Language for Time Travelers
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by L. Sprague de Camp
Category: General Nonfiction/Science Fiction
Description: A non-fiction essay on the nature of change in the English language. Mr. de Camp's examples include a fictional account of a time traveler's communication difficulties 500 years into the future.
eBook Publisher: Fictionwise.com, 1938 Astounding
Filament eBookStore Release Date: September 2001
104 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [31 KB]
Reading time: 14-20 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"Gradually, the rainbow flicker of light died away, and Morgan Jones felt the tingle leave his body. The dial read 2438. Five hundred years! He opened the door of the compartment and climbed out.
"At first, he saw nothing but fields and woods. He was evidently in a farming country. Nobody was in sight--No, here came a rustic along the road, trudging through the dust with his eyes on the ground in front of him.
"'Hey there!" Jones called. "Could you give me some information?"
"The man looked up; his eyes widened with astonishment at the sight of the machine. 'Wozza ya seh?' he asked.
Jones repeated his question.
"Sy; daw geh," said the man, shaking his head.
"Now Jones looked puzzled. "I don't seem to understand you. What language are you speaking?"
"Wah lenksh? Inksh lenksh, coss. Wah you speak? Said, sah-y, daw geh-ih. Daw, neitha. You fresh? Jumm?"
"Jones had an impulse to shake his head violently, the same feeling he always had when the last word of a crossword puzzle eluded him. The man had understood him, partly, and the noises he made were somehow vaguely like English, but no English such as Jones had ever heard. 'Inksh lenksh' must be 'English language'; 'sah-y daw geh-ih' was evidently 'sorry, don't get it.'
"What," he asked, "is a fresh jumm?"
"Nevva huddum?" said the rustic, scorn in his tone. "Fresh people, go Oui, oui, parlez-vous français, va t'en, sale bête!" He did this with gestures. Then he stiffened. "Jumms go"--he clicked his heels together--"Achtung! Vorwärts, marsch! Guten Tag, meine Herren! Verstehen Sie Deutsch? Fresh from Fress; Jumms from Jummy. Geh ih?"
"Yes, I suppose so,' said Jones. His mind was reeling slightly--"