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Toward the end of the war between Atlantis and Mu, such magicks were cast that their interaction rent asunder the very length and breadth and height of the world and through that tear entered The Destroyer from a place outside reality.

It was not as most thought, that the conflict of magicks shattered the realms, but The Destroyer, who stamped his hooves upon the Earth and broke it apart, that borders that were once lines upon the ground that existed only by the agreement of the people became the ends of lesser Realms, that one could no longer step across save by magic or accident. The realms of Atlantis and Mu, seperated from one-another at last, were lost, crushed out of existence by The Destroyer, who stepped from each as it fell beneath his weight into the void beneath reality.

So it was that The Destroyer stepped upon the bright green realm of Hell, and its stone cracked and bled lava, its greenery blackened, withered and died and became as ash, its bright skies became dark with everlasting clouds, its once sweet air was choked with soot and fumes, and its trees clawed at the skies in their agony. The Avatar of Summer who had ruled Hell fled to the other realms and began to search for a way to defeat The Destroyer, who sent minions to capture him.

In time, The Destroyer's minions returned and brought Adonim, the Summer Avatar, before The Destroyer as he surveyed the ruined land of Hell that groaned beneath his weight from his seat upon his throne at the pinnacle of the once-beautiful land of Hell.

The Destroyer gloated before Adonim, taunted him with the ruin of his beloved realm, and suggested that He might follow in Adonim's footsteps when Hell was crushed into the void, and step between the realms to the realm in which Adonim's people had taken refuge. The Destroyer then had his prisoner's gag removed so that he might better savour Adonim's dismay and pleas for mercy.

However, Adonim did not cry out in dismay, nor did he beg, but instead uttered the single word "[Redacted]", that by his labours he had identified as the word which had torn reality asunder. As he spoke the Word, The Destroyer, who could not exist entirely within this world's reality, was forced back whence he came as the tear closed and was held by the power of the Word... so long as it was never spoken again by any living thing.

Adonim returned to the other realms to spread the news of The Destroyer's banishment. However, Adonim warned that "should any living thing utter the syllable '[Re]' followed immediately by the syllable '[dac]' and then ending immediately with the syllable '[ted]' whether with knowledge of the consequences or in ignorance, the tear would open once again, and The Destroyer might reenter the world."

So, the peoples of the realms contemplated how the word "[Redacted]" might be prevented from ever being uttered. In the ruin of Earth, there might be various realms in which magic might fade, so no active magic could be expected to persist forever. This meant that the measure taken to prevent the Word from being spoken may rely upon magic, but its changes must persist without magic for the foreseeable future.

The question:

How can a single word of three syllables be prevented from being spoken again in its entirety? Magic may be used to effect some sort of permanent change to either the world and/or its peoples, but the change must be capable of persisting without maintenance by active magic for hundreds or thousands of years at a minimum. Answers which minimise the scope and degree of the changes necessary are preferable to those where the changes must be more widespread or drastic.

Edit:

The changes must be effective regardless of technology as it is gained or lost in the realms of the world.

Technology may be considered to vary between the realms from stone-age to modern Earth, though mostly exists as some intermediate level.

Edit 2:

The Word will have its effect if uttered on Earth or its shattered realms by any being with the potential to understand the consequences of its actions. I.e. if an infant says the word, it will have its effect, as long as it has the potential to grow up and understand that the word it said had the consequences that ensued.

A computer or a recording or a parrot uttering the Word are safe, since none of them will be able to comprehend the future consequences.

For purposes of this question, the syllables may be whatever the answerer needs them to be.

Ongoing active magic is defined as an effect that must persist in order to prevent the Word from being spoken, or enforce another change.

The laws of the universe can't be changed, though magic may make the universe act as if its laws had changed while the magic remains active.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 5, 2021 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ Hungarians, over time, have lost the word for wolf. Rumour was the word would summon the beast. Today, they say 'with tail' $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ This question assumes there's a civilization that can take collective action that affects all humankind. This seems at least moderately advanced. If all it takes to summon The Destroyer is to utter these three syllables, why hasn't he been summoned multiple times before, when people back in history accidentally spoke those syllables? $\endgroup$
    – user31389
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @user31389 The magicks used during the Atlantean-Muvian war were of such great magnitude that they ripped a hole in reality. After that, all that would be required was the slight magic of a living thing saying the Word... at least until the rip repairs itself, which would be many thousands of years. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 6, 2021 at 10:03

18 Answers 18

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The vocal organs of your people have been modified such that at least one of the phonemes is impossible to voice.

There are human languages which are phoneme restricted, so language will continue to be possible.

If you wish to obscure this restriction for story-telling purposes, I see two plausible avenues (either or both).

  1. You have a "Tower of Babel" event, shrouded in myth/legend, where after everyone is forced to speak different languages than they have spoken before. The reason for that affliction can be something silly, to lead the curious away from the fact that they can no longer pronounce certain syllables that were once possible. Supposing that is needed.
  2. You have the equivalent of a "Great Vowel Shift" scenario. Scholars and the curious will chalk up changes as just the natural evolution of language, and the restriction can get lost in those (they'll know words were pronounced differently, but won't be able to correctly reconstruct the unspeakable word).

The only gotcha at this point is that as soon as they can synthesize sound with early analog electronics or digital computer systems, they run the (small) risk of accidentally generating the unspeakable word artificially. Possibly without even realizing the real dangers of that.

These changes, being genetic and altering the actual shape of the vocal organs, would require no on-going magic, and result in morphological changes that are consistent with our understanding of biology and human speech. I suggest that nearly any consonant could be deleted from human speech, but probably no vowels. Some consonants are probably more difficult than others, but you have at least three candidate phonemes so one is probably a better choice than the others. If this is for a written story, you might borrow some punctuation or other non-alphabet symbol to represent the lost consonant.

The vocal organs of humans being entirely soft tissue, it's unlikely that anthropologists would be able to reconstruct the sound from skeletal remains. Ancient peoples weren't very keen on doing the sort of writing that might describe how to make the sound in enough detail that someone could reconstruct it (when writing is tough/expensive you tend to not do it for trivial boring things like the academic study of pronunciation for its own sake). If someone accidentally comes across the sound, it will be from brute forcing all the sounds that meaty throats could hypothetically make, I should think. That or a chance mutation and some toddler gurgling the worst possible gibberish.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's the act of a living thing potentially able to understand the consequences of its actions saying the word that makes it effective. A computer couldn't ever understand the importance of the events that would follow, so nothing would happen. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 3, 2021 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ Other "simpler" solution : make everyone mute. $\endgroup$
    – Echox
    Nov 4, 2021 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Echox Making everyone mute certainly cuts down on the story possibilities though. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Nov 4, 2021 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like the only possible answer to me. With even just millions of people if everyone makes the occasional nonsense sound all the possibilities for 3-syllable words are probably going to be uttered every so often. Changing the DNA that controls vocal cords now with magic so that one of those sounds can't be made is the safest bet. Particularly given the actual historical example of Herostratus -- clearly, threatening people with death doesn't stop them from repeating the guys name. $\endgroup$
    – GrinningX
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Echox and MontyWild Signing (as in sign language) the forbidden word is safe? Or not? $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Nov 5, 2021 at 14:09
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Realistically, I don't think you can guarantee that a particular word won't be spoken. But you can minimize the risk.

Change the language

This isn't goint to be easy, because you need to make a totally new language, and get everyone to use it (or at least to use some language that satisfies the requirements; having multiple languages isn't necessarily the literal end of the world). In particular, you want the new language to be as dissimilar as possible to the old. I'm going to assume that eliminating audible language entirely is not an option, but if you can switch from something English-like to a language that uses primarily whistles and/or clicks, that would be optimal. At minimum, pick a phoneme in the "problem word" and burn it with fire. Eliminate it from all spoken languages, eliminate any recordings that include that syllable, eliminate any reference material that mentions that syllable (e.g. if you have equivalents of IPA charts). Make it as hard as possible for anyone to ever figure out how to pronounce that syllable ever again.

Yes, this works. Just look at how various real life languages have trouble pronouncing certain syllables of other languages.

If you have magic, you can additionally use that to prevent anyone from speaking the old language, and perhaps to help erase all traces. It won't matter too much if that fades after a few generations, as you will have bought the time you need to ensure that the old language isn't passed on in secret. Or, even better (if you have the ability), modify your population so that they (and their children) physically cannot speak the old language (e.g. by redesigning their vocal apparatus).

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    $\begingroup$ To add: you can remove any way you might say it by changing how we pronounce things. There's a reason for the multitude of stereotypes of foreigners not being able to say certain words or letters. Even in my own country I have difficulty speaking the 'r' normally because of the accent in the region. Imagine trying to say something where the way each letter and syllable is spoken has been removed from any language. Even if you stumble upon it, you'll not say it right. Or to put it in popular vernacular: it's 'It's leviOsa, not levioSA'. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Nov 3, 2021 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ At some point linguists will show up and work out which sounds could conceivably be made that mysteriously don't feature in any human language... youtube.com/watch?v=9uZam0ubq-Y $\endgroup$
    – dbmag9
    Nov 4, 2021 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Technically, you only have to modify the phonotactics of the standard language to invalidate one of the syllables (e.g. English speakers have difficulty pronouncing words that begin with the ng phoneme, such as the Vietnamese name Nguyen, but English uses ng all the time in other positions). But completely removing the phoneme is less susceptible to linguistic drift, I suppose... $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 4, 2021 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ It would only work if the syllable contains a difficult combination otherwise random babel could reproduce it. I speak only English and a smattering of other stuff but I have at my recall syllables that do not occur in any language that I have ever known. Long ago I spoke them as name components to create other-sounding names. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Nov 5, 2021 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ You can also made some people believe they speak the old language - as a decoy for any evildoers which want to reopen the rift. $\endgroup$
    – abukaj
    Nov 6, 2021 at 22:40
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Say it never or say it all the time

Persons will effectively mess with the Destroyer by saying the word over and over, really fast. The Destroyer will be shunted back and forth, back and forth. Lots of people saying the word will leave the Destroyer jiggling between realms. And not gently jiggling.

Prayer wheels will be constructed which turn and say the word. People will use it as a conjunction in everyday speech. It will be the most said word in the language.

If the Destroyer gets a chance and it can it might somehow inactivate the word so it can relax. If the word keeps getting said it wont get the chance.

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    $\begingroup$ If The Destroyer gets back in, he'll be back to stay... he can work out how to keep the tear open so that the Word won't work again, if he hasn't done so already wherever He is. When it was first used against him, he had not known it was possible. Now he does... $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ It's always something $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Nov 4, 2021 at 2:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - the fun thing about this answer is, effectively, you build a religion around keeping the destroyer at bay. There are rituals - prayers, church services, songs, etc. and as long as enough people are saying them, then the tear in reality is in a constant state of flux, taunting the Destroyer. And if the Destroyer can slip some minions through, and undermine the religion enough that the number of active rituals falls below some threshold... then he can stabilize the tear and destroy the world. Might not be what you're looking for, but I like it. $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Nov 4, 2021 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer. Really creative and fun. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Nov 5, 2021 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild But what if this technique was applied immediately? Adonim would repeat this word very quickly, leaving The Destroyer unable to do anything or even think much. Then he would teach others the same technique. (Of course while teaching, every second word would have to be [redacted].) $\endgroup$
    – user31389
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:22
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Cast the bell of censorship

Anytime anyone utters "Redac", the censorship bell rings casting a silencing clang of any and all noise in the realm. Thus preventing utterance of "ted".

Done this way the language doesn't need to be modified and the Teds of this world don't have to get their names legally changed.

This would of course annoy everyone and fairly soon people would learn not to say the forbidden word least they get clocked round the ear.

Until of course one day a mischievous child steals the sacred bells magical clapper. The kid quietly says the word and delights as the clapper wiggles and jumps but causes no censorship.

The kid spends the day playing with his new toy and shows it off to his friends who enjoy making a game of tormenting the local girls with this wiggly device. It's a fun way to pass the day until they tire of the game and give the word a rest.

And at that moment the destroyer appears before the children and says, "OK I get it. I'll stay out if you just stop summoning me. Now please, let me get some sleep."

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  • $\begingroup$ That's active magic... against the rules, unfortunately. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ @montywild oh fine. Then use the “one time” magic to create noise canceling loud speakers, install Alexa everywhere, and the software to do the same thing with nerdy tech. The magic is only really needed to make this a valid business plan. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2021 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ If this can be made to work, expect the word "Redac" to be shouted regularly in any realm that has something like democracy - either by law-makers in the seat of power as they begin to lose a debate, or (once the foregoing has been effectively outlawed) by remote protesters whenever they suspect their least favourite bill is being debated. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2021 at 9:25
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Genetic engineering

Change the shape of the throat genetically so that the next generation is unable to pronounce certain words. For example, we lack the vocal cord shape that would allows us to make the sounds for ​ ZA̡͊͠͝LGΌ ISͮ̂҉̯͈͕̹̘̱ TO͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ properly, and no amount of cybernetics might ever be able to help in that department.

Sure, you will have to follow people of the last genetically unmodified people around with a very loud horn in order to prevent them from finishing the word, but that's just for a few years.

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I note that you use the name "Adonim" in your work - which is quite similar to the name the Israelites had for God, "Adonai." This points us towards a potential avenue for research.

Once a year, on the day of Atonement, the High Priest of Israel would step into the furthest part of the tabernacle (or temple), the holy of holies, and kneel before the ark of the covenant, where he would utter the name of God - we know it today only as Yahweh, but we do not know how it was pronounced.

That is because it was only ever known by the high priest, and only uttered on that single day (as far as we know.)

Limiting the use of a word need not just be done through censoring words deemed too awful to say, but can be restricted by attributing sacredness to them as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Adonai means "My Lords" in (Ancient) Hebrew. It is not the name of the God of the Jews. (As a parallel example, when a lawyer call the presiding judge "Your Honor" this does not mean that the name of the judge is Y. Honor; or, if you prefer, the name of the Queen of Australia is not "Her Majesty".) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 3, 2021 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ If a babbling infant was to accidentally utter the Word, it would still have its effect. Sacredness cannot prevent that. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Also, nice catch about Adonai/Adonim. My intention is for the given name Adonim to be genericized to Adonai in my story... much as if the given name Lorde, who was an authoritative person, was genericised to lord, meaning a person of authority. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild then really there's nothing other than magical magical means, or sewing infants' mouths shut. If your magic is really that simple that an infant can speak the word, then so could a drunken man rambling on. It is your choice on how to construct your magic system, but personally, that seems like it should have more limitations on it. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2021 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP, absolutely; אדוני (adonai) is definitely my lords. My comment was meant to address the apparent disagreement about the word אדונים (adonim). This seems pertinent to the original poster who intended to use the word adonim (lords) as a character's name. $\endgroup$
    – Juhasz
    Nov 4, 2021 at 21:01
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Automatic tongue removal at birth

You say that even a baby babbling will trigger this. Since there is no way to stop a baby practising vocalisations, this is basically inevitable. However...

The word "redacted" contains the letters "d" and "t" which require a tongue. Workarounds exist which can almost replace those syllables for people without a tongue, but it's still clearly not the same. By removing everyone's tongues, the syllables can never be spoken and hence the Word is safe.

This isn't going to be a popular choice! But given the alternative, it's necessary.

Language will have to adapt to work around the syllables which tongue removal renders unavailable. As languages around the world demonstrate though, any given language only uses a small fraction of the distinguishable vocalisations available from the human mouth.

Of course this needs constant vigilance to prevent a baby triggering the apocalypse. It seems likely that all women would need regular compulsory pregnancy checks, and all pregnant women would have to be held in secure locations until birth. That would be the only way to fairly well guarantee all babies have their tongues removed. In pre-modern times, childbirth was the single biggest threat to a woman's life, so it seems likely that centralised childbirth facilities would improve outcomes there anyway. It's still not going to popular though.

Magical tongue removal in DNA

If available though, there is a more robust solution. Active magic is ruled out - but one-time-use magic is not. So any magic which causes a lasting genetic effect on the population may be available.

Tongue-tie is a birth defect in which the central tissue on the underneath of the tongue is linked to the base of the mouth for the length of the tongue. Letters such as "d" and "t" are hard or impossible to pronounce, because the tongue can't touch the roof of the mouth. This can be hereditary.

And more robustly for our purposes, aglossia is a rare birth defect where someone is born with no tongue at all, or only a small stub. (FYI, I have met one of those people.) There aren't enough cases (AFAIK) to show a clear hereditary pattern - but of course appropriate genetic modification would produce any developmental defect.

If the OP's rules allow, a one-time magical genetic modification of the human race would reliably ensure the letter "d" could not be spoken by a human mouth, and therefore ensure the Destroyer stays locked away.

Tongue removal for the existing population

Of course this only works for future generations. All people currently alive would need their tongues surgically removed for safety. Having lived through Hell though, it seems likely that people would agree to that. Even if they don't, their leaders certainly would, and anyone who avoided this and was later found to have a tongue would likely be executed on the spot.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well... not necessarily this exactly, but something like it. The Word is not 'Redacted', it could be anything. So... as you say, make it impossible to say the Word by magical-genetic means. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:06
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If I was wanting to prevent a word of phrase from being said and I had magic at my disposal, I'd modify the rules of the world so that either the word cannot be conceptualized, or better yet, does not exist to be said.

By way of analogy, when playing Magic the Gathering an active spell is like playing an enchantment card, modifying the rules of the universe is making edits to rules of the game.

Where it existed in writing, or memory reality is warped so that the words never were there to begin with. Someone could attempt to construct the word again, mush some phonemes together and derive novel words, but upon construction reality happens and the word gets punched out of existence.

This is big magic. This is powerful magic. It should not be leveraged lightly. But good luck undoing such an erasure. When even thinking about the erasure is blocked by the fact that the word never existed to be erased.

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    $\begingroup$ That would require ongoing active magic, and is against the rules of the question. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Depending on rules of magic not enumerated in your question. If the rules of the world have been changed. It doesn't necessarily require active magic to keep them enforced. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ If I cast a spell to make someone dead. There isn't magic keeping them dead. Just the laws of the universe continuing to take their course. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ Magic that must listen for a word to be spoken requires perception and decision, both of which are active and ongoing. Just changing something so that the sounds can't be uttered ceases to be active once the change is complete. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Put differently, what sphennings is suggesting is something akin to to the effect you sometimes see in modern popular media of things or people being simply erased from existence such that they never existed in the first place, with the addendum of altering metaphysics such that they can never come into existence again. This does not require an ongoing effect, it just means literally changing the underlying laws of reality in the universe (which also may be a bit out-there for what you want). $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2021 at 1:04
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What you mostly have is a statistical problem. You'll have a hard time preventing a short word from turning up in multiple languages with different meanings. However the longer the word the less likely it is to show up and be used again.

[Redacted] is a relatively short word. Even if you start with, for example, a Khoisan language and then proceed to drop all the clicks so it can no longer be pronounced properly, there's nothing to stop it showing up in another place and time.

However preventing floccinaucinihilipilification is going to be relatively easy. It's already a word people only use to show how much cleverer they think they are than everyone around them, and the chance of something similar showing up in another language is relatively low.

Three syllables is impossible to prevent without active magic, hence the true names of demons being famously long and awkward to pronounce to prevent easy or accidental control.

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Modify all intelligent organisms to communicate via radio waves or microwaves instead of sound.

Since your problem is the sound being uttered, just have everyone communicate with electromagnetism instead. Eliminate the vocal cords, and any way to evolve them back. That way, no one has the ability to utter the word, even if they know the meaning of it.

Have death squads to eliminate anyone who knows what redacted means.

Cultists may want to utter the word to summon them back, or governments may want to use it as a strategic threat to their enemies, and may find a way to bring back sound. As such, use your active magic in the early periods to eliminate knowledge of the word.

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**

Words convey meaning within a conceptual framework - so erase history

**

Simply put change the meaning of the word. The survivors of the apocalypse, warned by 'Adomin' of the consequence of uttering the the 'word' decide to change its potential meaning. They swear to never speak the syllables Redacted in that order and never convey their original meaning to anyone. If they are successful then as time passes and as per any language or (in this case) a spell/incantation/casting etc anyone who randomly speaks those syllables will apply a different meaning to them. 'Dog' means dog because that's what anyone who speaks/hears/writes the word 'dog' conceptualizes when they do so.

So, step (1) the people of that first generation collectively decide to erase all record of the real events in question i.e. the specific causes of the fall of Atlantis and its aftermath etc from recorded history. Yes there was a disaster/flood /wrath of God (NFD provided) but no details about what really happened survived.

Step (2) they never utter the word 'redacted' or teach it to their children. Do that and within one or two generations the problem is solved. Yes, the syllables will be retained in usage but future generations will not have the original mental concept to apply them to. Which means that the word 'redacted' once formed gets used to describe a totally innocuous concept, e.g. perhaps it the word for 'hamster' at some point in the future.

Regardless the ancient enemy is powerless unless it wishes to manifest itself in the real world as a small rodent kept as a pet by children.

(Meanwhile hidden away in an forbidding, forgotten temple, located in a remote corner of the world, protected by many cunning traps is an ancient manuscript describing the true meaning of the word and more importantly its context in terms of awakening the destroyer left by some idiot scribe whom should have known better. Should that manuscript be recovered and read the true meaning of the word 'redacted' would be revealed. Cue Hollywood action move.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, you seem to have missed the point that it is merely uttering the sounds and the potential for intelligence that are the prerequisites. An infant could do it without understanding anything at the time... as long as it has the potential to understand later. So, changing the meaning is irrelevant, since knowing the meaning is unnecessary. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Not as I read the question and according to the science of language. If all it takes is for the three syllables involved to be uttered in the correct order then random guarantees it will happen and quite quickly given even a modest population. Nothing short of removing everyone's tongues at birth will stop that occurring. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Nov 4, 2021 at 22:21
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This answer will use active magic, but only for a period at the start. After that, the entire situation will be controlled using non-magical means.

Assumptions:

A1. There is some kind of government or organisation with a huge amount of power whose members can exert control all of the people in all realms like a government. It doesn't have to be a single government, a UN-like organization will work. But it needs to enact the following steps everywhere, as that is the only way to prevent the word being spoken everywhere

A2. They can use magic, at least at the start, and have the power to make sweeping changes to society. (You know, maybe Adonim himself helps them. Cuz really, these changes need to happen everywhere)

Since total apocalypse just seems to have occurred, this doesn't seems unreasonable. These people might be the government of the survivors, in a way.

Now, what do we want to avoid?

P1. A human (I'm assuming they are the only sentient race in this answer, but this can be applied to every sentient race in the immediate post-apocalypse) willingly or unwillingly utters the three (or however many) syllables of the word, speaking the correct syllables in the correct order (If the sound produced is much different, then i'm not counting it as the same syllable. Only if it's "close enough" But as we'll see, that may not be required at all)

P2. An infant or delirious person utters those syllables in that order

P3. A computer or machine that is self aware ie sapient produces the required sounds

The Plan

S1. Mass wipe everyone's memories S2. Form a religion and indoctrinate them into it S3. Create a religious order (not necessarily of humans and not necessarily magical but if they are magic users it's a definite plus) S4. Slowly change the language over a century or so, using magic if necessary, until the phonemes are forgotten. OR, if the organization has enough people it can use, use them to teach all those who forgot everything a language without any of the cursed phonemes

Step one is obvious, so let me elaborate on the other ones:

The Religion

This religion will have one thing as its most sacred thing: speech. It will teach that the misuse of speech is the greatest sin and will bring the wrath of heaven upon them. It will emphasize the role of speaking exactly and clearly and make it a sin to speak anything other than the approved phonemes. Obviously, this won't prevent someone from saying the word regardless,but since we wiped all memories, and especially in a new generation, they would lose the ability to even speak those phonemes (just like many people can't even speak the phonemes of different languages).

Due to the sacredness or language, anyone delirious will be gagged immediately.

It will have a few other maxims: That babies MUST be born under the supervision of "listeners" (see below), and that "Thou shalt not create a machine in the likeness of man" (or golem. Or whatever. Anything sentient and non-human (or non starter species)).

This solves problem 3 and partially problem 1, but the most difficult part remains: problem 2

The Listeners

Now, due to the amnesia spell and the deliberate tampering of language, the the general populace won't even remember the phonemes. But the order of listeners, they will remember the first syllable of the cursed word.

They will be either through magic or just rearing since childhood, unable to say anything unless training other listeners (or unless only in the presence of listeners. This may be magically enforced, though in a culture that sanctifies speech and being taught not to speak since childhood, it doesn't need to be). They will probably be trained since children, and will be held in high regard. They will be trained in magic, if such a thing is possible in your world. I will write two options for whether they are magical or not henceforth.

Their main job is to oversee the birth, rearing and language education of babies.

Now, either through the religious compliance of people or through magic-sense, they will be present at every birth. (Yes, that means they need to be a huge organization. Either that or birth needs to be centralizes at hospitals or something, which is actually a great idea. They can be run by religious monks and listeners, with the monks as doctors and the listeners for these duties)

Through magic, training or selective breeding, the listeners will be very sharp of hearing and with great instincts. They will be taught since kids to respond to this "trigger syllable" by a listener (they can speak since they do this in secret rooms deep in their monasteries making sure only other listeners are there). So, in the collective nurseries, if ever they hear a child babble the trigger syllable, they gag it immediately (Or kill it. If it will never grow up, it will never be able to understand those words and thus not trigger the curse. However, yikes).

Birth registry: The Listeners will work with the bureaucracy and meticulously record every birth. Unrecorded people, whenever noticed, will be immediately executed (or asked to get the paperwork. Or something.) Or better, if they have magic, they can magically tag the babies that were born under them, in a way only listeners can see it/apply it. Whenever a listener sees someone whose aura doesn't have the tag, they incapacitate them and conduct a thorough investigation/kill them.

Learning: The Listeners will also further their religion by teaching kids from the very start about language and how everything must be spoken ina n exact way and making any non-official speaking sound is a sin.

Only the listeners will even know of the existence of the trigger syllable. No one who has been trained as a listener is allowed to leave the order, on pain of death. New listeners can only be created from infants.

Conclusion

Thus, the exclusion of the cursed phonemes from memory, the religion that forbids unnecessary and "unholy" speech, and the socially and politically powerful Listener order that regulates the rules of the religion while also training babies will hopefully be enough to ensure that the cursed phrase is never, ever spoken.

(This would be a highly authoritarian and kinda terrible world to live in, though)

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  • $\begingroup$ Killing babies isn't going to help... it's the potential to understand the consequences at some time in the future that is required, not that they will grow up to understand. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 6, 2021 at 6:05
  • $\begingroup$ Also, Assumption A1 is false: the world has been shattered, and each realm is effectively on it's own. There is very little communication between the realms. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 6, 2021 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ Well, then it's impossible to achieve this with non magical means. Unless all the different realms agree to ban the word and work to banning it, it can't really happen. All it takes is one crazy dictator a thousand years down the line and boom, reality finished. So either the realms work together, or they all somehow put a plan into effect to stop the word being said. Which could be interesting, each realm having it's own way of saving reality. But that can (will) all fall apart ones the realms meet again. Or maybe they never do, in which case this plan describes just ONE of the realms' plan. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2021 at 9:21
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Attempt #1: Pop off with the phoneme loss! Drop that phone[me] wherever and whenever it occurs. Memory modification, censorship, etc. Functional? NO. What changed once can change again—what was lost can be regained. Language changes, sometimes with surprising rapidity. Most likely, you've bought yourself centuries, tops.

Attempt #2: Change the biology! Surgically remove a critical sound (or 3) from the entire species and its genome. Functional? NO. When we were monkeys, we didn't have the vocal range we do now. What's to say that one day, some strange mutation will give the species that sound back? A stronger solution—you've bought yourself time on an evolutionary scale, but it's hard to say exactly how long. Longer than the lifetime of your species? It's a loaded question, and one you can't say yes to.

Attempt #3: Make the entire species mute! Surely that would do the trick—homo sapiens now photosynthesizes and absorbs nutrients through its skin—no need for a mouth any more! Sign language is now the name of the game... although there are still a couple problems:

  1. Still a possibility of genetic regression—or direct modification—sound, with its properties as a medium that doesn't require line-of-sight, is very handy for communication and it's understandable that future peoples might walk down the auditory road once again, whether through genetic modification to reintroduce speech or through cybernetics or magi-tech.
  2. Not entirely clear about whether this fits the question or not, but I'd worry that someone working on their 'Illusions (Auditory)' or sound-box-module for purposes of communication (non-biological but still sapient communication) could accidentally 'speak' the Word.

In any case, at this point, you've bought yourself a long time. But it's not permanent, not yet.

Attempt #3, revision #2: If modification of the human doesn't suffice, what about modification of the medium? Drain out the atmosphere! Spacesuits are the new black! Better yet—genetically modify folk to survive in vacuum, or in the seas, places where uttering words with normal, atmospheric phonetics would be rather considerably difficult with human physiology and physics. However, we still are not yet free: if humanity leaves for other stars, what's to say there won't be some other world with an Earth-like atmosphere out there? (Not sure if the Word counts if spoken in climes so distant, but if it doesn't, space migration is totally the easiest solution to the issue, just saying.) And what's to say, since the atmosphere was once changed, that it can't be changed again? Drained atmosphere regained? Terraforming undone?

No, the ultimate solution, then, seems to be simply blowing up the planet and creating a society in the vacuum, living in zero-atmosphere environs without even the gravity to bang two molecules together! Prevent voyages to potentially atmosphere-having worlds with strict pseudo-religious conditioning (possession of pressurized gases is VERBOTEN AND HERETICAL), genetic modification, robot failsafes, and using the splintered bits of the solar system to craft an impenetrable shell of rubble around your nascent civilization.

And even then, it'll still fail, in the end. Without the supervision of an insurmountable, unchanging, and impartial power, the annihilation of the Enemy, or the extinction of the species, the carefully designed controls will meet their end, entropically see-sawing along the gradient of error tolerance with which they were constructed until finally the threshold is crossed and prevention is no longer possible.

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Hide it in plain sight

Let's say (for the sake of argument) the (to be) redacted word is "aybicee". Very quickly introduce into language and general practice (perhaps via mass media) the concept of censorship (but calling it "the practice of aybiceeing" (not strictly the same word), and official(s) doing it "aybiceer(s)" (also not strictly the same word)). Concurrently get the people used to the practice (and only this practice) of marking any censored contents with the text marker [aybicee].

Nobody reads out the marker! Everyone just wonders what should have been read out in the place where it stands.

So now I have a question back: how do I and you know for sure that the original forbidden word was not in fact "redacted"???

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Make the attempt deadly

"Redacted" literally is rather a short word. But let's suppose it was a long one, say "Om-po-gra-fan-to-bliz-zun". Now, Adonim takes am unkind but necessary action. He casts another much lesser spell, which makes "OmPoGraFanTo" immediately bring about the instant death of the being which spoke it. An exploding brain with lots of gore splattered over everybody in the vicinity will help reinforce the message and cause it to happen rarely.

"Om-po-gra-fan-to-bliz-zun" can no longer be spoken because it is no longer possible to get to the end of it.

And a still lesser spell would then cause "OmPogRa" to cause the person uttering those syllables to suffer the instant onset of a cluster headache. Few would press on, having received a painful but harmless warning.

Finally, make "Ompog" cause something like a twinge of toothache, so that all languages would evolve such that those two syllables were never used together. Babies would probably get conditioned not to try at such an early age, that it's likely that the possibility will be blocked at a subconscious level. (Something similar actually happens. If you don't grow up speaking an African "click" language, it becomes impossible to interpret the clicks as part of a language. Your brain filters them out as extraneous noises coming from anywhere but the speaker).

Hopefully, as the year pass, all knowledge of [redacted] will indeed become redacted from the realm of sentient knowledge.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, while something like that is possible, it wouldn't last long enough. Active magic has a finite lifespan, hence why I said that solutions must not rely on active magic long-term. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 6, 2021 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ If the Destoryer is just waiting to kill everyone if you say Redacted, maybe have someone volunteer to be the Destoy- who shows up and kills any specific individual which says Redac-, using something similar to whatever banished the Destroyer. $\endgroup$
    – NotAGenie
    Nov 6, 2021 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ @monty_Wild that's why I wanted to rid all all languages of the first few dangerous syllables. A few generations of fading magic ought to make a terrible accident a lot less likely. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Nov 10, 2021 at 9:32
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Remove spoken language entirely.

Use magic to remove spoken language entirely. no ongoing effect that triggers, immediate permanent removal. Everyone communicates via sign languages and visual cues. Whether this is an individual level, universal level, or something else, complete prevention of speech is the only thing preventing that particular combination from being had via "monkeys and typewriters" at some point.

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Forbid any utterance of The Word, by the penalty of death.

And have a Quick Response Unit, just in case!

Option 1 (boring): the Quick Response Unit monitors the tear, and if it opens, utters The Word to seal it again. Unfortunately, it this option has been ruled out by your comment to Willk's answer.

Option 2 (temporally exciting): the Quick Response Unit (aka the "Time Cops"), have, you guessed it already, a time machine. They need to depart from the present time as fast as possible whenever the tear opens, to avoid being incapacitated by The Destroyer, or The Destroyer's minions. Safely back in the past, they can correct The Ultimate Fail before it even happend.

Now, this may have some sociological, political and humanitarian issues. If the offender can only be stopped by being killed before uttering The Word, we have the somewhat...interesting situation that a person might be penalized to death before committing or even planning to perform The Ultimate Fail.

The time machine might only be a stop-gap solution. It might be based on magic, so people consider it a bit unreliable (compared to a technological solution), or it's based on technology, so people consider it a bit unreliable (compared to a magical solution). Ya know, people are like that. Whatever. There will be research facilities, maybe complete universities, devoted to develop Advanced Complete Destroyer Containments. And, naturally, there will be research facilities in The Destroyer's realm, where research goes into the opposite direction.

In any case, time machines suck. Not just because of causality. Any use of a time machine to visit a certain period of time more than once, or transporting too much of mass through time, will stress the fabric of the universe. So any mass tourism to some (noteworthy) historic event, or even repeated small scale research visits to that event might stress the fabric so much that it tears. You don't want that.

But...why can't The Destroyer use a time machine to tear a tear into the fabric of time and space? Easy. The tearing can only occur because our universe and The Destroyer's realm have totally different "causality principles". There is no time as we know it in The Destroyer's realm, even though there is sort of "progression" which allows for development/change. Basically, a tear can only be opened from a universe with a "higher temporal flux level" towards one with a lower one (even though the tear can then be traversed in bother directions).

Option 3 (ultra lame): The Destroyer has become defeatable, though newly researched/developed/discovered weaponry. Or "The One" has been born. Yep, that's lame, because you've read that tired old story a million times already. There was even a movie where some word like "[Voldemort]" was considered harmful, and then a child appears who kick's the bad guy's ass (not literally kicking, I think, I vaguely remember that the kid some pointy stick or something) and gets the girl.

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    $\begingroup$ There is time travel (only for the gods and their avatars), but it has problems, some of which you've mentioned, plus this: Going back in time to prevent the Word being said causes a paradox loop that in this case will result in not being able to prevent the Word being said. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 6, 2021 at 6:27
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It the Thomas Covenant series, there was a Sand Gorgon named Nom. To say the name was to invite Nom to race across the world and kill you.

The unspeakable words are tied to magic incantations which will summon a demon with that name. He then kills you and everyone nearby. Before long, no one is going to say it because anyone who knows the word will know not to say it. Or they'll be dead.

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