Dialogue on monoglossia

Yet another exercise written for a “Creative Writing” class…assignment was to make a dialogue that started with “No, monoglossia isn’t a disease”. My immediate thought upon reading that assignment was (as is yours undoubtedly right at this very moment): “WTF is monoglossia?!”. But then I read up on it and came up with this:

“No, monoglossia isn’t a disease,” Tom was clearly in his patronising mood again.

“OK, what is it then?” Jerry prepared himself for yet another “exciting” lecture. He liked Tom alright, but sometimes Tom could become a bit too self-important.

“Well…as a matter of fact monoglossia is the opposite of heteroglossia!” Tom looked at Jerry and smirked. Now he was being funny too.

Jerry let out an annoyed groan, but to humour Tom he played along. “That’s great! Knowing what heteroglossia is would be even more helpful, thanks.”

“Well, to put it in layman’s terms,” Tom leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands together, “monoglossia is a tendency toward a so-called master language, which will be dominant in a society, while hetero…”

“Geez, who comes up with this stuff?!” Jerry was getting bored already.

“Shhh, just let me finish! So, heteroglossia is the opposite of monoglossia. It’s a tendency toward having many different dialects and such within a language,” Tom paused just long enough to catch his breath, “Now, to answer your impatient question, it was none other than Bakhtin himself that coined these terms.”

“Oh yes, Bakhtin, it’s all clear now, of course! Will you elaborate on who this Bakhtin person is, or…?”

“Not Bakhtin person, but Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, a Soviet philosopher and literary critic. Wrote a lot on language in society and literature and the like. Maybe you should read his stuff sometime.”

“Maybe I should,” Jerry took his time to process Tom’s words of wisdom, while Tom rocked slowly back and forth in his chair, content with a successfully delivered speech.

“So, I get it, monoglossia – it’s kind of like ‘newspeak’ in Nineteen Eighty-Four, right?” Jerry felt he nailed it.

“New what now?” Tom could not have looked more perplexed if he tried.

“Newspeak? George Orwell? Nineteen Eighty Four?”

“Who is George Orwell?” Tom was still blank.

Jerry couldn’t believe it “No way, man! George Orwell! You’re pulling my leg, right?”

“I am not doing anything to any of your limbs, no. ‘George Orwell’ just doesn’t ring a bell is all” Tom got out of his chair and walked over to his book shelves, filled with scientific journals and encyclopaedias. His eyes were scanning author names for a “George Orwell”, who was nowhere to be found in this non-fiction collection.

Jerry was getting worked up now. “Man, you’ve GOT to be kidding me right now! You know of some obscure Russian dude called Babushkin, but you haven’t heard of George Orwell? That’s like fifth grade stuff, man!”

“It’s Bakhtin, not Babushkin,” Tom bounced right back into his lecture mode.

“Whatever. Maybe you should read some fiction sometime, instead of reading about it!”

Tom yawned, “Yeah, maybe. Anyways, I’ve got my dissertation to finish, so if you don’t mind let’s just call it a night”

“I wonder if that would be ‘unday’ in newspeak?” Jerry cracked himself up.


“Nevermind. Good luck on that dissertation”, Jerry took his coat, “And seriously, read Nineteen Eighty-Four one day!”


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