ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] rix_scaedu. It also fills the "spring" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to The Time Towers series, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.


"The Rosetta Code"


It was spring when Judith and Adira left,
and it would be spring when they returned --
the same spring, no matter how long they were gone --
and that, you perceive, was the problem.

English had a set of tenses for describing
the time in which actions took place,
and those tenses proved woefully inadequate
once you began using time travel.

So Judith and Adira set forth (in the spring)
intending to spend some time (in the spring
or in other seasons) in the past, searching
for new (to them, to English) tenses.

They would then return (from the past,
to the now-present-spring) bringing back
(to the time in the future from the historic time,
in the subjective past of the now-present) what they found.

They wished to discuss the matter with a certain scribe,
who had saved the future while in the past, by recording
an important document in three different languages,
thus leaving a key to unlock their code.

It was Judith the Logician who formulated this plan
and found the Rosetta scribe, Adira the Intuitive
who convinced Setka to help them fill in
the gaps in the language.

Between Judith's understanding of Ancient Egyptian
and Adira's grasp of Ancient Greece and Setka's
impressive awareness of more languages than
they ever did manage to count, they got the job done.

Setka explained that different languages had their own
tenses, instead of using all the same ones, and yes,
Judith and Adira had some idea of that but -- "Look farther,"
the old scribe said with a laugh, "there are always more."

They learned that what they needed were relative tenses
instead of absolute tenses, the anterior (the past-in-the-past
and the past-in-the-future) and the posterior (the future-in-the-past
and the future-in-the-future), such subtle and intricate constructions.

Then they needed a whole new type of tense, which they
decided to call transitional, for moving-into-the-past and
moving-into-the-future and standing-outside-the-timestream,
to account for the flow of time travel unto itself.

Judith and Adira went home (from Nile-flooding to
temperate-spring) with a whole basket full of words,
joyful again in their partnership that brought forth
success after success in navigating the towers of time.

For his assistance, Setka asked only one thing in return:
that they carry his name (from historic-present to future-present)
and reattach it to the stone whence it had broken away,
so that the scribes of the future might know their ancestor.

This they did, but Judith and Adira also enshrined
his contribution to the grammar of time travel,
writing it up in a paper entitled The Rosetta Code
which would (for all future) be remembered with honor.

* * *

Notes:

The Rosetta Stone, engraved with the same text in three different versions, unlocked hieroglyphics.

Grammatical tense varies from one language to another, although the most common set is past, present, and future. Variations can get quite elaborate.

Setka is a traditional Egyptian name.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-11 03:26 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Fun.

If I remember correctly, Japanese doesn't have a future tense, but it does apply tenses to adjectives.

I've always liked Asimov's "upwhen" and "downwhen" (from The End Of Eternity) -- when time is a dimension you can travel in, expect direction words.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-14 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
This is cool!

I don't remember the context or any other details, but one of my online acquaintances, Xiphias Gladius, once suggested that ASL handles time travel better than most other languages.

Hmm...

Date: 2015-04-15 02:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It would make sense that any gestural language would survive better than any spoken language, because the former tend to be much more concrete than the latter. When you're basically making a picture of something with your hands, that allows communication even if the other person hasn't been told the meaning, and even if small details vary. But it doesn't take much variation in an abstract spoken word to throw people.

Feel free to prompt for this!

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