Unicornian for Beginners

A lot of people coming in off the street think that a new age store is going to be staffed by a bunch of bimbos who just fell off some psychedelic turnip truck. I’m not saying there aren’t stores like that, but most of them went out of business a good twenty or thirty years ago. Our store is run by two women with both business and common sense, as well as a sincere interest in belief systems. They hired me not so much for my personal beliefs as for my ability to work the cash register, stock shelves, and help customers find what they’re looking for—which can be anything from a patchouli candle to enlightenment. But the stereotype remains, and some people seem to think there’s no end to our credulity–like the guy who came in and tried to sell me a “very spiritual” dead bug.

We’re not awful fussy about used books, though. We buy them cheap and will put just about anything on the shelf with a half-off sticker, on the theory that if somebody bought it in the first place, chances are someone else will give it a try. But every once in awhile, one of those books will just keep winking at me from the shelf until I buy it.

That’s how I ended up with The Gift of the Unicorns: Sacred Secrets of Unicorn Magic, by Almine, a book that purports to deliver its channeled message in actual unicorn language. A book so ludicrous, so bizarre, and so execrably written that I just had to take it home and try to figure out some way to make it work.

Almine channels messages from unicorns, merfolk, dragons, giants, the pegassus (which she uses as a collective noun—deal with it), and some mini-dragons called “twitches.” She transcribes first into unicorn (or whatever) speech and then translates. Here, for example, is the name of one unicorn: Brshmirklekleurtlvapelshnuritvakulesna, meaning “The one who whispers ‘fairies are real’.” That’s one of the shorter names.

I’ve always loved making up languages. As a kid dreamed of working up a whole new foreign language, memorizing it and writing in it, but never got further than lists of plant names and such. Even as an adult, I’ve made up codes and partial languages, groupings of words to use in talking about made up places and such—mostly for fiction, but sometimes just fun. It’s hard. Even to come up with a few words for aliens to bat back and forth, you need to make your language consistent, logical, and different enough from English to be credible. Related words have to sound related; you can’t just make up something new every time. So the idea that someone had worked her way through enough grammar, vocabulary and phonetics to take a righteous stab at half a dozen fake languages impressed the hell out of me.

That is, until I got the book home and tried to work out some unicorn language basics from the translations. The first thing you look for in a foreign language is congruent words and parts of words, and Almine seems to have sort of neglected to make any of her words match. Here are a few lines in pegasus:

Pilech stras vu urech spiulich nis strava (Others of us purify the air.)

Steri nutva beleki habistra urvavet (We purify thoughts and emotions too.)

Klu achstra ba letvi huret averstet (But purification isn’t all that we do.)

If you can guess which word is the root for the “pure” words, you’re doing better than I am. The two closest words I can find are “stras” and “strava,” but unfortunately they’re in the same line.

How disappointing! Here I thought I’d found a fellow fake language geek, and it turns out she was just generating random phonemes on her word processor.

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