world-speak in Fuller 2016
gazed softly into a close middle distance, as if composing a line upon a
translucent page hung in the middle of the air, the hands tapping out a stanza
or two of music on legs covered by the brown folds of a towelling dressing
gown. He had the air of someone who had seen something of great amazement but
yet lacked the means to put it into language. As I got to know the patient
over the next few weeks I learned that this was not for the want of effort.
In his youth he had dabbled with the world-speak language Volapük, one
designed to do away with the incompatibility of tongues, to establish a
standard in which scientific intercourse might be conducted with maximum
efficiency and with minimal friction in movement between minds, laboratories
and publications. Latin biological names, the magnificent table of elements,
metric units of measurement, the nomenclature of celestial objects from clouds
to planets, anatomical parts and medical conditions all had their own systems
of naming beyond any specific tongue. This was an attempt to bring reason into
speech and record, but there were other means to do so when reality resisted
these early measures.
The dabbling, he reflected, had become a little more than that. He had
subscribed to journals in the language, he wrote letters to colleagues and
received them in return. A few words of world-speak remained readily on his
tongue, words that he spat out regularly into the yellow-wallpapered lounge of
the sanatorium with a disgust that was lugubriously palpable.
According to my records, and in piecing together the notes of previous
doctors, there was something else however, something more profound that the
language only hinted at. Just as the postal system did not require the
adoption of any language in particular but had its formats that integrated
them into addressee, address line, postal
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