The letter, written in Pamaru, contains a coded message. Which kinda makes it a code within a code. Below is the message in plain English, followed by the process I go through to convert English to Pamaru. Pamaru doesn’t use the same sentence structure, nor does it have words for “a” or “the,” and it has modifiers for verbs depending on tense, and adjectives to modify nouns.
TEXT IN SPOKEN ENGLISH:
‘The Captain has us adrift. The crew thinks a gam is in order, maybe at our home port. We need a new topsail. I’m hoping for something in yellow.’
TEXT IN EQUIVALENT PAMARU STRUCTURE: (Subject – object – verb, w/ tense & adjective modifiers):
Captain us (present)adrift. Crew gam, perhaps at (home)port, (future)need (present)think. We (new)topsail (present)need. I for (yellow)sail hope.
NOTES FOR TRANSLATION
Tense applied as a modifier to verb at start. (Future = No, Present = ni, Past = ne)
Negative = me. Can be on its own as the word “No,” or combined with a verb. (“to not” a verb, such as “do not” or “know not”)
- I = I, mine = yato
- you = ye, your = yeto
- he = yi, his = yito
- she = yo, her = yoto
- us/we = yu, our = yuto
- them = yai, their = yaito
TRANSLATED LETTER IN PAMARU
Ozh a yu nilozot. Izhit voki, mekuzaku vapa menai-kazk, noizi nikata. Yu nitu-raik-waio ni’izi. I vur kipo-waio aole.
Which, said aloud, would sound like this:
THE CODE ITSELF
The idea for this code came from the role-playing game, 7th Sea. (Which, for those interested, there is a Kickstarter for a new, overhauled update of said game running right now!) Specifically, there was a code used for a secret society that utilized places and names that were common-place to the culture. Using that idea, I researched nautical terms and came up with various equivalent meanings, which would be easy for Blue and Una to incorporate into their conversations or written correspondance, back in their pirate days.
Here’s what I came up with:
Directions based on sails
- Jib is at the front of the boat = EAST
- Spanker is at the back of the boat. = WEST
- Mainsail is at the bottom of the mast = SOUTH
- Topsail is above the mainsail = NORTH
Titles in one context could stand for people or things in a different context
- Captain = Guild
- First mate = police
- Cargo = mark
- Carpenter = A helpful contact or go-between
- Dunsel = Someone that is useless or irrelevant
- Crew = You and me
Similarly, certain kinds of situations or objects that a crew might encounter on the seas could be applied to the con they were trying to run.
- Adrift = someone isn’t where they’re supposed to be
- Aground = This mission has gone wrong. Get out.
- Bilge = The deal isn’t as good as thought. Abandon the task.
- Fair wind = Good opportunity
- Storm clouds = Use caution
- Anchor = Wait and observe.
- Baggywrinkle = Lay on the charm
- Beach = Hard sell
- Broadside = Both should make the sell
- Chafing = I tried, but had no luck. Your turn.
- Come about = This isn’t working.
- Masthead = Be on lookout
- Bearing = Go to or meet at
- Gam = A meeting
- Home port = safe place
Finally, prior to attempting any con, they would pick out a few safe places to meet, in the event that something went wrong. These places would be identified by colors.
- Yellow = Nikiwa shrine
- Green = Gambling den or bar
- Blue = Dock
- Red = Clock tower
An example of how this code would be used is:
“I thought we had a fair wind coming in, but we nearly ran aground on a hidden reef. Captain saw it last minute. Good thing, since we lost our carpenter in an earlier storm, so we would have been stranded if we’d hit it. Once we got our bearings, we decided to head for our home port. We needed a new jib anyway. It was a relief to see those green hills coming home.”
“I thought this was a good opportunity, but the Guild might be onto us and our contact is compromised. We have to get out right now. Get to the safe house, the gambling den we identified in the east part of the city.”
So, you’ll get Una’s explanation in the next page, but if you want to get the nitty gritty of it, you can always decode it from here. 🙂
It seems like coming up with codes and languages is something a lot of people have done, especially as kids. I once talked to someone that had come up with a way of communicating entirely by lip gloss names. So “Berry bubble-gum lemon” had an intelligible meaning, despite sounding like utter nonsense. Other times, the code itself is a prank, such as when James Veitch scammed a scammer and got them to use a “code” that made them sound absolutely ridiculous in the process, as he reveals in that 10 min video I linked.
Have you ever come up with a code? How did you develop it, and who did you share it with?