Thorn of the Rose: Issue 19: Playing the Rose
What words do you trust?
Petal taught the children in the Greenhouse how to play Rose. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were devoted to Rose games, either card games from the two somewhat frayed decks or word games from the Rose alphabet, making new words.
In Rose, each letter had an assigned concept. Each concept could be written in a few different ways, so you had two to ten symbols per letter. The Rose Card Deck had 92 cards, one for each letter-concept, so you could play a version of scrabble, doling out the vowels as precious commodities. Or you could play catch the word or charades—act out the word. The younger set liked this best, as they could jump or cry or laugh with the concepts.
Of all the card games, Thorn liked Connect the Ideas best. You selected 4 cards and then waited for the first person to put down a card. Then in a circle, you had to lay down a card next to one that was a similar concept and explain why it was connected. You could make up a silly story or provide a long winded explanation or even a short one. The only thing you could not say was “because.” There had to be a reason. And Thorn was rapidly figuring out that the only place where actions required a reason was this card game.
The other game was to write in Rose, instantly, without recourse to the reference chart of symbols in preparation for the Rose essay, which Petal said was one of the ultimate achievements in cognition. The rules of Instant Rose were simple and required only pen and paper. Someone shouted out a word and everyone wrote it in pure Rose—all Rose symbols. Then a judge interpreted your word and awarded points based on complexity and poetry. Thorn complained that no one could judge poetry, but Petal said that people had always found a way to do that anyway
. If you could write in Rose, Petal would forever remind them, you could think anything. To write in Rose, you needed to know which symbols could be that letter, and then you had to know what concepts those letter-symbols stood for. You could to attach that concept to your word or not. Pure-bred Rose language used only the symbol concepts and never reverted to latin characters, while hybrid Rose used some symbols for emphasis and the rest latin characters.
Either one was perfectly fine, but the more symbols then the more complexity. Petal would write a word on one of the scrounged papers, and then pass the paper around. You got points for the Rose symbols you used and extra points if you could write the symbols without looking at the handy reference chart . the hardest ones were when Petal would ask you to write your own concept—to show how you were feeling. But what if you were feeling B: fear and the word you wanted to write did not have a B in it? Or P: angry when you were not allowed to write “pissed off,” which was the only angry word you could think of without swearing more.
“Aaah,” said Petal, her finger to her temple. “That is when the thinking, the strategy in this game really begins. What else can you say that has that letter in it? Can you use that word in a phrase that has that letter in it? You see, at the very foundation of this language is a word game.” After Sister Mary Magdalene brought in the books from the abandoned school library over on Bates, the writing game got easier.
Petal taught everyone how to read a paper thesaurus, as going on the net to find dictionaries and knowledge there was just too fraught with difficulties. In a paper thesaurus, you looked at the back of the book, which had words in neat long columns in an alphabetic order. Then you noted the number of the entry beside that word and looked up the entry, with its lists upon endless lists:
"58: ORDER: in order, methodically, in turn, in its turn, step by step, systematically, by clockwork
59: DISORDER complexity, complications, entanglement, intricacy, maze, labyrinth, tangled skein, wilderness, jungle, network " Rogets Thesaurus 1968.