Well, I was going to write something really witty for my first post here on Foreign Words. But being the control freak that he is, The Polyglot sent me a txt message that he wanted me to post instead. So here, in his own words, is an account of how vacation in Florida is proceeding:
My flight was quite interesting. However, that is not what I want to discuss. I will expatiate upon that at another time. I would now like to relate what happened to me on my first day of lobstering. (Yes, lobster can be used as a verb in the same vein as fish/fishing or crab/crabbing.)
Sunday, August 6, 2006
We'd been out on the ocean for a couple of hours. We had already hit a few spots with marginal success. My father's father (who I can't bring myself to call DeeDah now that I'm an adult) had speared several hogfish in each place we'd stopped. The rest of us had not been quite as fruitful in our search for lobster. Upon reaching this third or fourth location, my father and I Dunno immediately bagged several choice specimen. I was still looking under rocks and coming up with nothing but sand.
I spotted a nice head of coral about 100 feet away from the rest of the group and hoped that I could beat the others to it. Alas, I was disappointed to again find nothing but sand lurking beneath the coral. But just as I was about to resurface, I heard the clicks and whistles of a pod of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. I looked up to see a pod of about 7 dolphin frollicking another 50 or so feet away. I tucked behind the coral head to listen unobserved, simply soaking in the moment. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was structure to this noise. Dare I say it, it even sounded vaguely familiar.
While I wouldn't classify myself as an expert, I have done a little reading on Wikipedia about the Khosian language family, particularly Ju|'hoan. Ju|'hoan contains the 5 traditional vowels that English speakers are familiar with, but based on how they are nasalized, glottalized and murmured, those 5 vowels expand into 30 unique sounds (some experts argue the number is actually higher). As with all the Khosian languages, Ju|'hoan is spoken by a very small number of people located mostly in lower Western Africa - Botswana in the case of this specific language.
Naturally, I dusted off my Ju|'hoan and volunteered a nervous "Hello, dolphin." Well, that is the rough translation. I believe the literal translation was more like, "Greetings mammals with human-like intelligence and fish-like bodies." My second statement was the incredibly trite, "I come in peace." More accurately translated to, "I would like to communicate with you, not eat you." At that point, the alpha-male appeared to signal to the pod that it was time to leave. Thankfully, the alpha-female indicated that she wanted to investigate the "bi-ped with dolphin-like intelligence." After a short disagreement, the alpha-male agreed to accompany her to within 10 feet of my location.
So there I was face to face with two Ju|'hoan speaking dolphin. What should I talk about? First, I hand signalled to them that I needed to surface for air. They seemed to understand my make-shift game of charades. After replenishing the air in my lungs, I came back down with a clear head and a topic of discussion. I decided to witness to them about the good news of God's kingdom. After just a few sentences, the alpha-male stopped me. I couldn't believe that I was being rejected by a dolphin of all creatures. However, instead of rejecting me, he said (again, loosely translated), "Yeah, yeah. We know all about the good news. We're actually on our way home from a convention. There's a little spot in the Bahamas where we can hear the programs quite well echoing through the water. In years past, lots of dolphin converged on the spot, but we have to be careful that we don't draw too much attention these days. This year, my family was chosen to attend. Now we will go back to our home waters and relate the program to the rest of the dolphin population."
You can imagine my surprise. That led into a nice little discussion about the convention program. I asked which was their favorite talk. They both seemed to appreciate the symposium about illustrations, especially the advice on imitating Jesus' illustrations. I asked if they had a favorite illustration. The alpha-female, Ursula, said that she loved the fishing illustrations. They both found it quite comical to be "fishers of men." Although they did admit that these days they don't retell the stories of the apostles letting down their nets quite as often since they have lost so many friends to the tuna fishing industry. Completely understandable.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable conversation covering a plethora of topics: favorite scriptures, water pollution, cell phones, and dolphins in captivity. During our chat, the rest of the pod gathered around us. I was particularly drawn to a sweet older female named Georgette - what a lovely woman, er, individual. Eventually I realized that I'd been away from the boat for over an hour and I had absolutely nothing to show for it - an unforgivable sin in my family. I explained that I was going to be in "hot water" which seemed to horrify them. They very sweetly offered to assist me even though they admitted to never comprehending humans' appetite for lobster. (Evidently, the lobster has a reputation similar to the cockroach amongst other sea creatures.) The whole pod joined in and within 10 minutes I had 45 beautiful lobster in my bag. The alpha-male, Josiah, even gave me a lift half way back to the boat. He wanted to take me further but didn't dare risk it.
In parting, I asked if I would see the pod tomorrow. Josiah answered that they needed to continue on their journey. He turned and rejoined the rest of the pod. As I climbed back in the boat, I looked back towards where I'd left them. I saw them leaping and breaching as a final goodbye.
So, that's his message. Pretty interesting. I can see why he wanted me to post it. Oh, and for the less linguistically gifted, Ju|'hoan is the language the African bushman spoke in "The Gods Must Be Crazy." (I had to look it up.)