Fibleths of Bobel
March 20, 2020—October 26, 2020
It seemed that Sam’s colleagues from his previous job never understood how he felt. Apparently, they thought that their jokes were funny, or at least innocent. For example, it was well known that Sam was allergic to flowers. When he came to the office for the first time, he announced it himself. “Hi, everyone! My name is Sam Rageworth and I’m allergic to flowers.” At the time nobody seemed to have noticed this important fact. Only later Sam discovered that his colleagues not only took note of his deficiency, but also found it funny to remind him that they were perfectly healthy. When spring came, one particularly obnoxious guy (who Sam had never liked before) said quite frankly, “What nice weather, and the flowers smell so lovely!” When Sam heard this, he could not believe his ears. Most certainly, it was a direct attack. If only Sam were just a little bit less careful and a little bit braver, he would go straight to the flowers guy and hit him with the table lamp.
Enough is enough. Now Sam joined a company that was well-known for its hatred-free, welcoming culture. The company was called Bobel.
“Hi, everyone! My name is Sam Rageworth and I’m allergic to flowers,” said Sam when he entered the new office.
“Hi, and welcome to Bobel, goblaund Sam! Your filthup is noted!” said Eric smiling in a friendly way. The words “goblaund” and “filthup” were new to Sam and he felt slightly confused. However, he decided that he should not start his first day at the new place with silly questions, questions that some people might find inappropriate.
“Hello, Mr Landberk, it’s nice to meet you!” said Sam and extended his hand for a handshake.
Eric flinched and his face became less friendly. “Goblaund Rageworth, I understand that you’re a boblick, so you can be excused for now. However, from now on, each day you should learn how to behave respectfully, in a way that is acceptable to everyone,” said Eric and put his hand on a rubber club, which happened, for some reason, to be attached to his belt.
“But, of course! That’s what I’ve always expected from people around me,” replied Sam trying to ignore the weapon.
“Bobel. Here is the list of basic pure words to get you started,” said Eric and inserted a list of paper into Sam’s hand.
Basic pure words
The usual punishment is twenty strokes. The number of strokes may vary in some cases.
Bobel is a word with a variety of meanings and deep philosophical connotations. Simplified, its meaning is equivalent to the word “good,” which itself needs to be generally avoided. Bobel also can be used as an indication of agreement.
Gogs means everything unpleasant, oppressive, bad. It is the opposite of bobel.
Goblaund stands for “mister.” The word “mister” is an unaccented variant of “master,” attested since the fifteenth century. Both words are connected to inequality and slavery, and so are highly offensive.
Boblick is a person who is new to the company. If such a person were called “newcomer” or some such, they could be offended by the distinction, because they would not be called the same as everyone else.
Filthup means anything that people would like to ban from conversations.
Fibleth means “a person of high rank in the company.” Since high ranking staff is so important, it is imperative that they are addressed using a neutral word. Fibleth also means “handicapped person.”
The abbreviation CEO should never be used because it contains three forbidden words at once. “Chief” (denotes inequality), “executive” (reminds us of executions), and “officer” (denotes inequality and has a military connotation). Say feeble fibleth for CEO. The title is modest and pleasant to the feeble fibleth. In other contexts, the word “feeble” is not to be used, because it is derogatory. The punishment is hundred strokes.
Sam finished reading and looked at Eric, who apparently was waiting to evaluate Sam’s reaction. Sam looked back at the paper and again at Eric. “But, what does it mean twenty strokes, hundred strokes? What are you… beating people here?”
“Look, boblick Rageworth. Have you ever been offended?” asked Eric sternly.
“Yes, so many times in my life!” confessed Sam.
“If so, did you ever want the offenders to be punished properly, without delay?”
“Yes, I guess so,” answered Sam, remembering how he once wanted to utilize his table lamp.
“That’s exactly what we do. You see, mutual respect can be sustained through various means. But when everything fails and a crime is committed, it is important to show that our system is not gogs, not gibbershibberish, it is always ready to react bobelly.”
“I see,” said Sam.
“Bobel,” concluded Eric and the friendly smile returned to his otherwise intelligent face.
For a while, Sam was too excited to start working. Instead, he looked around and observed his new colleagues. At first, there was nothing unusual about them, but soon Sam noticed that they were much more concentrated and disciplined than the people at his previous job. The new colleagues talked rarely, and when they did the meaning of these exchanges eluded Sam, for the phrases often involved words outside of the little dictionary that Eric had provided.
Sam realized just how considerate these people must be. After all, they learned this entire new language to avoid hurting each other. He remembered that Eric said “your filthup is noted,” and “filthup,” according to the dictionary, was “anything that people want to ban from conversations.” That meant that perhaps, not immediately, but eventually, after many petitions, Sam could succeed in banning the word “flowers” from all conversations. He imagined the flowers guy from his previous job trying to make his joke at Bobel, and how upon hearing it Eric takes out his big black rubber club and immediately knocks him down. “This place is something special,” thought Sam.
Nevertheless, Sam wanted to socialize, so he decided to wait till lunch, when, he assumed, a livelier conversation might develop. Indeed, in a way, that’s what happened. Curiously though, from twelve people at the table only three or four would actually speak, everyone else just listened. Sam decided to listen too, but soon he lost any hope of understanding the conversation. The speakers had very impressive vocabularies and they only used prepositions, pronouns, and other auxiliary words from normal English.
Eric looked as if he managed to attend a show by his favorite rock band for the first time. He glanced at Sam, winked, and whispered in awe “Bobel-lang!” At that moment someone apparently made a joke, which Sam missed. He was sure that he wouldn’t understand the joke anyway. Still, everyone laughed and Sam laughed as well. It would be mildly offensive to sit there not laughing.
After lunch, Sam approached Eric and asked timidly, “How can I improve my Bobel-lang? I’m having a bit of difficulty following the conversations here.”
“Go to the room 1403B and get yourself a copy of the book of filth. All the filthups and all the pure words are collected there.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed Sam.
Eric put his hand at Sam’s shoulder and said quietly but menacingly, “It is not excellent, it is Bobel.”
“Bobel,” answered Sam. Eric patted him on the shoulder and moved on.
It wasn’t straightforward, but Sam found the room 1403B. He knocked on the door.
“Uckcraft,” was the answer.
Sam was confused. Not knowing what “uckcraft” meant, he could not decide whether he was invited to enter or denied entrance. Sam also did not know the correct way to ask for clarification without offending the person on the other side of the door even before they saw each other.
“Can I enter?” asked Sam in desperation.
“Ah, a boblick! You can enter,” replied the voice.
Sam entered a small room where many copies of the same book were shoved everywhere.
“My name is Greg. For now, I will speak the relaxed Bobel-lang, very close to the language you’re used to.”
“Thank you!” said Sam, relieved. “I was told that you have a copy of the book of filth…”
“Of course! It’s gonna be a bit hard here without one, haha!” said Greg and winked. He took one of the books and handed it to Sam. “There are just a few things to note about the book. The printed version always lags behind the online version, so I’d recommend reading the online version to be up to date.”
“Is it updated very frequently?”
“Every day we add from ten to twenty filthups,” answered Greg proudly. “But updating filthups is not the hardest part. The challenge is to keep our language pure. Removing all contamination from the language is truly a very hard challenge.”
“Yes! Most English words are contaminated because they have some undesirable connotations attached to them, so that in certain situations for certain people those words may be painfully offensive,” Greg pronounced the word “painfully” like it indeed caused him pain. “So, we invent completely new words that suffer from no such associations, those words are pure. By gradually replacing contaminated words by their pure analogues, we make our language as a whole less offensive.”
“This is ingenious!”
“Quite so. But even though we work very hard, it is an uphill battle. It is a battle of divine against human nature.”
“I don’t understand.”
“There are only so many reasonably short words a speaker of English can comfortably pronounce. As we explore this space, we deplete it. At the same time, another force is at work. The existing pure words become contaminated.”
“But how can this be?” exclaimed Sam.
“I’ll give you an example. We had a pure word for handicapped people, ‘fardit.’ Nothing wrong with it, whatsoever. It was created with care. Of course, no one would dare to abuse this word inside the company, but outside, certain people started to use it as a derogatory nickname. We still do not know who started it. Long story short, we had to replace the word. But this time we had to be clever about it to prevent this scenario from repeating. To achieve that, we decided to combine the negative meaning with something positive. This is how the word ‘fibleth’ came to also mean ‘handicapped.’”
“I admire your inventiveness!”
“Yes, the challenges that we face require a lot of creativity. It is enough for a particular root to become contaminated and other words that happen to use the same root, even merely phonetically, become contaminated too. This is just how the human brain works.”
“How many entries are there in the book as of now?” asked Sam.
“About five thousand.”
“It is probably quite hard to avoid five thousand filthups in everyday conversations,” noted Sam.
“Yes, it is. It takes effort to be respectful to your colleagues.”
“Is there some trick to make it work?”
“There is one. Many people use it here. When you are not sure, just say ‘Bobel,’ which means ‘good’ and in general is considered the most neutral and appropriate response in every situation. If you don’t understand what others say you can also just reply ‘Bobel’ to avoid an unpleasant scene.”
“Bobel, thank you!” replied Sam. He was happy to learn such a useful life hack.
“Bobel,” echoed Greg and returned to his work.
Eric kept Sam busy for the rest of the day and it wasn’t until late evening that Sam got an opportunity to open the book of filth. Sam wanted to get up to speed with the vocabulary and feel more at ease with his new colleagues. Thus, he decided to spend an hour every evening working through the book.
There were two big sections: one for filthups and another one for the dictionary of pure words. Both sections were organized alphabetically. Sam decided to start from the very beginning.
Added: Thursday, 2 April 2020
Use instead: noddledew
Sam was a little surprised to find such specific technical terms in the book. Just to make sure he checked the book cover, it read, “The book of filth: all filthups and pure words, Bobel Inc.” “Sounds about right,” thought Sam and returned to reading.
Explanation from the applicant:
I will remember forever the sunny day of 23rd July 1992. The morning air was fresh and the blue sky invited us to explore the world. For two weeks now I had been debating with R. whether or not dad’s abrasive saw could cut through the rocks. Today we were determined to find out empirically. My dad would kill me if I asked to take his saw, so we decided to take it secretly and try it just a little bit on one rock. As soon as it was established that the saw could indeed cut through it, we would bring it back and nobody would notice.
Since the abrasive saw is very heavy, we had to transport and hold it together with R. Finally, we reached the rock. I was holding the saw with both my hands from behind and R. was holding it from his side. I started the saw. As soon as we brought it in contact with the rock, it slipped and cut R.’s leg. R started screaming like mad and I turned the saw off a few seconds later. He got his leg amputated a day later in the hospital.
I’ve spent most of my life and a substantial amount of money trying to cope with this psychological trauma. I’d appreciate if people did not mention abrasive saws in my presence.
“Wow,” thought Sam. His own problem with flowers seemed so petty now. In this manner Sam soon learned to abandon many other words starting with A: addiction, adolescence, agglutination… Finally, he skipped to F and checked if there was an entry about flowers. There was! Flowers were banned a long time ago, but not because of allergies. At one point at Bobel, in its early romantic era, many were into calling women “flowers.” Female employees eventually protested against it, because they found the name uncomfortable, and so it was banned for good.
Sam leafed through the book and the frightening reality of the world around him became more vivid than ever. So many broken lives, so much pain. Sam did his best to memorize each case so that he could avoid using the banned words. Then he worked through the dictionary trying to remember the most common pure words. He wanted to say at least one phrase in good Bobel-lang tomorrow and thus, deserve the respect of Eric and others.
The next day during lunch Sam came with the book of filth and tried his best to follow the conversation. This time more words were familiar, but he noticed that knowing the words was not enough. There were all sorts of idioms that were not documented in the book. Sam concluded that a specific sub-culture must have evolved over time at Bobel and learning its ways would take more time and effort than he had imagined.
Finally, Sam understood the meaning of the phrase “Goblaund gogs irmooned persh t’ this dotta.” Apparently, that was a good joke, because everyone laughed. Sam roughly translated it as “Mister ‘bad’ disclosed his infatuation towards this woman.”
Sam decided to ask if the woman was beautiful. So he said, “Was the dotta bobel?” As soon as he finished this phrase everyone went silent. People at the table were looking at each other as if they had swallowed something repulsive.
Ten seconds later two men dressed in something resembling military uniform appeared. They took Sam firmly by the hands, thus forming a sort of rigid construction, and escorted him into a small room without windows. In the room Sam was stripped of his possessions, including his copy of the book of filth, and left alone.
Sam understood that he had said something wrong. He decided that he should ask for forgiveness, particularly stressing the fact that he was a boblick, and a very stupid one at that. If this wouldn’t be enough, Sam was prepared to stand on his knees and put on a little theatrical performance.
After ten minutes, a man dressed in an elegant gray uniform appeared. He brought with him a long and narrow case.
“Bobel-lang is hard,” said the man with the intonation that could as well mean “too bad they didn’t have the apple cake today.”
“My name is Leonard Emanuel Surperio, but you can call me fibleth Leo.”
“Nice to meet you, fibleth Leo,” said Sam.
Leo walked back and forth reflecting on something for a minute. Then he said “So… tell me, Sam, do you regard dottas as objects?”
“No, of course not!” replied Sam.
“Then why did you have to ask whether that dotta was any good? When I heard this, it terrified me.” Leo paused and stared for a couple of seconds right into Sam’s eyes. “You have a callous soul, Sam,” he added as if looking at Sam confirmed his worst suspicions. “But do not worry, we will try to fix that.”
Leo opened his case and took out a long metallic rod. On the rod there were little sharp hooks and razors.
“I thought it would be a rubber club,” said Sam, who now understood where this was going.
“Oh no, those are for the categories A and B. This is the category D. We have to use special tools for this one. Your punishment is a hundred strokes as inflicted by this wondrous device.” Leo paused. “It’s called Bobel-blast…” he added meditatively as he admired his weapon.
“I’m a boblick, spare me!” exclaimed Sam and stood on his knees.
“It’s all too fragile, Sam! People’s feelings!” suddenly screamed Leo furiously. “You should’ve been careful with your words.”
“I did not mean to ever offend anyone!” cried Sam. His head touched the floor.
“Who cares? It is not you who assign meaning to your words, it is the people around you. And we chose to assign this meaning,” said Leo. “Hundred strokes will probably kill you if I do them all at once. We are sensible people, so I’ll do ten per day for ten days. By the end of this period, you will arrive at a new understanding of the situation. I’m gonna ask about your thoughts regarding the procedure every day and you must answer in proper and respectful Bobel-lang. I’ll judge your replies and if I’m still uncomfortable with them I may extend your punishment.”
And so, the torture began. At the end of each session, Sam was wise enough to say just one word “bobel” which usually satisfied Leo. By the third day though Sam had lost so much blood that he found it difficult to speak. Sam wanted to say “bobel.” He knew that it was the right answer and all other phrases would only bring him more troubles. He did not want problems. He wanted to conform in the best way possible. Yet he was so weak that even saying the single word was too hard. The word shined in his head as an image of something holy, something that would surely save him from further beating. In his deluded brain, he tried to reach the word, to catch the glowing image, to pronounce it like a spell, an all-healing incantation, but no matter how hard he tried the word “bobel” would not come out of his mouth.
Leo waited. He wanted his answer. When he saw that no answer was going to follow, he said “too gogs” and finished Sam off mercifully by cutting his throat with a special ceremonial knife. Shortly after that Leo made a phone call. In a few minutes, two cleaners and a woman in a similar gray uniform appeared. Leo looked her in the eyes for a moment. Suddenly, he changed, as if a spell were broken. He hugged the woman like a scared child hugs his mother and whispered in her ear “Asked if the dotta was bobel…” The emotions came out at last, for they could be suppressed no longer. Leo cried. His tears were like waters of a wild river that emerges from icy mountain peaks despite all the difficulties. The tears were pure.