"Language evolves" -
which means those natural guys,
Our apelike forbears, grunted, chattered, cried
And screeched wild warnings; others understood,
Or if they didn't cotton, quickly died.
Necessity and predators, our sharp
And useful stimuli, stayed in pursuit,
Till language learned to grow, diversify
And bear engagingly exotic fruit.
Yes, language burgeoned like a living thing,
In ways no human ever could have planned,
Exultantly, explosively and with
Manic exuberance, quite out of hand.
And somehow (fast or gradually?) evolved
A complex grammar that allowed the wise
To pass on knowledge, and express themselves
In sermons, sagas, recipes and lies.
Language and man evolved in symbiosis,
And who can say which benefited most
From that astonishing rich partnership -
Was it the parasite or human host?
But there were words men loved to keep as pets,
Words that did more to flatter than explain,
Fine words whose utterance made you feel so strong,
Which fitted oh-so-snugly in the brain.
And complex thoughts were shrunk into these words
(A compression IT types might label "lossy").
Yet how folk loved them, for they justified
Our eternal human taste for being bossy.
For when you're certain that you have THE WORD,
Then any talent for self-doubt is frozen;
All counter-argument's irrelevant
When you know you belong among the chosen.
The chosen shun such lesser language-joys
As fantasy, romance, and puns and porn,
Better to savour the much headier pleasure
Of being fundamentally re-born.
The chosen stride the world with flaring eyes
As their exciting dream grows more extreme,
And should some other dare to doubt or mock -
We know what happens to those who blaspheme.
So men make brutal slogans of the words
Of Marx, Mohammad, Jesus or whoever
And tell us to mistrust all other words,
To shun the subtle and detest the clever.
The dog who thinks he's master is a bore;
The dog who knows he isn't is a friend.
Those bullying words all close our prospects in;
Most others help our boundaries extend.
So let us celebrate those other words,
The ones not out to badger, hurt or con,
Words that can fill with thoughts and jokes and joy
These days before we die (when words live on...)
If you've any comment on this poem, George Simmers would be pleased to hear from you.