09 March 2010

Secret Language

Language is itself a code. In its writtten form it's an abstract set of signs to represent speech, and in its spoken form an extremely complex set of rules for making intelligent communication using sounds. But if that isn't complex enough, human beings seem to have a natural tendency to make things even more complicated by inventing all sorts of games, variations, and tricks with language. It's amazing how far the examples in Barry Blake's study of this phenomenon go back - certainly to the earliest days of written languages, which have themselves now become a sort of secret code which must be deciphered.

Rather surprisingly, many of the early examples of word squares and double acrostics he discusses come from curse tablets which people believed were effective for anything from defeating fellow athletes in competition, to curing the bite of a rabid dog.


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