The title of today’s flash fiction post, Språkförbistring, is a Swedish word I haven’t really found an English translation I like for. It refers to the idea of communication failing due to speaking past each other or just not understanding the language being used. It’s apparently used in the Swedish Bible to refer to the whole Tower of Babel thing, but that’s really not relevant here.
This piece is inspired by two things:
- a prompt I found on this website, namely “a language class for aliens”
- a really cool tentacle based conlang called Rikchik (created by Denis Moskowitz), which has fascinated me since I first heard about it.
When I read the prompt, I immediately thought of Rikchik and thus this happened:
“I need to get this fucking thing mended,” Allie grumbled as she slumped down on the sofa, putting the Tenta-phone down beside her. “Or replaced.”
Kim looked up from eir magazine. “Are you sure it’s that bad?”
Allie shot em a look that said ‘I’ll show you want’s bad’ and then picked the machine up again, not putting on the straps needed to use it standing up but just resting it against her chest. “So I was trying to get this mediator gig. Downtown, at this big… inter-cultural charity thingamajig.”
“And I was telling, or I was trying to tell, the main recruiter person that I thought I would be able to easily bring the conflict they were struggling with to a close.”
“Well…” Allie pressed the right buttons to cause the mechanical tentacles to form into the sign for close.
“So?” Kim asked, eyes searching the tentacles for some answer. Then eir eyes widened. “Ooooh….”
“Yeah… fucking T5 isn’t extending properly.” She poked the busted tentacle.
“Wait, doesn’t that mean…” Kim hesitated. They’d both studied the alien language, but Kim’s skills were a little rusty since e didn’t get to use them a lot.
“Yes…” Allie nodded slowly, lifting the machine off of her lap and pursing her lips. “I told the head of a large charity organization willing to pay me excellent but not improper sums of money to mediate that I would be able to easily bring their conflict to… death.” She looked tempted to chuck the Tenta-phone across the room, but took a deep breath and gently set it down on the couch instead.
A beat passed, long and silent, and then Kim exploded in a bout of laughter.
Allie sighed, crossed her arms and sat back on the couch, sulking. “You laugh now but it’s you who’s gonna have to cover my half of the rent…”
I hope you enjoyed this! I just find the notion of what kind of språkförbistring would occur with a species of aliens that don’t speak orally to be really interesting.