Why, 25 Years After Its Invention, My Gibberish Childhood Language Doesn’t Feel So Silly Anymore

When I was five, I invented a gibberish language. It was only spoken, with few rules. Just lots of sonority—a melange of short vowels and palatal and bilabial consonants (“Jabashow oum abishish?”). The language was less about communicating messages, and more about communicating emotions. I never spoke the language as myself, but as my alter ego. I assigned characters to my parents and brother (my brother’s character was named Starlings), and insisted that whenever one person prompted it, everyone else spoke the language in character. And I was not the…

What Abraham Lincoln Can Teach Us About Choosing (And Keeping) Our Words

There is an adorable elderly man with an ice cream parlor in San Francisco’s Western Addition. His eyes sparkle with authenticity; his smile glows with friendliness. He is the kind of the ice cream server you stop to see, even when your lactose intolerance says you shouldn’t. He is the kind of man who, when he meets your parents, will tell them that he enjoys your visits, but that you don’t visit too often. No matter how my life changes, this man and his ice cream parlor have been my constant. His eyes and…

A good listener is a silent flatterer

It was just a typical day in my fourth-grade classroom. Our four-person table groups were working on a collaborative activity revolving around long division. As the session progressed, tempers began to rise at my table, mainly because I had a bumpy friendship with one of the boys at the table. We were constantly bickering, be it on the tetherball courts or during Language Arts. On this particular occasion, we were unhappy with the way the activity had played out. Our two other group members were probably cowering in fear as…

Talk Forever Just to Pass the Time

Language is absolutely beautiful. Sometimes it’s the romantic accent, sometimes it’s the way the sounds roll off the tongue, sometimes it’s the chills-inducing meaning of the word. Language effortlessly transforms our abstract thoughts and emotions into powerfully tangible entities. It starts wars, but also ends them. It takes control, steals the spotlight, in every situation. Language, I am your fan. Despite its immense capacity, language is abused. It is ironic that humans, famous as a species for having created language, are also responsible for its demise. Sure, modern literary works…

Nothing’s Turned Out How You Wanted

Evolved adaptations afford us to grapple with the problems that are posed by our environment. Calluses, for example, form to protect us from repeated friction to skin. Similarly, as the years of our lives go by, we become metaphorically calloused — jaded, hardened, and arguably stronger. We learn to resist the abrasions that, in our younger days, would have left deep wounds. The deep wounds heal to minor cuts which heal to scars. But the scar remains for life (Don’t get me started on Neosporin Scar Solution). But no matter…