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Vocabulary

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"Clockwork," said Danny, frowning at the faintly glowing book in front of him, "can you tell me if I'm pronouncing this right?"

"Certainly," said Clockwork, half distracted by the view through one of his time screens. That was a situation that he would have to monitor.

"Utkar."

"Uhtceare," replied Clockwork.

"Uhtceare," repeated Danny, carefully.

"I see that Ghostwriter is teaching you Old English."

"Just a bit," said Danny. "It's weird how different it is. But it has some pretty useful words. Like, I have uhtceare all the time. If someone asks me what's wrong and why I look so tired, I can say, uhtceare, rather than explaining how i was lying awake in bed since midnight. Way shorter. Except that no one knows what uhtceare is, so that kinda cuts down on it's utility."

"Yes, that does tend to happen," said Clockwork. "Languages change, words fall out of use, new words are created or borrowed, and, with time, the language becomes unrecognizable. That is the case with most things."

"Yeah," said Danny, "I guess so." He fell silent for a few minutes, then turned around on the sofa so that he was hanging over the back, facing Clockwork. "Hey, Clockwork?"

"Yes?" replied Clockwork, patiently, turning away from his screen.

"If I learn this, and this counts as a separate language from normal English, then I'll know six languages. English, Old English, Esperanto, Latin, Elysian Greek, and French." He paused, as if waiting for the statements to sink in, or for Clockwork to comment. "That's really weird, isn't it? I mean, that sounds like what people say in tv shows or in books to show that a character is a genius. Learning languages is supposed to be hard, but it's just been... happening, I guess." Again, he paused. "Is this a ghost thing? It is a ghost thing, right? A power or just something that all ghosts have? Because I know I'm not a genius."

"You should give yourself more credit, Daniel. I fear that your family and friends have afflicted you with unreasonable standards."

Danny flopped down on the sofa in a physical display of exasperation. "I'm a C- student. I'm barely average. Come on, this is some kind ghost power, or ghost ability or something. Lots of ghosts that I've met are multilingual. Right?" He sat back up, looking to Clockwork for an answer.

"Most ghosts who know many languages do so because they have existed for a long time, and among many cultures, or because they learned those languages in life."

Danny tilted his head. "Only most?"

"There is a power that allows one to speak many languages. It is, however, vanishingly rare."

"Hah! I knew it!"

"It also does not help one truly learn a language."

"... Wait, what?"

"As far as I can tell," continued Clockwork, "you do not, in fact, have that power."

"But that doesn't make any sense," objected Danny.

"Considering the infinite variety of ghost powers, and that you have manifested other unique abilities, it is not impossible that you have developed a power that allows you to acquire languages more quickly."

"You say that like you don't know," said Danny.

Clockwork smiled. "Despite my earlier claims, I do not, in fact, know everything. Call it dramatic license on my part."

Danny's eyebrows knit together as he parsed that information. "So, you, what, can't see what's going on inside of people?"

"Not unless it is, or could be, revealed in time."

"So we'll never know."

"I would not say that it is impossible. Time is vast, and knowing the future is only one of the many things that can change it. Or set it in stone, as the case may be. The 'mind reading thing,' as you call it, is simply a combination of me looking a few minutes into the future, and knowing you very well."

Danny shut his mouth, swallowing the question he was about to ask. "That's unnerving."

"Is it?" asked Clockwork, settling next to Danny on the couch. If Danny didn't know better, he would say that Clockwork sounded worried.

Danny hummed a little, and leaned on the older ghost, listening to the ticking of the clock in his chest. "Not you. It's just that I- I guess I don't like thinking that I'm that predictable. That's the unnerving part."

"Daniel, trust me. You are anything but predictable."

"You're the one who'd know," said Danny. "Does Ghostwriter actually think that I'll use any of these words? I mean, the opportunity to use lanspresado isn't going to come up in every day conversation, although mumpsimus might come up more often than I'd like. Mumpsimus. My parents have lots of mumpsimuses." He scowled. "Lots and lots. Or is that the wrong way to say that... A mumpsimus is the idea, not the person who has the idea, right?"

"It can be both," said Clockwork.