"You know how they used to think names had power? You know, that if you said a god's name, or a demon's, that they would notice and maybe take offense, or whatever?"

"What do you mean, 'used to'? I remember Miss Stewart in Grade 7 getting extremely upset whenever I said 'God'."

"And sometimes they said that having a being's name gave you power over it. So, let's say there's some immensely powerful being out there, and if you said its name it would be forced to do your bidding."

"Or maybe just grant you three wishes."

"Whatever. So let's say that this hasn't happened, since we're not all paying homage to an immortal god-king."

"Or queen."

"Or queen."

"You're assuming that that's what this person who summoned this notional being would want to do."

"And you're saying you wouldn't?"

"No, but maybe someone more pure of heart got this power."

"I think I can neglect that possibility."

"So what is your point, then?"

"If it hasn't happened, then this being's name hasn't been uttered yet, even by accident. And this being would presumably not want its name uttered by accident anyway. So it probably won't be found in any common phrase in any language, or dialect thereof. So, if you were searching for this name, you would have to eliminate all those phrases from consideration."

"What about phrases that are grammatically correct, but--what was the phrase?--'semantically void'. Like 'Green ideas sleep furiously', or 'Get those nachos off my crotch!'?"

"Well, I could eliminate those, since you just said them and, as far as I can tell, you don't have absolute power."

"Let's see. No, your head hasn't exploded yet, so I guess you're right. So what you have here, basically, is another project that you'll never finish. Unless I'm mistaken, there aren't any phonetic dictionaries of Ancient Cretan for you to work with, and I don't think Modern Cretin is sufficiently close."

"Still, I can determine certain things about this notional being's name. A minimum length, for one thing, since even with the subset of languages I can get information on, I can probably eliminate every single one-syllable sound combination."

"You think that there's some language out there that has 'skrengths' in it? Hang, that wasn't it either. Darn."

"I haven't gotten near done all the modern languages yet. Georgian has some pretty impressive consonant clusters in it, and I'm sure there are others. Hawaiian took me no time at all."

"Have you considered what would happen if this name happened to belong to some being that would get so annoyed at being addressed that it would destroy the entire universe in a fit of pique? That hasn't happened yet either, but I'm not exactly eager for it to occur. And the existence of one is, as far as I'm concerned, as likely as the other."


"I think I'll stick to commonly-used phrases for a while, okay?"

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey /