Our local company
dialect of "All present or accounted for!"
usually came out something like,
"Aaw-prehcowfaw!" A few days earlier,
however, my dear friend, Preston, in what he
later assured us was a slip of the tongue, had
said, quite distinctly, "All present or
absent!", starting a noble roll-call
tradition of oneupsmanship: When it's your turn,
be a smart-ass.
Now it was my turn and
I had racked my brain till cheery postcards from
Amnesty International started to roll in, but it
wasn't talking. Nothing. Then, I opened my mouth
and it happened —the
experience I mentioned. I said: "Akul plab
don fuh!" Akul plab don fuh? I was
speaking in tongues! Sarge left me alone for the
rest of the day, I think because I reminded him
of the film earlier that week at the base
theater: The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Science Fiction fans will recall that a nonsense
phrase, kla-atu barada nikto, was
mysteriosly linked to the impressively
destructive powers of a robot —Glog, Gork,
can't believe it: I've finally forgotten a
totally useless fact!). Sarge was taking no
chances that a hole in my forehead, too, would
open and a microwave death ray zap out and
French-fry him to his ancestors.
Technically, speaking in tongues is called glossolalia: the uttering of unintelligble speechlike sounds produced in a state of religious exaltation. It is mentioned in the New Testament, notably in Mark 16:18: "In my name they shall speak with new tongues". However, there is also mention of Old Testament Hebrew prophets speaking in tongues, and the phenomenon was found among Greek and Roman oracles, as well. Today, it exists among the so-called "Whirling Dervishes" in Islamic Sufism and, in Christianity, glossolalia figures prominently in Pentacostal Protestantism and charismatic Roman Catholicism. Generally speaking, such utterances are simpler and more repetitive than "real" languages. Glossolalia is viewed by those who experience it as a very emotional and meaningful event, and by disinterested linguists as a kind of "pseudo-language," on the order of "scat-singing" in jazz or Walt Disney's, "salagadoola, mitchagaboola, bibbidy-bobbidy-boo".
It shouldn't be confused with "secret languages," such as Igpay Atinlay, or Cockney Rhyming Slang, in which, for example, "take a butcher's" means, "take a look," because "look" rhymes with "butcher's hook"! Nor is it the same as well thought out nonsense language, which in structure and sound is virtually the same as natural language. The best-known example of this is probably Lewis Carrol's "Jabberwocky":
'T was brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe/ All mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe.