pants. The toilets are down the hall on the left.”

As I allowed myself to relax a little later in my sanitised surroundings, I was glad I made the incredible journey to the only place in time and space where PIE will ever be used exactly as we say it should be: an academic conference.


Overheard in the Linguistics Student LoungeChesterton Wilburfors Gilchrist, IV
Are words Real? are Words real?Lynn Guist
SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 3 Contents