This Is Fairyland, Speak Ozish


I’ve written before about how everyone in Oz at least seems to speak English. Ruth Plumly Thompson apparently thought Ozish and English were the same language, while Sherwood Smith’s books give some hints of an automatic translation spell of sorts. I prefer the former, but I’ll admit it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I suppose an earlier visitor (before the Wizard of Oz) could have introduced English, but then why would all the remote kingdoms have adopted it as well? And it’s not just Oz where American visitors can instantly understand the people, but the surrounding fairyland as well. In Pirates, Peter Brown notes that “Ozish was the same as English and spoken in all the fairy countries he had visited so far.” Sure enough, even though the native language of Shell City is Shell, the inhabitants speak Ozish/English as well.

It even goes beyond this in the Thompson books. When Atmos Fere abducts Ozma in Hungry Tiger, he is surprised to find her “talking Airish.”

While the language spoken by Planetty of Anuther Planet includes many strange words, it’s still mostly the same. It’s more like a dialect of the same language than a totally different one.

And perhaps strangest of all, the reanimated dinosaur skeleton Terrybubble speaks the same language as well. When Speedy comments on this, the dinosaur replies, “It was probably our language before it was yours.” So dinosaurs spoke English? That reminds me of the first Simpsons Halloween special, when one of the aliens said that, through an extraordinary coincidence, English and Rigelian were exactly the same. Maybe it’s more likely that Terrybubble’s ability to speak English resulted from his being close to a fairyland, or to the geyser that both fused his bones together and brought him back to life.

But then, perhaps English really IS a language that dates back to before mankind, and it just took a while for humanity to reconstruct it. If English was good enough for the dinosaurs, it’s good enough for me!

This entry was posted in Characters, Language, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Television, The Simpsons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to This Is Fairyland, Speak Ozish

  1. Unfortunately, there’s a real school of loonies who actually believe that Modern English is the primordial language of England, that Modern Italian is the primordial language of Italy, etc., etc., etc.. Latin and Old English? Just a conspiracy of them thar pointy-headed intelekchuls.

  2. I like this article! Reminds me that I want to come up with a solution for it!

    • Nathan says:

      Do you have any theories on the subject?

      • As of this moment, I have mostly inchoate ideas than fully fleshed out theories. In my own The Phanfasms of Oz, those who live in the pre-Ozian realm definitely do not speak English, but, of course, much of it takes place before English even exists as a language. Linguistics and etymology play a large role for me in the conceptual stage, but in the context of the tale itself, how Oz transitions to an English-speaking realm is something I’m still organically exploring as I develop the story. One thing I don’t want to fall back on is saying there’s a magical babel-fish that affects visits because I just think that’s lazy, but I do think fairies can speak any language, that language is not a barrier for them at all. But I also think there’s much more to the story than that, which if this book doesn’t become encyclopedia-length, I’d like to uncover.

      • rri0189 says:

        In my own ridiculous “A Hobbit in Oz”, I assume that Proto-Ozish is exactly the same as Westron, despite some Modern-English-based etymologies. Well, so does Tolkien….

      • Nathan says:

        Does “Oz” mean “great and good” in Westron, though?

      • Nathan says:

        Professor Wogglebug does have pills that produce automatic translation, and the Elixir of Life gave John Dough the ability to understand all languages.

      • I’ve yet to find any etymological link between Oz and Uz, though it’s definitely worth another look. The Arizona concept is new to me, but interesting as well. There is definitely a North American connection to Oz, but there are also more ancient roots (e.g., Persian, Greek) extant in the Nonestican continent (and Oz itself) as preserved in such name-places as Rash, Aurissau, Burzee, Regos, Samandra, Seebania and others. Marcus and Jeff underscored that in their recent trilogy with Ozamaland being revealed to actually be Ot’sama.

        As to the Omega-Zeta, yes, but only coming from a Greek transliteration of Oz. Interestingly, it might sound out, from an American pronunciation, like “Ohs,” which, of course, Baum is said to have liked stories that make the readers exclaim with “Ohs and Ahs.” The latter of that, “Ahs” is a possible American pronunciation of AZ (there’s the Arizona connection). If Baum was looking at different things, and derived the idea from the Alpha and the Omega in terms of it being the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and doing an American conception of that (and not a Greek one), that would, the English alphabet, be A-Z.

        Obviously, from an Oz-as-History perspective, we continue to postulate that Baum tapped into something otherworldly, and yet historically true, regardless of the seemingly mundane intervals of synchronicity that led him there.

      • Nathan says:

        Well, Burzee might just be a play on “burrs,” as March Laumer speculated in “The Woozy’s Tricky Beginning.” But yes, there are a lot of different language roots involved, as well as some that are just totally made up. Overall, I think Oz is definitely a combination of many different cultures, just as the United States is.

      • While I don’t take Laumer’s works into account, that’s not an unreasonable speculation. Without giving anything away, I have the name referring both to the ancient word for Persia (Parsee) and the history of the land first occupied by the Erbs.

      • Nathan says:

        I don’t consider Laumer’s work canonical, but he was certainly skilled with the multilingual puns.

  3. rrio189, I’d be interested in reading your story if you’d be willing to share it.

    Nathan: The Hebrew word Oz means “strength, might and power,” so one can possibly derive “great” from there. If Baum actually had derived Oz from the Alpha and the Omega (A and Z)–which is admittedly suspect–then one could see where he’d have gotten “good” from.

  4. Pingback: The Roots of Language in Oz | VoVatia

  5. Pingback: Carpeting the Gaps | VoVatia

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