Home language

In his book “Gulliver’s travels” [1726] Jonathan Swift recommends that at home one should talk with each other by the use of a language of objects. On his voyage to Laputa he meets three professors who run a “scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health as well as brevity. For it is plain, that every word we speak is in some degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. And since words are only names for things, the room where company meet is full of all things ready at hand, to furnish matter for this kind of artificial converse”.

Today is the day to try this out at home. Let’s work step by step.

You’re bored. Schools have been closed and you’ve run out of ideas for what to do with your time. You want to get extra pocket money from your parents for a giant jigsaw puzzle of at least 1000 pieces. You’re well prepared and bring the objects you need (to convince them) with you.

Next step.

Imagine it’s time for lunch and all gather in the kitchen. There is the option for ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches and pancakes, but you’re not going to make both. It’s either – or.

Collect all the objects you may need for this conversation on the kitchen table and have a conversation which leads to a decision about what there will be for lunch today.

Third step.

Two of you have been invited to meet a few friends at the cinema and stay for pizza afterwards. But will mom or dad be able and willing to drop you off and pick you up, and at what time?

Jonathan Swift concludes by saying “Another great advantage of this invention is that it will serve as a universal language to be understood in all civilized nations”. Do you agree?



                                                                                                [Pieter Mostert, 29 March 2020]

Posted by Kim Down on 29th March 2020 at 12:00am