Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gonzonand eggsjaintche

I think there were four of us — moi, Martin Butler, Alison Carver, and Lee Blasius — and we must have been in Damariscotta, Maine. All this is detail that doesn't support the story, but the reader may have a need to know the culprits. And the time was sometime in the mid-1980s.

There's actually a lot to do in Damariscotta, Maine. Including getting on a boat and then tarrying at a piano bar in which the pianist plays every tune in C. Obviously one of our cohort had, and still has, perfect pitch. That one was, and is, not, moi.

Whiling away the time in the gorgeousness that is Damariscotta (whose name appears once per paragraph, so far, but that number's goin' down!), we four played various word games. When we tired of the ones we knew, we came up with a new one — for which there is no name.

The game is simple, and singers — who have been trained in the teeny-weeny mechanics of every aspect of vocal production (and who are the only class of people I've encountered (so far) who use the word glottal in conversation as if it were the word the — and don't get me started on plosives and fricatives) pick it up right away and get bored with it almost instantly. Thus, none of the four of us is a singer.

And here's how you play the game: say stuff, and when you say stuff, exchange voiced and unvoiced consonants.

You can stop for a moment and wonder if the language is Orwellian (wouldn't you love to have a common adjective named after you? Whatever Rakowskian or Rakowskiage or Rakowskan or Rakowskiesque is, I want it to be really good) — in which it is impossible to be bad — only ungood — or stupid — only unsmart. Shouldn't the opposite of voiced be something a little sexier? Mute? Nah, stigma. Karific? Nah, begins with k. Tenebroso? Nah, already taken. So, voiced and unvoiced it is. Even with the stigma of my teacher was so strict, he gave me an unvoice.

So what does it mean to exchange voiced and unvoiced consonants? Singers have been taught the mechanics of vocal production, and as it turns out, consonants are part of vocal production. Plenty of consonants have exactly the same mechanics as another one — the only distiction is that one is voiced and one is unvoiced. So, for example, the "b" sound is the same mechanics as the "p" sound. But your voice box is active for the former, not active for the latter.

Thus, one rule of the game is to say "b" where "p" is normal, and vice versa. You didn't ride the bus to school, you rode the pus.

Gross, right? It gets gooder.

A more or less complete vocab of consonant sounds that exchange under these rules is thus as follows:
  • b <==> p
  • g <==> k
  • s <==> z
  • d <==> t
  • f <==> v
  • j <==> ch
  • sh <==> zh
  • x <==> gz
  • th (as in the) <==> th (as in third)

Consonants that, in English, don't exchange are unvoiced ones for which there are no voiced alternatives — h would have to exchange with some sort of primal axe murderer exhalation — and voiced consonants r, l, m and n, in order to be unvoiced, one has to resort to a mime act to give the sense that they are being unvoiced. I love the passive voice early in the morning.

So that thing you rode to school? Not a pus, but a puzz.

And what are the common modes of ground transportation in this game? Puzz, gar, drug, drain. In British English, lorrie is unaffected by the game. I think the Brits knew this game would be invented when they came up with the word.

Thus did we refer to Martin Butler as Mardin Pudler for quite a while after we played this game. Tayfitt Ragowsgi is a little less funny, but easier to say when you are drunk. Unlike the place to buy a whobber, Purker Gink. You can also buy a whobber with jeesse. Pud nod ad MgTonaltse. There id'z the Pick Mag.

The game is hilarious with short phrases, and has a short half-life. See how quickly tedious it gets when applied, say, to longer sentences. My koodnez, zet liddle ret writing hoot do the pick pat wolve, whad pick deeth you half! All the pedder to eed you with!

So keep it short. Pozton Ret Zoggs blay the Gleeflant Intianss doonighd. Two you hear the googoo glog?

Pie, pie now.