Eight Letters – part one

She finished each sentence with an exclamation.  Passion, anger or sometimes both in varying ratios. He finished every sentence with a question.  He questioned everything he knew and then questioned it once more.  Some would say he had an annoying brain.
I’m still yet to decide.  My grandmother is a full stop, which never surprised me once. She was always so sure of what she knew – there was no need to question.

154 years ago, each human soul on the earth was given a choice, which would also be the fate of every soul to live thereafter. The Equality Through Punctuation
project was built to create a mutual language throughout the world.  A new global mother tongue.

When I become 14, I will make my choice, too. I’ve grown fond of all the vowels. But, then again – plosives are such fun. Perhaps I’ll pick the least common word I know. Although I’d like it to have some real meaning. I’m a bit limited, because my word can’t be any longer than eight letters.

Just twenty years ago, people were allowed nine-letter-words and they didn’t have to choose their word until they turned eighteen. I hear stories that there are a couple hundred microchips left with the nine-letter-limiter floating around on the green market, sold to the super-rich untouchables. Those chips were replaced by the new eight-letter-limiter chips which can be installed at a much earlier age for people like me.

In two weeks’ time, I’ll have to make my choice.  So far, one of my favorites is ‘euphoria’ – because it has all the vowels – though I don’t think I can do much with just a P and a H.  Hm, I guess it’s not as practical as I’d first thought.

Perhaps having all the vowels would be a bit of a hindrance rather than a luxury.  Just thinking about choosing makes me upset. I plan to thoroughly use my unrestricted vocabulary to the fullest before my fourteenth birthday before they dissolve into linguistic history.  I won’t be able to call the E. T. P by its name full anymore. It’s a bit of a taboo at school.

I’m one of the dwindling few who understand the importance of knowing what the project is in its entirety. I hope when the E. T. P is re assessed, I’ll be able to scramble together something. An angry letter. Maybe drawings of angry letters. Maybe just angry drawings. It’s failing to create equality – at least according to the definition of equality in the old dictionaries. I spend a lot of time reading them in school. Even though I know that the ability to say any word we know will vanish once the microchip is slipped into our still-forming heads.

Even if the others are mostly apathetic, I cling to the nearly – bare spines of the old dictionaries.  These people didn’t know how much power they had. Limitless ability to combine letters to create vessels to carry such abstract concepts.

 

I envy and admire them.

 

Though the words will be gone, I know the concepts which they carry will remain.

20 years ago, dictionary reading was included in the national curriculum and was absolutely encouraged. Two years ago it was dropped completely.  They say it was because the change of chips meant it was not economically beneficial to include it in the school day if we were to be chipped at fourteen, as opposed to eighteen. So, instead they allocated the time to vocational skills and sign language.

I call it the desensitization curriculum. People aren’t interested in reading the old dictionaries, and choosing other words besides the ‘recommended 12’. The government made it easy and assigned one word to each month.  May’s suggested word is brightly – what the fuck can I do with that? June isn’t a terrible word, rhythms, yet people blindly choose it because it’s what is suggested so they don’t have to think.

 

I lie awake at night watching the ceiling, thinking about why the government would suggest such restrictive words. It’s always so fucking quiet, this is why I think so much. Everyone in each continent speaks the same language since all tongues had been erased from memory of everyone over fourteen. It was promoted as a blessing; for those whose first language wasn’t English – they were told they would gain a new language instantly –making the world a level playing field. All business would be conducted in one language, nothing would be lost in translation and each nation would be able to talk to each other to resolve problems. Poverty and illiteracy would be swept away. It seemed like a logical project if peoples’ life quality would be improved. I think people did know that their culture would dissolve but probably not the extent it would. The leaders all agreed to trade their language for security. Culture is intrinsic to a community. I don’t think the leaders were given a chance to say no. Now, we have a world where all old enough to be decision makers speak broken English.

 

Rarely do people question what was sacrificed, it’s not easy to find accounts of people pre-chip. We can’t read their writing. We can’t hear their voices. Though, we can see their art.

 

They promised to improve the chips and eventually everyone would have a fully functional alphabet with all the punctuation.  But once I learnt of the 9 letter limiter chips I grew suspicious. I feel even more saddened that others my age are unprepared and uninterested in their decisions.

My dad asked me on my twelfth birthday if I knew which word I might choose.  His word was networks.

“no wot wort,  sweetee?

“no,  dad. ” I said.  Smiling at his effort to always call me sweetie.

” no? ” he said – smiling as if I’d just shared some great news.

” no” I smiled realizing he’d done this on purpose so that I knew what power those two letters held.

 

Oh,  None of the suggested words contain an N if an O is present,  and vice versa.

 

My parents’ voices croak when they seldom speak. It was much easier to sign.

I agree, it is easier. We are taught to sign since birth and are taught at school by sign. Nothing is written after we turn fourteen.

Gadebridge Park

What is it like to be brought up in the same city that surrounded the hospital that you were born in?

Does it make you feel grounded, is it comforting to know the city like the lines on your palm?

How about if you can visit the same house which you took your first steps in?

Quite often, these are questions I am curious about. I am curious about a lot of things which influence a person’s life and perhaps more so how people might resist or adopt things which aren’t the obvious choice – whatever that is…

I was born in a town I hold no sentiment towards. There is nothing wrong with the city, I was just too young to remember anything. Last summer I visited the city, curious to see whether it was the physical space that would evoke memory – or whether I was just making the link between photos and the actual place. I still don’t really know for the most part, but it definitely did evoke something.

There was a bridge in a large park close to our old house. It stood over a stream which had trailing willow trees either side. This visit it was still white and the paint crackled, but underneath was beautifully overgrown. How could a handful of pictures and accounts from parents make this bridge which I remember only through pictures become the one tangible thing I base my very young years on?

I know we lived in a semi-detached house in a town just north of London, I know we had a very fluffy dog and I know the town had a lot of geese. Something about this bridge was significant, perhaps it was because it was the only thing from the pictures which remained unchanged in its physicality apart from some decay. There were other places in other pictures but they had been retouched and rebuilt. The bridge, like me – was still in its original form but older.

I don’t suggest that either moving away or staying connected with the city you were born in is better. But I do think having sentiment which lies in multiple cities does alter your sense of place. My sentiment lies in about five, perhaps 6 cities, with the new inclusion of Manchester in the last two years. They are different spaces which inspire different parts of me.
Some very important years were spent in the Netherlands, forming some strong friendships with others who came to find this tiny country their home. It really was home – and to some degree it still is. A house or flat is tangible, I’ve lived in about twelve of those – but certainly not all of them were home.

Home is not always singular, nor is it always tangible. It’s possible to find home in spaces and people.