If the Devil himself confronted me and told me I could have one superpower in exchange for my soul, what would that Satanic superpower be? It would be language. Language. Like being able to speak and understand any language known to humanity, to be able to convince and sway. To communicate with any and all. The silver tongue.
When I saw “The Devil’s Advocate“, what impressed upon me most was the Devil’s ability to speak to anybody. The confrontation with the aggressive Chicanos on the subway; he got out of that by speaking fluent Spanish, omnisciently describing the color of the sheets the assailant’s girlfriend was cheating on. In the lounge, his whispering convinced the girl sitting with him to go down under the table and give him service. He was able to speak to anyone and have his way. He understood humanity, and his ability to talk to them in terms they understood gave him power.
Tonight, as I sit watching the horrible English dub of the excellent Swedish production of “The Girl Who Played With Fire” (part 2 of the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series), I’m wishing that I could communicate in fluent Swedish, that I could enjoy it in its original tongue without having to read subtitles or listen to any out-of-synch translations with phony-sounding voice actors. I wish I could enjoy any movie, any song, or join any conversation in the speaker’s lingua franca and not miss a beat.
Language is a powerful force. The variation in languages serves to divide us from the Others and serves to unite us against the Outsiders. It is both a community-builder and a world-destroyer. Anybody who can leap from tongue to tongue like a Satanic goat who leaps between rocks on the mountainside, anybody who can transcend any language and cultural barriers that separate us, anybody who can sway and convince and enjoin, that man is a force to be reckoned with.
That is why I want the power of language.