This does not flow. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)
This does not flow. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

According to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there is a small, select group of words that have remained largely unchanged since our hunter-gatherer days. The Post’s article on the subject suggested the sentences “You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!” Travel back in time and say that in any Indo-European language — or, heck, any Dravidian or Uralic language — and you might just be understood. Great news if you love to talk about bark!

This is helpful. Unlike with most of the sentences I can remember from my study of ancient languages — beyond the phrase “Alas, my salad is ruined!” I’m pretty much up a creek — you might actually be able to get some conversation going with the study’s list of 23 words. At the very least, you can confuse and alienate a caveman, always a handy skill to have in your arsenal.

Handy All-Purpose Use

-Hear ye, hear ye!

-Fire!

-What?

Trying To End Boring Cave-Cell Phone Conversation

-I do not hear.

-I do not hear you.

-We do not hear you.

-Are you spitting?

If You’re Norman Bates

-What, Mother?

-I do not hear, Mother.

-I do not hear you, Mother.

-A male’s not-worm is this Mother.

If You’re In A Nicolas Cage Movie

-Bark! Ashes!

-What bark?

-WHAT BARK?

-Give this old man bark. -We did not hear the black hand. -The old mother is spitting fire. -The male spits fire. The fire flows.

-Not this.

-Not that.

-NOT THAT!

For Editors

-That did not flow.

-No ‘thou.’

-Pull this ‘Ye.’

-This did not flow.

-You hear? I spit on this.

-You hear, thou worm? Give this to the fire.

-Do not give this to an old mother. Do not give this to a male. Do not give this to an old male. Give this to ashes.
Art Criticism

-Not this black hand.

-Give me that bark.

-Black hand fire ashes flows not.

-What?

Expressions of Love

-This fire flows from me to you.

Rejections of Love

(polite)

- I hear what you give. This fire does not flow from me to you.

(direct) I spit on you, male worm.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.