Word Fun

Long before people were learning Klingon, long before I’d heard of Esperanto or Volapuk or Quickscript, I started making up alphabets and languages. I don’t know when it occurred to me that such things could be invented. Norwegian-speaking relatives exposed me to the notion that words can only mean what people agree that they mean. In the third grade I read a book about codes and ciphers; for a while I wanted to work for the CIA, but soon I was more interested in spelling reform.

Tolkien’s languages were my first encounter with an artificially constructed language. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy several times; I read the appendices so many times the pages fell out.

Other than working for the CIA or translating books into Esperanto, I couldn’t figure out any really fun careers that would use my skills. If the school guidance counsellor had suggested that I look at artificial language construction, I might have gone that direction.

If I had, I would probably still be living in my parents’ basement. There’s not a big call for artificial languages, and there are a lot of people who would apply for any job requiring conlang skills.

Instead, I went the traditional way. I studied Spanish, Latin, French, German, Esperanto, Italian, Anglo-Saxon and Greek. I took courses in linguistics. And like any other graduate holding a degree in something useless, I became a teacher. More

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