Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Retrolingual

Retrolingual: Retrolingual was a short lived academic fad of the mid 21st century. Students, tiring of traditional modern language studies (i.e.: French, Spanish, Chinese and Gezhundian) and traditional ancient language studies (i.e.: Latin, Greek, Olde English and Really Really Olde Gezhundian), took up faintly obscure, mostly forgotten extinct languages, such as “Modern Gutnish,” “Russenorsk,” “Kw’adza,” “Yugh,” and the easy to pronounce, “Ngarinyeric-Yithayithic.” The fad, although extremely popular for a few weeks, went the way of “pet rocks” since no one understood what anyone else was saying, and so, “Nixtifalacchio ifiniccionali Phaxtomiswopp,” which clearly meant “I would like a rutabaga to go, please,” became misinterpreted by many scholars as, “Your nostril drips like the ever flowing fountain of Phaxtom’s Mountain.”

Theodore Saurus took a lot of guff for his odd name. When shortened to Theo Saurus and said quickly with marbles in mouth, it sounded like the word “dictionary.” As it turned out, Theodore adored words, not just words you could look up in an ordinary dictionary or even in one of those massive, multi-volume lexicons, but words found in all corners of the world and a few dusty closets, too. As a child he passionately studied foreign language dictionaries, eventually opening them up to see what was inside. In his teens he progressed to ancient languages such as Vulgar Latin, Sanskrit, Sumerian, and Egyptian, and became conversant in all of them, although none of his schoolmates understood his jokes and his would-be girlfriends slammed the door on his amorous proclamations in exotic foreign tongues because they preferred red blooded American tongues. By the time he entered college he’d memorized Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in forty-two languages and thought it might be working when a cat befriended him because he seemed able to interpret its desire for a bowl of milk. However, he felt determined to win friends and influence his college class as well as his professors.

It took time, but then all at once he succeeded. On November 28, 2051, he invented the term “retrolingual” and immediately began speaking in languages no one else on campus knew a single word of, including fragments of Thracian, Etruscan and his personal favorite, Philistine. Envious of his multilingual facility, other would-be language artists took note and began their own campaigns of linguistic obscurity. Soon dorm rooms were abuzz with words like, “oophrizrastic” and “quixxicoxxinixxitwat.” One wise pundit commented that the fad spread from campus to campus like “vrinoslippicoth,” a cliché in Vrinthlon, the language of an obscure European sect known as the Vrinthligoths. Actual translation: “like wildfire,” but naturally no one knew that. The fad lasted just over three weeks when students left for the winter holidays and forgot all about it. Theodore Saurus abandoned languages for the study of dinosaurs and at long last achieved popularity – suddenly his name was cool.

Actual meaning: situated behind or near the base of the tongue (salivary glands)

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