Saturday, 30 July 2016

Simian Chatter

An engineer keeps listing the benefits of a newly constructed desiccator. Chief Cofflin responds:

"'Ayup. You've struck oil, Ron, you can stop drilling,' Cofflin said dryly.
The problem with being the one who can bind or loose is that everyone keeps trying to convince you of things, he thought wryly."
-SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998), p. 257.

How true. How much speech is unnecessary?

The desiccator is clearly working effectively so the Chief Exec does not need to be reassured that it is working effectively;

anyone who has a new proposal just needs to ask Cofflin to put it on the agenda for the next Town Meeting but does not need first to convince Cofflin that it is a sound proposal;

for a while at work I had to assign new tasks to colleagues but they did not need to keep reporting back to me what they were doing with the tasks;

a colleague unable to explain her procedure to a visitor who had passed briefly through the office insisted on lengthily explaining it to me instead;

when I quote something that has been said to me, my hearers address their replies to me in the apparent belief that I have said it, not merely quoted it, or ask, "What did he mean by...?" when all I can reply is "That's what he said..." or ask, "Did he say anything about...?" when all I can reply is "That's all he said..."

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series refers to two languages, Temporal and Exaltationist, which are succinct and not designed for endless chatter. An interesting sequel would be one in which the author could give us just a few lines of such a language.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

"Simian chatter"? I was immediately reminded of the passage in Anderson's "Delenda Est" where Manse Everard looked out the window of the Time Patrol's lodge set in the remote past and wondered if saber toothed tigers would have done a better job than their simian supplanters. Everard was suffering a moment of frustration during an emergency meeting of Patrol agents--and even THEY could argue and talk at endless length. Simian chatter, in other words!