They finally came to rest in front of a huge bed of daffodils. He laughed in delight and, to his own surprise, found himself quoting poetry:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
She looked at him, clearly amused but also pleased. "Pardon me?"
Two things struck him. First, that he had just spoken in English. Second, that he hadn't been speaking in English since he'd awoken. It simply hadn't occurred to him that he was using a very different tongue than he'd employed before. When they were rebuilding him, they must have taught him Alona, the World's official language. He knew, somehow, that English was long dead, spoken only by a few scholars. Dr. Elena hadn't understood a word of what he'd said.
But, Alona…what sort of language was it? He found himself automatically reviewing its vocabulary and grammar. Words, roots, syntax… About a fifth of the tongue was from his own period. He detected English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Mandarin, and what he thought might be African languages. The grammar was simple and precise. And verbs were all…
There were no irregular verbs! Even the verb "to be" was completely obedient to the same general set of rules that governed every other verb! Is that possible?
"Hello, hello," she said, gently, still smiling. "Are you still with us?"
"Sorry," he replied. "I was sort of …uh…thinking."
"Thinking about what?"
"Just…everything," it was too difficult to describe what he had really been thinking about. The Discontinuity. "Just thinking how different everything is."
"What was that you said a moment ago? It sounded like a song or something."
"It's a poem," he said, embarrassed. "By William Wordsworth."
"'Voord Sworth.' Was he a friend of yours?"
He giggled. He realized it had a musical sound and she smiled when he did it. "No. He lived a long time before me. He died in 1850."
"Ah, a classic, then."
"Yes, I suppose."
"Can you translate it?"
He tried, but it didn't come out well. Alona was simply not set up to convey nuance or ambiguity. Then he realized that he also knew another language—Pantos. When they'd rebuilt him, they'd made him tri-lingual, his native English, plus Alona, plus another tongue, Pantos, which he knew (somehow) was the language people used today in the Americas and Europe.
Once he was using Pantos, things were much better. Not perfect, but better. The language leant itself to poetry and prose. There were irregular verbs and double entendres. And there were a host of puns.
It was also very gendered. A woman used "Ah," to mean "I." A boy used "ye." Like Latin and the Romance languages, it made heavy use of case endings.
When he was done, she nodded. "Lonely as a cloud," she repeated, looking out over the flowers. "Lonely…but then saved by the golden daffodils. That's nice."
She indicated the grass behind them. "Let's sit." They sat on the ground and looked over the blooms. "You knew a lot of poetry?"
"I liked it," he admitted. "I liked it a lot."
"Did many men like poetry in your day?"
He smiled, a little bitterly. "No. Or women, either. Poetry was no longer one of the popular arts when I was alive."
"You are alive now,"
"I meant the first time."