Monday, 9 September 2013

Event in Ciudad de Palabras


Author Note: Please, note that "faulty spelling" words in Spanish showed in plain writing, as well as in English (displayed between brackets), and are in red text: "aver" (to habe), while the words accepted by both languages are in magenta text: haber (to have).


Words City, in the Lexicon realm, was receiving very disturbing news from its twin city across the Letter-Soup River.

As all of you know, the river divided the English kingdom and Words City from that of its peers, the Spanish nation, and its Ciudad de Palabras.

The grapevine was that there was to be an imminent visit to Ciudad de Palabras by Srta. Ortografía, a buxom lady very conservative and given to slash spelling mistakes.

Srta. Ortografía
The poor dwellers in Ciudad de Palabras were aghast. We all know that Srta. Ortografía enjoys making clear the differences between V and B, discover a wrongly laid stress mark, and all the imperfections that, as per her own words, plagued the city.

The worst of this attitude is that she walked the city streets with her dreary red pencil and did not stop except to cross out and embarrass those poor 'faulty words' she met, again her own remarks, and we know what that means: deportation of the wretched vocables to the outskirts slums, and oblivion. 

The badly shaken words decided to seek help from Ms. Spelling, a lean and scrawny woman with a long face who worked in Words City in a similar job than Srta. Ortografía did in Ciudad de Palabras.

 Ms. Spelling was said to be much more lenient to incorrect spelling, and faulty grammar, as it was commented in a low voice between the conjunctions, those unities that are always gossiping because they belong to the syntactic liaison.

As I told above, the Letter-Soup River separated the two countries and cities, but there were several bridges with mobile translator machines to make the communication easy.

This was so because in Words City, English was the official language, and since it came from the group of Germanic languages, although Latin and other languages influenced it, there was a logical difference with Ciudad de Palabras where Spanish was the official  language which came from Romance source.

Chapter 1

Under the cover of darkness, the delegates walked to the nearest bridge, donned a translator each one of them, and went looking for Ms. Spelling.

They found her in the Reading-Room of the Dictionary House with a 'o' letter in one hand, and a 'u' letter in the other, with a perplex expression in her face. As soon as she saw the delegation, her face changed showing a light hope, and cried:

Hello, you there! Can you tell me if it is easy to tell apart the sounding of these two letters?

She spoke in English, but the group could understand her easily using the mobile translators.

Well, yes ma'am, answered Bueno using the translator, it is not possible to mix them up. I know because I have them in my name.
Ms. Spelling

Really? asked dubiously Ms. Spelling, but have you ever pronounced the word 'Ghoul'? (She said it as 'gool')

No ma'am, recognised Bueno.

There you are! Ms. Spelling sounded hopeless; it seems as if one of them is useless!

The words in the group moved restless, not knowing what to do, but Decisión, who was in the first row, shook her stress mark and said with decision:

Ms. Spelling, we need your help!

The grammarian seemed slightly confused, but answered:

What can I do for you people?

We are in a predicament, ma'am, said Decisión, Srta. Ortografía thinks to visit us and correct any spelling or grammar mistake, which is very painful for us. Therefore, we came to ask you to speak with her, show her how she can be tolerant, and accept some errors, in the way you does!

Ms. Spelling looked bewildered, she was having the two small vowels in her hands yet, but after a little moment of indecision she dropped both letter into the small case on her desk and showing some relief, as if she had not make a choice just now, said:

I will help you gladly!

Chapter 2

They went together, when over the bridge, the group left their translators and helped Ms. Spelling to get into hers.

They realised it was late, so decided to leave the errand for next day.

'Otel', who was very worried about losing her residence card, decided to give shelter to Ms. Spelling during the night, with the help of  her twin sister, Hotel. They also invited the two twins 'Cenar' (Dinner) and 'Senar' (Dyner), to help in making Ms. Spelling understand the serious situation some of them were in.

At dawn, after a short sleep, Ms. Spelling, already knowing what she had to do, went to look for Srta. Ortografía.

She found her at the bureau of the president of ERAyMDG, this acrostic means: Ente Regulador de Acentos y Marcas Diacríticas en General, (Accent Regulator and General Diacritics Marks Office) we already know how verbose the official workplaces in Spanish are.

The acrid woman was reviewing several booklets recently issued by 'La Ilustrísima Real Academia Española' (The Most illustrious Royal Spanish Academy), the agency that rules over the ways Spanish language should be used everywhere.

After the usual cold greeting, Ms. Spelling started to state the reason of her errand, that is, why there are no reasons to be so strict with the lexicon, and the syntax, giving some examples how it worked in Words City and stressing some of the best known local cases. There was no problem with languages since both agents, as all other agents, speak all language, as we all know,

If sometime we are loose in our trend to make shorter sentences, she proclaimed, and we change "You're" into "Your", or include an apostrophe in "It's" when we really mean "Its", we are not doing any terrible thing, just we are a bit of lazy, and writing as we hear!

You see, Ms. Spelling was taking assurance from her own words; the important thing is to make an effective communication, it is not important how that is accomplished, is it?

Who care, proceed her; if "aver" (to habe) instead of "haber" (to have) does not have the letter "h" since in your language is useless enough, or "v" is in place of "b" if, in the end, they are pronounced almost in the same way!

You know, she added with the self-assurance of a solicitor, that there are no differences between letters in the alphabet; they are all part of the language with the same rights and liabilities!

Definitively, there is not reason to discriminate one, favouring the other, when the end is anyway fulfilled, if you follow my drift!

As we can see, the arguments were a bit faulty, but they were stressed by the emotional weight over the rights of words the woman felt at the time.

Srta. Ortografía did not hide her displeasure, as we know she never does! She answered under a visibly restrained rage:

Look, Ms. Spelling, it is probable, I would say certain, that given the endless internal fights in your language, (she pronounced the last word as an insult) especially those carried away by typographers through the centuries, that being paid by the quantity of letters written, got some solace adding unnecessary "u", "o", "y", and a lot of other vowels and semivowels, with double consonants in the bargain, it is very probable and surely certain, I repeat, that words in your language (again that insulting ringing) never are sure they are spelled in the right way!

If to this aberration, you add the whim of giving many different meanings to a single word, as is the Saxon pragmatical practice, you will concede me that the only thing you increase is misunderstanding, compelling the speaker to repeat the sentences many times to reach, as you so sensibly put it, the understanding from the audience!

How can you hope to transfer your thinking to other people with words as "bow", kept pressing the irate grammarian, when that word, despite the slight change in pronunciation, can have so many unrelated meanings.

In addition, I am not trying to start to speak about the word "set", which I think will fill a whole dictionary!

These things do not happen in our language (now there was a distinct proud sound in the word). Thanks to the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy, I mentioned above) we have always kept a cleanness and order that would amaze some scatterbrains who tried to understand the pristine essence of Spanish expressions. I would not deny we have some exceptions that confirm the rules, and lately, in an unfortunate way, we have been penetrated by a cultural invasion from English, trying to impose its faulty rules, and seeping into its better developed equals myriads of execrable expressions that only add insult to the invasion!

Besides, added Srta. Ortografía almost without breathing, you should know that, for us, it is not the same "sima" than "cima" since they are antonymous, nor "revelar”, and "rebelar", with a different meaning! Moreover, with respect to your example "aver", if we add the rightly needed space between the preposition and verb, we have a very amusing revelation: "a ver si me entiende" (let us see if you understand me!), fired an impudent trans-language pun the angry agent.

Based on all these reasons, and without offense intended, ended triumphally the woman in an acerbic tone, I assure you there is not the remotest possibility I’d stop correcting with extreme zeal the core that defines, and gives brilliancy to our language!

Without waiting for any response, and with the lack of politeness that characterises her, Srta. Ortografía left the office.

While the noxious agent of language was delivering her tirade, the President of ERAyMDG was very interested in being lost into his desk drawers looking as if he was trying to find an important item. When the silence prolonged itself for a long time, he raised his eyes to an amazing view: Ms. Spelling was smiling with great happiness!

When she saw the astonished face of the President, murmured haltingly:

I knew that the "o" was superfluous!
Aver near the bridge
From the next room "Aver" was following all these procedures, and with a sad heart she accompanied Ms. Spelling to the bridge, and thanked her for the help.

Ms. Spelling, although she tried to make a show of her despair for the outcome of her errand, could not stop smiling happily.

Chapter 3

Aver reached Bueno's house where all the delegates had gathered waiting the outcome of the meeting, and told them the disastrous end of the conversation between both language agents.

All of them started to cry and bemoan, thinking this could be their last day in Central District, and soon they would be carrying their belongings into the hovels of the outskirts of Ciudad de Palabras.

While this was happening, Bueno sat on her best sofa, thinking.

In a moment, she arose and cried "Eureka"; immediately asking a silent pardon to Mr. Archimedes for taking his legal exclamation with no copyright permission.

Everybody shut up and waited expectant. Bueno addressed to them all and said:

Now we see we cannot reason with this harpy... eehh, I mean Srta. Ortografía, so we will look another line of fighting this issue. I have thought about something I used before, that is slower, but can deliver good results.

We will call to all user of our language to utilise their influence on public use of Spanish, writing not only the rightly written words as the harp... eehh, as Srta. Ortografía deems correct, but all other ways that they can learn, forgetting the spelling rules, and in that way get the authorisation that those words need to keep their place in the city.

With the eyes, and the heart full of hope they wrote the following pamphlet, and sent it to all the Spanish-speaking world:

Dear user of Spanish: for a reason of survival, we beg, plea, and require of you to forget the spelling rules as dictated by the RAE, that in its unpolluted intention of giving brilliance, and splendour to our language, is condemning us, the words with spelling faults, to a miserable life, and to a shameful death. Most of us were created by you when learning the language; we are your offspring, abandoned under the pressure of the academic order. Do this in a sense of benignity and love to words that served you in the time you were so new to know how to write correctly. We know we can trust in your kindness!

There were many signatures: Aver (Haber), Composision (Composición), Atravez (A través), Agradesco (Agradezco), Taverna (Taberna), Riquesas (Riquezas), Labar (Lavar), these were some of the twins, but the list filled several pages!


We do not know for sure if it is working, but it seems that Bueno's idea is developing right!

We will see in the future.

The music is "Inspector Clouseau Theme" from the Pink Panther by Henry Mancini and his Orchestra. The middle way music is the "Waltz No.2" written by Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by Andre Rieu

© 2013 Od Liam.


  1. How difficult it is to learn languages but we got to learn them to make communication easy. You have great ideas on Linguistics and this post has the educational values. Thumbs up!

    One more thing, what I like most is the way you narrate which makes this post an interesting read. Thank you, Od! :)

    P.S. I might opt to go to Words City to improve my English or another language, Spanish, for instance! :)

    1. When you start to dig deeply into the nature of language you begin to learn the complexity of human beings, but that is the beauty of it all!

      Thank you, BB! It was a bit difficult to balance so dissimilar languages as this two.

      If you visit Ciudad de Palabras, choose a date when Srta. Ortografía is not there! :))

  2. Nice post, amazingly written , I enjoyed reading :)

    1. Thank you, Auntie!

      I am happy to know you enjoyed all this little story of mine.