As you may know, Animals don’t need words to communicate. A subtle language of sound and color, simple beyond our Monster imaginings, is their way - involving images layered with emotion – where cardinal sins come in feathered shades of red, and pools of sanguine darken as they dry, where carmines are deep as ermines are white, where a rose is a rows is a roes…
And that’s exactly where one encounters a major difficulty in translating a written language to a language that has no words, Bink points out. Rose and rows. Red and read. Those pesky homonyms. You can't explain them and you can't pretend they're not there.
Bink, Our Pocket Philologist, as a young lad in his mother’s pouch (dear, mysterious Gretel!) started trying to fathom the intricacies of Monster Language in relation to Animal Language. The complexities of Monster Language came to obsess him, though so much cruder than his mother-tongue. In fact, it is perhaps the crudeness itself that exerted its fatal fascination on his orderly mind. The siren song of chaos?
He sometimes brings his knowledge to Big Bed Land by teaching a seminar. Reactions to these have definitely been mixed in the past, but Bink feels it's important to keep trying. He began his latest seminar by writing this list of words on the blackboard:
Polar Knight (Great Big Bard of Big Bed Land) became excited right away. "I understand those, I really do," he said and right away he improvised the following poem:
"To reed an owed to a buoy aged too
You knead a buoy who can be red two."
"Excellent!" said Bink and explained to all and sundry that Buoy:Boy is an example of what poets call a "slant homonym."
Well, some Animals can read and some can’t – they only learn if they want to – but Lefty is the only one who can sometimes read and sometimes can’t. Bink’s class was on one of the days he couldn’t read. This presented something of a difficulty when talking about spelling, and Bink gave Lefty special attention. Here's an example of the Animal Socratic method:
"OK, Lefty, what do we call words that sound the same but are spelled differently?"
Bink decided he had to put an end to what threatened to shortly become a complete takeover of the Socratic method. Luckily Bink is fast at thinking on Gretel's feet.
"What’s black and white and red all over?" he asked. Lefty adores riddles and jokes. Bink and the rest of class had the pleasure of watching Lefty twist this way and that, stand on his head, scrunch up his face, and remain completely silent while he tried to solve this riddle. At last he presented the solution:
"Chairman Panda in a spangled dream!"
(An ancient story of Big Bed Land relates how Chairman Panda invented the miraculous Panda Air flying hammock as well as the method for Animal Teleportation while dreaming among the newborn stars.)
Bink declared the seminar a success and the students announced there would be a picnic for all Animals in honor of Bink and Gretel! With Alphabet Soup, of course, Bink's favorite.