Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Tower of Babel
I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, “Talking in tongues” and are familiar with the Biblical
story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter X1.
So to those of you, who say, “There is no future in the past” and “History is a pile of Bunkum!”
I’d like to take this opportunity to enlighten you and perhaps change your narrow-minded
I would like to debate the following issue:
The Tower of Babel is alive and well, it is living in our cell phones and is copulating and
breeding at an alarming rate!
Throughout my sixty years as a jobbing actor it has never ceased to amaze me how the jargon and Lingo-Franca of my own industry and all other professions changes on an almost yearly basis.
In years gone by I had to cope with several foreign tongues. French, German, Russian, Polish
were, and still are, my “Pigeon-Tongues”.
I can still ask where the loo is because I need to do a number two, in all these languages. I can
introduce myself and ask where I can get a free drink. And if I was involved with a member of the
opposite sex I could always fall back on a tourist phrase book for the translation of the stock
phrase, “Your place or mine?”
The passion of sex is the same in all languages and needs no translation, I think you’ll agree?
But today I have to admit that I am in constant need of a translator, not in the area of sexual exploits as I can’t afford Viagra, but in the area of text messaging. Only the other day I received a message that went as follows, “M U @ / Ho 4 ish!!”
The 4ish is easy enough as I have always been a stickler when it comes to punctuality. But I’m
afraid the rest did tax even my rather bright Thespian’s brain.
Being a cryptic crossword enthusiast does help and it only took me a few minutes to ascertain that someone wanted to meet me at the back of a house or home at 4 o’clock rather urgently. The urgency is apparently being conveyed in the double exclamation mark.
The problem then arose as to who had sent me the message as it has been logged as a “Private
number”. I do know that there are ways and means using the most up to date technology available
and I could have spent half an hour at the local Internet cafe and discovered who was trying to
But surely when you think of the amount of time the sender had spent encrypting the message; the
time I had to spend de-encrypting it; and the time spent by the service provider sending it; and
the time I would have had to spend at the Internet cafe; You must agree that it would have been
quicker for the sender to engage the services of the Wells Fargo stage coach mail line.
The other point I would like to raise is that in spite of this global phenomena of instant communication, the powers that be in both government and the private sector can still take days,
sometimes even months and years to solve a simple problem like, “Where’s my pay cheque?”
I think I have proved that the “Tower of Babel” is most certainly alive and is living in our cell
phones. The question still remains though as to whether it is “Well?”
At the turn of the last century, - 19th into the twentieth, - Sir William S. Gilbert of Gilbert
and Sullivan fame said, “We all use language that would make your hair curl.”
Was he maybe alluding or referring to the illnesses that could be caught by the use of bad language?
Should that be the case I feel frightened that we are now rearing future generations of curly-
haired people. Just think of the consequences. Millions of “Perm-Set-and-Wavers” out of a job.
Hair dressing salons with advance bookings of over a year. Hair straightening clinics opening up
on every street corner.
The mind boggles.
Harking back to Genesis, when the dear Lord gave us our languages and dialects, I don’t think he
had planned or envisaged that we would need to invent another that is compiled of asterixes,
exclamation marks, numerals, capital letters and back-slashes.
I do concede that all professions and trades have their own lingo and specialised vocabularies.
My own industry is no exception. “Print the 4th along with the pick-ups on eight and nine and can
This could be a common demand from a movie director to his continuity advisor. He is of course
referring to the “Takes” that have been shot on a particular set-up. He is telling his advisor of
the ones that he wants printed from the negative that will be sent to the film laboratory and the
ones he doesn’t want can stay on the negative in the film canister. Simple enough, but for
someone outside the industry it would probably either not interest them, or they wouldn’t have a
clue what he was talking about
Fifteen years ago in the early days of cell technology, my son, who works in the world of finance
told me, “The upward flotation trend in the present bear market could fold if the C I figures
Stateside weren’t hot.”
I was working in Scunthorpe Rep at the time and was shopping in the high street looking for a
friendly off-license run by an Indian friend of mine. Habbib had told me he had a special on
3-litre chateau cardboard dry red and “Toddie” was empty.
After leaving Habbibs’ wheeling my shopping trolley filled with twenty-five boxes, I kept
glancing at the shop windows to see if I could find an establishment selling bears. And my mind
was occupied as I tried to envisage what type and size of clothes a one-eyed Cyclops living in
America would buy if he was feeling a trifle warm.
I am sure you are aware by now that my imagination does tend to run wild. But I was following my
own rules of translation. “I” in sms-lingo can mean the personal pronoun or it could be an “eye”.
Now most of us humans are graced with two of these organs, one on the right side of our faces and
one on the left side. So I immediately jumped to the conclusion that my son was referring to a
person who had a central eye, a “C I”.
The only person I knew of that fitted that description is a Cyclops from Greek mythology.
Needless to say that same evening after I had finished my performance portraying a brain damaged forty-year old man who had the mind of a three-year old and could only communicate in grunts and gurgles, my head was again catapulted into a state of utter confusion.
I received another text message from my son. “Ur shares 4 OL 2 B off-ld”. Please help me.
Point proved; there is always future in the past! It’s just that nobody bothers to look for it.