Words, words, words…
I love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. We use words and letters every day – we talk, we write, we read. The use of language is what defines us and sets us apart from other animals.
Of course you could argue that some people’s use of language is more limited than others. Bee for example communicates chiefly in grunts and smiley face emoticons, but she seems to get by.
How much do we take language for granted though? It’s true that the actual words we use only make up a small percentage of our communication, but it’s a pretty important chunk. What would you do if words or letters were suddenly taken away? I have to admit it wasn’t a question I’d given much thought to until I recently read a book called Ella Minnow Pea.
Ella Minnow Pea is a book of letters about letters. (Clever huh?). It tells the story of a small island community, where society is based on the worship of the creator of the sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’. They have the sentence written on a big statue and when one day the letter Z falls to the ground and smashes, the elders decide this is A Sign, and banish Z from the alphabet.
I know what you’re thinking, Z is a bit of a crappy letter, surely we could manage without Z? But imagine that saying, writing or reading the letter Z becomes punishable by death. Not zo zimple now iz it? Because they may contain the errant letter, all books, papers and written materials are destroyed. Just the act of talking becomes hugely difficult as you have to think about every word before you say it.
The situation gets worse as other letters begin to fall from the statue, until the people left on the island are too scared to talk at all. What will happen? How will they survive? Will they get their language back? Well, you’ll just have to read it to find out.
It was such a clever idea for a story, (I was very jealous), and really got me thinking about language and how we use it, how important it is in just about everything that we do, yet how we really don’t appreciate it. Can you imagine not being able to read a book, write a letter, tell someone that you love them? We have the words in our heads – what would happen if they were all trapped there? I think it would be pretty hard to stay sane.
I did toy with the idea of writing this whole post without an E, for a bit of a challenge, but I quickly gave up. It didn’t exactly flow. How do you say ‘last week I read a book about letters’ without using an E or sounding like an idiot? Try it, it’s hard.
I have to go now. Belle is shouting at me from the bath – “Mummy! Mummy! Get me out!”
“MUMMY! GET ME OUT!”
“I’M COMING!” I yell back, wishing she wasn’t old enough to talk.
Language – don’t you just love it?