Press Conference of the Association of Overly Honest Linguists SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 2 Contents Shifty Linguistics—John Cagey and Wiley-Kai O’Tae

Of the Abnegation of the Institute of Imladris

Found among the papers of J. R. R. Tolkien by Deak Kirkham

And so it came to pass that, towards the end of the Third Age of the Sun, Aragorn son of Arathorn was born in Eriador. And he came to live at the house of Elrond, Imladris, as the Elves called it, at the foot of the Misty Mountains. And he grew in strength and wisdom but also became deeply amorous of the Lord Elrond’s beautiful daughter, the Lady Undómiel and so she for him.

As time passed, not only did their love flourish but through their long talks together, they developed a shared sense of commerce, a sharp financial acuity and a profound grasp of the business opportunities in Middle-Earth in that Third Age of the Sun. And it is of this that this tale shall treat.

Now Aragorn was a wild spirit who travelled hither and thither throughout the North and beyond. He came to be able to pass seamlessly and silently among many different cultures almost as if he had different names and even identities. Meanwhile, the Lady Arwen dwelt with her father in Imladris. But she opted not for the life of an Elven maid of leisure but instead elected to scour the parchments and histories of Middle-Earth and in so doing learnt many rich and ancient tongues.

And so it came to pass that one day, when Aragorn returned from one of his many travels he sought out the Lady Arwen and said to her, ‘My love, I have travelled far and wide in the North and while I have seen no flower that rivals your beauty, I have seen, studied and come to understand the many cultures and peoples of this Middle-Earth.’ And the Lady Arwen replied, ‘This is true, my love. And while you have journeyed hither and thither, I have not been idle but have studied and learnt many of the tongues of this vast land.’

And she went on, ‘Should we not, then, my love, consider setting up a cultural awareness and language learning institute here in Imladris and potentially make a fat ton of money?’ Aragorn gazed deep into the eyes of his beloved in admiration and love and answered, ‘This, my darling, is a water-tight business plan. For see, the Dwarves, the Elves, the Ents, the Halflings, the Men of this continent are riven by differences both linguistic and cultural. What Dwarf knows what it is to dwell among the trees? What Elf understands the cultures beneath the earth? And any old adaptation of Hofstede will generate a cultural awareness training course that coins it in!’

‘Yes,’ replied Arwen. ‘And what Dwarf will know the Tengwar of Feanor and what Elf can read the runes of Durin? Does a Halfling or Man say Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo when they chance upon an Elf on the Greenway? Or do Ents easily enact the most appropriate greetings among Shire-Folk when drinking in the Green Dragon? And it’s easy enough: just type out a few phrases in colour on a sheet of A4, and drill the students a couple of times. Everyone goes home happy thinking they’re getting “a language learning experience”.’

And so Aragorn said, ‘So, yes, my love, let us set up a website, borrow some gold coins from your inexplicably wealthy father and really go to town on this one. It’s a cash cow waiting to happen! Ker-ching! as they say in Bree.’

‘Yes, my lord,’ agreed Arwen eagerly. ‘We might even pull a Zamenhof and get some of those orcs and goblins, spiders and wargs signing up and thus end the strife that can sometimes arise.’

But no sooner had they set foot towards Elrond’s quarters than he himself met them with grave news: the Dark Lord had risen (again!) and Aragorn must return to the wilderness. And it was so, and the War of the Ring came to pass, as has been told elsewhere. And the goodies won etc., etc., etc. Aragorn had to go into benignly autocratic politics for which he had no training whatsoever whereas Arwen just wafted about feeling other-worldly. She did have a go at setting up a hairdressing salon and nail bar which enjoyed some success. But the Imladris Institute for Cultural Awareness and Second Language Learning ne’er came to pass, remaining ever but a dream that passes with all dreams out into the West.

Press Conference of the Association of Overly Honest Linguists
Shifty LinguisticsJohn Cagey and Wiley-Kai O’Tae
SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 2 Contents