WE Need to Talk

Posted in MainPage at 9:50 pm by admin

About 23 years ago (as of this writing) I descended into the murky depths of Fantasy Role Playing Games, most notably Dungeons & Dragons. It was several years later that I finally clawed my way out. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the experience. I see nothing wrong with FRPGs. For me, however, they turned into something of an addiction. (Aside: for an amusing attack on FRPGs, inaccurate in its entirety, visit: www.chick.com For pity’s sake, an 8th level Cleric getting invited into some real life cabal, yeah, right. You gotta get at least four characters to 16th level before that happens. 🙂

From this experience, I made some life long friends and learned many valuable lessons in human interaction. My friends and I also developed some interesting (to us, anyway) thoughts on language. One was sparked by an article in Dragon Magazine which described the language of thieves in the D&D world. This language is called “Thieve’s Cant.” And is supposed to be this ultra-secret way for thieves to communicate. Dragon magazine published a primer on the language along with notes on some of its eccentricities.

Our favorite was the fact that Thieve’s Cant has two different words that each translate to, roughly, the first person plural pronoun, “we.” The first of these two “we(1)” words is used to indicate the speaker, the person or persons addressed and (perhaps) others. The second, “we(2)”, is the more amusing of the two. It means the speaker and some others but specifically excludes the person or persons addressed. They gave an example of the typical use of the second form that went, essentially: “You two guard the door while we(2) count and divide the treasure.” If one were to attempt to get the same meaning across in spoken english, one would have to emphasise and extend the terms “you” and “we(2)” and accompany them with several gestures.

We(2) began to refer to this second sense of the word as the “Thieve’s we(2)” while the first sense became known as the “Common We(1).”

This important but subtle distinction festered in our little minds to the point that we(2) noticed other uses of the overloaded word “we.” Such as, the “King’s we(3)” which means me and no one else, but we(3) are so important that “I” is insufficient to refer to our greatness. Then there is the “nurse’s we(4)” meaning only the singular party addressed, as in “How are we(4) feeling today.”

The final sense of “we” that we(2) identified, we(2) called the “Manager’s we(5).” This sense is typically used when assigning some particularly odious task or identifying a shortcoming. It’s meaning is intended to include the person or persons addressed, perhaps some others, but specifically not the speaker. A prime example of the need for this distinction is the observation, “We(5) need to be more careful how we(5) clean out all the human excrement from beneath the toilet tank.” Clearly, a manager would never involve himself in such a task, so the correct meaning of the word is obvious.

Props to my bud, D.M., who reminded me that I really needed to write all this down. We(5) may owe him a debt of thanks.

It should be noted that Dungeons & Dragons, D&D and Dragon Magazine are probably trademarks, possibly even registered ones, of someone and that this article is not an authorized work of any of those trademark holders.

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