Why does everyone speak English?


Why does everyone in the Perilous Realm speak English? a reader asked me.

The short if cryptic answer is that they're not speaking English, they're speaking Story. If someone from France came to the Realm, she'd probably find everyone speaking French. A Japanese person would hear everyone speaking Japanese. It should be remembered that The Shadow of Malabron is really a translation into English of a story written in story, so to speak.

There are, however, numerous indigenous languages in the Realm that a visitor might have chance to hear spoken, including Eldish, an ancient tongue spoken by dragons, elementals and other creatures of wonder. It's said that anyone who can speak a full sentence in this obscure tongue will feel a strong connection to the earth, like an electrical current humming in his bones. Or there's Portentic, an ominous-sounding language of low, guttural syllables favoured by wizards and witches. They copy down their secret spells in this language, and often use it when we mere mortals come snooping around, in order to awe and intimidate us. Another odd language is Carc. The entire vocabularly of Carc consists of one word: carc. What exactly carc means depends on how you pronounce it, and to whom, and where, and at what hour of the day or kind of weather. So one must be very careful using this language, since carc, depending on changing circumstances, might mean I come in peace at one moment, and my goodness you really fell off the ugly tree, didn't you? the next.

One of my favourite Realm languages is Babbelese. Anyone can speak it fluently without any practice or lessons. All you have to do is open your mouth and go. Anything you say, even a string of slapped-together grunts and other assorted noises, means something in Babbelese. You often hear minor background characters in a story speaking it, in an undertone, just at the edge of the main action.