به دیکشنوپولیس

کتاب: شبح باجه اخذ عوارض / فصل 3

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3.Welcome to Dictionopolis

“You must excuse my gruff conduct,” the watchdog said, after they’d been driving for some time, “but you see it’s traditional for watchdogs to be ferocious . . .”

Milo was so relieved at having escaped the Doldrums that he assured the dog that he bore him no ill will and, in fact, was very grateful for the assistance.

“Splendid,” shouted the watchdog. “I’m very pleased —I’m sure we’ll be great friends for the rest of the trip.

You may call me Tock.”

“That is a strange name for a dog who goes tickticktickticktick all day,” said Milo. “Why didn’t they call you “

“Don’t say it,” gasped the dog, and Milo could see a tear well up in his eye.

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” said Milo, not meaning to hurt his feelings.

“That’s all right,” said the dog, getting hold of himself. “It’s an old story and a sad one, but I can tell it to you now.

“When my brother was born, the first pup in the family, my parents were overjoyed and immediately named him Tick in expectation of the sound they were sure he’d make. On first winding him, they discovered to their horror that, instead of going tickticktickticktick, he went tocktocktocktocktocktock. They rushed to the Hall of Records to change the name, but too late. It had already been officially inscribed, and nothing could be done. When I arrived, they were determined not to make the same mistake twice and, since it seemed logical that all their children would make the same sound, they named me Tock. Of course, you know the rest—my brother is called Tick because he goes tocktocktocktocktocktocktock and I am called Tock because I go tickticktickticktickticktick and both of us are forever burdened with the wrong names. My parents were so overwrought that they gave up having any more children and devoted their lives to doing good work among the poor and hungry.”

“But how did you become a watchdog?” interjected Milo, hoping to change the subject, as Tock was sobbing quite loudly now.

“That,” he said, rubbing a paw in his eye, “is also traditional. My family have always been watchdogs—from father to son, almost since time began.

“You see,” he continued, beginning to feel better, “once there was no time at all, and people found it very inconvenient. They never knew whether they were eating lunch or dinner, and they were always missing trains.

So time was invented to help them keep track of the day and get places when they should. When they began to count all the time that was available, what with 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, it seemed as if there was much more than could ever be used. ‘If there’s so much of it, it couldn’t be very valuable,’ was the general opinion, and it soon fell into disrepute. People wasted it and even gave it away. Then we were given the job of seeing that no one wasted time again,” he said, sitting up proudly. “It’s hard work but a noble calling. For you see”—and now he was standing on the seat, one foot on the windshield, shouting with his arms outstretched— “it is our most valuable possession, more precious than diamonds. It marches on, it and tide wait for no man, and “

At that point in the speech the car hit a bump in the road and the watchdog collapsed in a heap on the front seat with his alarm again ringing furiously.

“Are you all right?” shouted Milo.

“Umphh,” grunted Tock. “Sorry to get carried away, but I think you get the point.”

As they drove along, Tock continued to explain the importance of time, quoting the old philosophers and poets and illustrating each point with gestures that brought him perilously close to tumbling headlong from the speeding automobile.

Before long they saw in the distance the towers and flags of Dictionopolis sparkling in the sunshine, and in a few moments they reached the great wall and stood at the gateway to the city.

“A-H-H-H-R-R-E-M-M,”roared the gateman, clearing his throat and snapping smartly to attention. “This is Dictionopolis, a happy kingdom, advantageously located in the foothills of confusion and caressed by gentle breezes from the sea of knowledge. Today, by royal proclamation, is market day. Have you come to buy or sell?”

“I beg your pardon?” said Milo.

“Buy or sell, buy or sell,” repeated the gateman impatiently. “Which is it? You must have come here for some reason.”

“Well, I “ Milo began.

“Come now, if you don’t have a reason, you must at least have an explanation or certainly an excuse,” interrupted the gateman.

Milo shook his head.

“Very serious, very serious,” the gateman said, shaking his head also. “You can’t get in without a reason.” He thought for a moment and then continued. “Wait a minute; maybe I have an old one you can use.”

He took a battered suitcase from the gatehouse and began to rummage busily through it, mumbling to himself, “No . . . no . . . no . . this won’t do . . . no . . . h-m-m-m . . . ah, this is fine,” he cried triumphantly, holding up a small medallion on a chain. He dusted it off, and engraved on one side were the words “WHY NOT?”

“That’s a good reason for almost anything—a bit used perhaps, but still quite serviceable.” And with that he placed it around Milo’s neck, pushed back the heavy iron gate, bowed low, and motioned them into the city.

“I wonder what the market will be like,” thought Milo as they drove through the gate; but before there was time for an answer they had driven into an immense square crowded with long lines of stalls heaped with merchandise and decorated in gay-colored bunting.

Overhead a large banner proclaimed:


And, from across the square, five very tall, thin gentlemen regally dressed in silks and satins, plumed hats, and buckled shoes rushed up to the car, stopped short, mopped five brows, caught five breaths, unrolled five parchments, and began talking in turn.




“Good Afternoon!”


Milo nodded his head, and they went on, reading from heir scrolls.

“By order of Azaz the Unabridged “

“King of Dictionopolis “

“Monarch of letters “

“Emperor of phrases, sentences, and miscellaneous figures of speech “

“We offer you the hospitality of our kingdom,”









“Do all those words mean the same thing?” gasped Milo.

“Of course.”




“Yes,” they replied in order.”Well, then,” said Milo, not understanding why each one said the same thing in a slightly different way, “wouldn’t it be simpler to use just one? It would certainly make more sense.”





“Bosh,” they chorused again, and continued.

“We’re not interested in making sense; it’s not our job,” scolded the first.

“Besides,” explained the second, “one word is as good as another—so why not use them all?”

“Then you don’t have to choose which one is right,”

advised the third.

“Besides,” sighed the fourth, “if one is right, then ten are ten times as right.”

“Obviously you don’t know who we are,” sneered the fifth. And they presented themselves one by one as: “The Duke of Definition.”

“The Minister of Meaning.”

“The Earl of Essence.”

“The Count of Connotation.”

“The Undersecretary of Understanding.”

Milo acknowledged the introduction and, as Tock growled softly, the minister explained.

“We are the king’s advisers, or, in more formal terms, his cabinet.”

“Cabinet,” recited the duke: “1. a small private room or closet, case with drawers, etc., for keeping valuables or displaying curiosities; 2. council room for chief ministers of state; 3. a body of official advisers to the chief executive of a nation.”

“You see,” continued the minister, bowing thankfully to the duke, “Dictionopolis is the place where all the words in the world come from. They’re grown right here in our orchards.”

“I didn’t know that words grew on trees,” said Milo timidly.

“Where did you think they grew?” shouted the earl irritably. A small crowd began to gather to see the little boy who didn’t know that letters grew on trees.

“I didn’t know they grew at all,” admitted Milo even more timidly. Several people shook their heads sadly.

“Well, money doesn’t grow on trees, does it?” demanded the count.

“I’ve heard not,” said Milo.

“Then something must. Why not words?” exclaimed the undersecretary triumphantly. The crowd cheered his display of logic and continued about its business.

“To continue,” continued the minister impatiently.

“Once a week by Royal Proclamation the word market is held here in the great square and people come from everywhere to buy the words they need or trade in the words they haven’t used.”

“Our job,” said the count, “is to see that all the words sold are proper ones, for it wouldn’t do to sell someone a word that had no meaning or didn’t exist at all. For instance, if you bought a word like ghlbtsk, where would you use it?”

“It would be difficult,” thought Milo—but there were so many words that were difficult, and he knew hardly any of them.

“But we never choose which ones to use,” explained the earl as they walked toward the market stalls, “for as long as they mean what they mean to mean we don’t care if they make sense or nonsense.”

“Innocence or magnificence,” added the count.

“Reticence or common sense,” said the undersecretary.

“That seems simple enough,” said Milo, trying to be polite.

“Easy as falling off a log,” cried the earl, falling off a log with a loud thump.

“Must you be so clumsy?” shouted the duke.

“All I said was “ began the earl, rubbing his head.

“We heard you,” said the minister angrily, “and you’ll have to find an expression that’s less dangerous.”

The earl dusted himself off as the others snickered audibly.

“You see,” cautioned the count, “you must pick your words very carefully and be sure to say just what you intend to say. And now we must leave to make preparations for the Royal Banquet.”

“You’ll be there, of course,” said the minister.

But before Milo had a chance to say anything, they were rushing off across the square as fast as they had come.

“Enjoy yourself in the market,” shouted back the undersecretary.

“Market,” recited the duke: “an open space or covered building in which “ And that was the last Milo heard as they disappeared into the crowd.

“I never knew words could be so confusing,” Milo said to Tock as he bent down to scratch the dog’s ear.

“Only when you use a lot to say a little,” answered Tock.

Milo thought this was quite the wisest thing he’d heard all day. “Come,” he shouted, “let’s see the market.

It looks very exciting.”

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