Were runes the first secret alphabet of mankind? I associate runes with Vikings & what with Norse being a difficult language, they likely kept secrets in runes quite well.

If we think of runes as letters carved on tiny, flat rocks, it must’ve taken a Viking shipload to put together a note. Not to mention trying to glue these to the fridge.

Therefore, runes became symbolic – like using a heart icon to say like/love/dearie, etc. Runic shorthand is quite fun & was revolutionary in language learning, jumping the Norse ahead of the Chinese who scribed long before their northlander cousins, but used up much ink & wore down brushes, necessitating frequent trips to the pig bristle hut.

Runic tools lasted. Hammers & chisels hardly fit into pencil cases & must have been difficult for the children to carry to school.  While the Norse might stop along a coastline, it was mostly to steal sheep & hardly ever to replenish rune-writing supplies.

Many aboriginal cultures never codified words in writing. They used clicking & guttural sounds to speak. These conveyed meaning, carried through jungle undergrowth & cut tribal noise barriers in the villages. It must have been hard to whisper, though.

Runes & other symbols have gone through a difficult time lately. Witness the evolution of the dire warning of skull & crossbones indicating “poison!” into Halloween candy. Since runes dropped from favor & parchment plus bird-feather nibs have also eroded their market share, we have wound up with computers and spell-check. It is obvious that spell-check cannot spell, yet we continue to use it to mix homonyms into a language evocative of illiteracy plus one. This, plus people’s advanced inability to spell on their own has rendered written language somewhat comedic. Mixing words like “there” & “their” obscures meanings effectively. Is AI trying to divide & conquer or are we all so lacking in English skills now?

As to the spoken word, there are far too many verbal Tourette’s tics in conversation, like “y’know?” “got that?” [the ubiquitous] “like” & the ever-present, “um.”

Not me! I learned English at the end of a bladed 12” ruler wielded by a woman who wore rosary beads as ornamentation, probably had headphones blasting AC/DC under her wimple, purchased on my Catholic School March of Dimes money. The nuns I knew collected teeth for misspellings, cut off ears for talking in class & used arcane ritual in curing them to string under the habits. It’s been recently revealed on the Internet that they maintained the purity of the language through threat & the all-effective follow-through of nightly detention. The only thing worse than school all day was school all night, too. In all, what they DID achieve was a kind of immortality of race memory in a group of kids already burdened with confession, confirmation, & breathing chalk dust from clapping erasers.

So, while Vikings used rocks as language – cairns meaning, take a left at the fir tree forest to find more sheep, the Chinese rolled their Gone With Mist Wind manuscripts into thick scrolls & tied them with facial hair. Americans used to be fancy, but now we scribble/scrawl with the best of them. We use language carelessly, ignoring actual definitions, making up more words to misspell & randomizing spelling in general. I won’t even approach gratuitous besmirching of rules of grammar here.

Even as we attempt to simplify language, it becomes more complex. Imagine your average Norseman disembarking his elaborately carven boat to order a pumpkin mocha with turmeric… It was a different time to communicate for sure.

Now I must pull my tongue out of my cheek & I hope you will do so as well. I had to get this off my, um, chest.

Thank you.

One thought on “Runes

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  1. Enlightening… and unrecognizable as sarcasm until the tongue in cheek comment. The catholic school ed under the nuns was so on point that my knuckles hurt just reading about the dreaded ruler.


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