This article is taken from Stand 221, 17(1) March - May 2019.

John Siberry Tongue Tide
Tongue Tide

Odours of the native language reeked in his car, and flavoured his tongue. Closer to the ocean, he slowed to listen to it wail in power lines over desolate land. Parked above the pier, he moved through twilight on the path down to the lit Porta cabin.  His own language tugged and growled on the leash of his tongue.

The native Tongue stood by the door, ‘Bloody cold,’ she said, ‘Come in before you freeze.’

Disappointed not to be greeted in her native language, the linguist thanked her, and remarked how he had seen constellations of glass in the car park. ‘Theft. Saw a used condom too,’ he added.

‘Just the one?’ her wryness asked. ‘They come to burgle cars left overnight by visitors to the island. The isolation here makes it a doddle.’  

She made tea and they discussed native languages, under threat from the ‘imperialist tongues’, as the linguist called them. ‘But history is history, and now the job is to keep you alive,’ he said. He outlined his plans for a major study of her native language. ‘I’d like you to have a significant input.’

The native Tongue refilled his cup and sniffed a carton of milk. ‘I’m not living on a life support system just to keep a mob of native language fetishists happy,’ she asserted. They watched the pier break each wave like a wash of bottles. Wind hauled.  

The linguist nodded, and reiterated the value of all native ...
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