I've been fascinated by language for some time now. Even as I struggle to learn a second language myself, I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of language and its use in art. I want to start by talking about language a little and then share some of my thoughts on using it in magic. First of all, I tell people a lot that if you're going to describe yourself as a performer, remember that the English language contains more verbs than anything else. Think about it for a second. Run is a pretty general verb that refers to any fast-paced forward locomotion. But there are specific verbs about running. A dash is different from a sprint. Both are different from bounding. And all imply different things than if you were to bolt or streak. The choice of word really makes all the difference. Consider also that the nature of a language, its morphology and syntax, tell you a bit about the culture that created it. Did you know that in Germany, they're more likely to slam two words together than use a loan word? English refers to someone who creates a business as an entrepreneur, a loan word from French. Germany calls such a person an unternehmer (one who undertakes a task), or at more of a stretch the incredibly awesome sounding existenzgruender (one who founds or creates the existence of something). It's a very utilitarian language prone to describe something according to its function. Japanese is similar. There's no direct translation for carousel in Japanese. They call it by the idiom kaiten mokuba, which roughly means "pony toy go round." Knowing their language works that way, you get a rough idea of some of the roots of the culture. By the same token, there are numerous words that translate poorly to other languages or don't have any good analogs. One of my favorites is the Portuguese desenrascanco. It means literally to disentangle yourself but refers specifically to the act of improvising a solution using only resources immediately at hand. There's also the Korean concept of nunchi, the ability to read a person or persons and instinctively know what words and actions are not appropriate in that context. It implies an understanding of social dynamics much subtler than even simple tact. In Russian you have toska, which is the spiritual anguish of longing for something that isn't there. In Spanish, the word duende has evolved from referring to a mythical creature to describing the way a very a powerful work of art moves a person. Think about the kind of cultures that would feel the need to create specific words for such things. Spoken language has itself been assigned mystical power over the ages. Many cultures at one point or another believed that knowing a person's true name gave you power over them. Some Native American tribes would give their people a true name known only to the family and a different name for public use so it would be more difficult for evil entities to find them. Speaking of Native Americans, the Iroquois Nation formed a 200-year-long confederacy between five tribes with only oral tradition to pass down laws. Oral traditions also produced The Iliad and The Odyssey, two of the most significant works of literature in history. Joseph Campbell points out that many myth cycles begin with a prime mover speaking the world into existence. Speaking and chants are still a fundamental part of modern day prayer and magic in world religions. There was some friction among scholars and the faithful when the Vedic verses of Hindu were first written as many adherents believed that the words were originally spoken by a god and thus should remain spoken and never written. Written language itself has great power. Think about how the movable type printing press revolutionized Western society and culture and paved the way for literacy for the masses. In some Chinese dynasties, holding the holy text was vital to maintaining political power. Writing sometimes became a monument unto itself, such as Hammurabi's Code and the Viking runestones. King Sejong the Great of the Choson dynasty of Korea commissioned the scholars of the Hall of Worthies to create Hangul, the written language of Korean, which is still the easiest alphabet in the world to learn. With only a few hours of study, any non-native speaker can read Korean phonetically in this alphabet. South Koreans to this day still celebrate Hangul Day on October 9, the original date of the alphabet's publication. So where does all this lead into magic? I have a few thoughts. Most of them no longer suit my performing style, so it's my hope that someone will make use of them. So in no particular order, here's a list of ideas and half-thoughts I came up with for using language as the theme in magic. -King Sejong invented Hangul so that his people could be literate without relying on the complicated Chinese Hanja script. He had the laws of the land written in Hangul and placed in full public view with scholars travelling from village to village to teach people how to read. Consider the idea of the hundred dollar bill switch to turn random scratches into a message written in Hangul. Change it again into an English translation with the Roman alphabet, giving a positive affirmation to the audience. -Learning someone's true name changes the tone of a stage hypnosis or mind control act and makes it feel more primal and awe-inspiring. -The French have a phrase "l'appel du vide" meaning "call of the void." It refers to that discomforting feeling of wanting to leap from a great height. Makes for a rather eerie presentation for the PK pen or telekinetic timber or similar demonstrations. -Has a magician or mentalist ever attempted some sort of "universal translator" effect before? -Can words be so powerful that they can never be committed to paper? Possible use for billet switches or the hundred dollar bill switch to erase writing spontaneously. -Nothing saying that spirit writing can't be done in different languages and alphabets than what the audience might be expecting. It might lend a note of authenticity to a seance if you're contacting the spirit of, for example, a Russian man and the spirit writing is all in Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet. -In the Yagan language, the word mamihlapinatapei refers to the look between two people who really want to talk to each other but are too hesitant to start. Interesting possible presentation for the linking rings. -Scottish Gaelic uses the word tartle to describe the act of hesitating when introducing someone because you've forgotten their name. Possible variant on Luke Jermay's Reverse Gestalt Moment. -Taking a page from Uri Geller's book, having the audience shout commands at an object in order to achieve the desired result (PK effects being the most obvious application). Thus is revealed the power of the spoken word to reshape reality itself.