“Oh, but Stephen Hawking was an adult when the lost the ability to speak”
– It was at this sentence that I got an idea of the significance of “Blissymbolics”, a pictorial language invented in ’40s by one Charles Bliss. I was reading a piece from “In the Land of invented languages” on this language (Enough has been said about this book in this blog by now).
Coming to the point, “Blissymbolics” is a language of symbols. According to Bliss, lots and lots of ideas and feelings can be expressed through a small set of basic symbols and their combinations. The usage of this language at the Ontario Crippled Children Center (OCCC) and the effect it had in the lives of those kids was an interesting and touching story to read.
The arrival of Bliss himself to OCCC and the events that followed were both amusing and astonishing at the same time. In the beginning of this book, when Arika Okrent was talking about the eccentricities in language inventors, I thought – may be thats an exaggeration. But, as I read further, especially, as I read the story of Bliss and his language – I understood Arika’s words on eccentricities better. In a way, its amusing to see people getting possessive about a language. I mean, they might have invented it – but, if it is to have a universal acceptance, how can they be the sole owner?
Anyways, coming back to the story of Blissymbolics, it was to some extent interesting to see how Bliss did not understand the differences in intentions of the OCCC and himself, regarding the development of a language of symbols. The idea of “tyranny of words” or on the complaints about “nouns, verbs” – was really very interesting, I never thought about that aspect before.
Ofcourse, I do sympathise with the lead lady of this story – Shirley. It might have been a real pain to bear Bliss and persist with the association, just for the benefit of OCCC children. But, at any rate, all the drama that happened once Bliss got involved with OCCC can easily be made as a very hilarious movie.
Reading about Bliss’ past – his life, moving in to German concentration camp and then to China where he first got insights about the universal appeal of a language of symbols – leaves me with some doubts about the roots of his eccentricity.
What purpose does the above thought serve now, anyways? !!
This book is a must read i say!