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Bastardization of Language and Star Trek Episode “The Omega Glory”

December 23, 2010

This topical comic, “The Gettysburg Tweet,” by Arnold Zwicky seemed rather amusing. Then after ruminating on it for a while, a rather perverse feeling took hold. What if this continues and language as we know it becomes as arcane as the ancient language of Sanskrit is today? Will future generations be able to read and, most importantly, interpret what was meant by those words? Will our laws, as written today, have any meaning to future generations? No question, language is evolutionary. Even our Supreme Court struggles to understand what our founding fathers meant in the words so carefully constructed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, some 250 years ago.

Bastardization of language is dangerous. On the most basic level, it can further segregate society between those that know and rule from those that really don’t know and serve. On the highest level, it can create a society that is so localized that sociological and technical growth comes to a quick stop.

Trade and commerce bound the world for collective and unilateral security and growth. This allowed widely diverse groups to understand each other. Without a steady state written language, communication would have been nearly impossible between different cultures. This tool facilitated humans evolution from nomadic hunter gathers to civil beings within a global economy, hopefully. Look how much knowledge was gained by the Rosetta Stone inscribed in 179 BC, a stele found in 1799 by Napoleon’s troops. The inscription appears in three scripts: the upper one is in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle one in Egyptian demotic script, and the lower text in Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (albeit with some differences between them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Language and communication is that which separates and raises us amongst all other life forms.

“The Omega Glory,” from the original Star Trek Series (Season 2, Episode #52, Production #54, 1967–1968) is such an example of what can happen when language becomes so distorted that meaning is lost. The story line goes as follows:

“The two (Captain Kirk and Exeter’s Captain Ron Tracey) fight over a nearby axe when Yang warriors suddenly arrive and take everyone back to their village, which appears as ruins of an ancient building. Their leader, Cloud William, turns out to be the prisoner who was in the cell with Kirk. Cloud curiously produces a very old American Flag and removes ancient manuscripts from a box where he begins to recite words — a poorly pronounced version of the Pledge of Allegiance. When Kirk completes the pledge, the Yangs are shocked. McCoy questions how they know the pledge, and Spock surmises that the cultures may have developed along very similar lines to Earth. Kirk speculates that the Kohms were originally “Communists” and Yangs originally “Yankees”. Apparently, the Omegans had a Cold War much like the one between the United States and the Soviet Union, but unlike Earth, their war heated up and a conflict was fought many centuries ago. Even Spock found the parallel between the two worlds to be “almost too close.”

………….. Cloud is not fully convinced and asks Kirk to complete the “sacred words” starting with ‘E Plebneesta’ from an ancient document he produced.

The Yangs now bow to Kirk as a deity, but he orders them to stand and face him. He looks over the ancient, crumbling document, which appears to be a distorted version of the American Constitution. Kirk finishes the sacred speech (the Preamble to the United States Constitution) and rebukes the Yangs for allowing the document to degrade to mere shibboleth. He declares that the words were not just for the Yangs, but for Kohms, as well, declaring that they “must apply to everyone or they mean nothing.” Cloud doesn’t fully understand, but swears to Kirk that the “holy words” will be obeyed. Kirk smiles at Cloud, convinced that the Yangs, along with the Kohms, will now rebuild their ruined world. Before departing, Kirk stops to take one last proud look at Old Glory.”

In closing, tweeting and texting has become a way of life. There is no way to stop it. Let’s hope that education can play its role and prevent future generations going “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

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