Sunday, October 23, 2011

Alphabeasts: B is for Babel Fish

This week's entry in "Alphabeasts" is a phenomenally useful creature, to the point that it's a veritable icon for the improbable, implausible, and effective removal of certain sorts of barriers. Nothing solves the problem of interspecies linguistic communication quite like the babel fish.

That said, I don't think there's any canonical visual representation of the little critter. The recent Hitchhiker's movie has a lot going for it (Messrs. Rockwell, Fry, and Def, at the very least), but if you watch this clip, I think you'll agree with me that the babel fish in the movie would never fit in a human ear canal. The old TV show Hitchhiker's has a diagram that says the creature is leechlike but just looks like a kissing gourami.

So I had a little license to come up with one of my own.

In the process, I learned that one may not want to do an image search for leeches, and I located a couple of interesting noncanonical images of the fish. In my version, I have included little flipper-limbs in tribute to the recent movie, and a few hooks that the babel fish (which gets its nourishment from its host's thoughtwaves) could use to keep itself in place once installed.

Why would a creature that lives inside its host have great big eyes? In my version, they're just eyespot markings on the babel fish's ventral surface. I figure that it's to the babel fish's advantage to look cuter than a leech, since it needs its hosts to be willing to put a little yellow slimy thing into their ears.

Next week: since I've already done ear insertion, we'll skip the Ceti eel in favor of a visit to my favorite comics fantasy universe.


Curious Art said...

Aww. :-) I was a huge HGTTG fan way back in the day. And I've met many an actual leech in my southern childhood, but none ever did me the favor of endowing me with linguistic skills. (Unless you count early cursing experience.) When AltaVista first introduced their BabelFish service, I was so excited. Then so disappointed. Then so amused.

Your post just gave me a Proustian journey through my life. Thanks!

Loops O'Fury said...

As a Hitchhiker's Guide fan and a language nerd, I'm happy to see a babel fish. I love the idea of the eye spots! Nice work.

Isaac said...

Thanks! I'm not too happy with the way the drawing turned out, but I'm glad no one else did my critter this week!

Tim Wilson said...

I'd like to use the top image (fully credited) in this post in a presentation at an upcoming conference. Please let me know if it's possible to get permission to do so. Thanks. - tim at gilliganondata dot com.