How to understand, analyze and interpret the play, The Universal Language by David Ives?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of David Ives's play, The Universal Language is a double entendre: On the one hand it implies the creation of a language that any race or nationality can understand, while on the other it refers to the metaphor for love as a universal language that all people understand.

At the same time, the play is a parody of attempts to create a language that everyone might speak by including German-like words such as "handberger" for purse, and French such as "voila" for here is, Latin-based words with linguistic variances such as homophones, imitative pronunciations such as that of the Bostonia "evva" for ever, or the New Jersey "froyd" for fraud, and the Cajun dis for "this." Then, there are literary allusions such as Iago for the first person pronoun I as in the name of the self-serving and devilish character Iago of Shakespeare's Othello. Other allusions are nonsensical such as "howardjohnson [the restaurant] for "how do you say" and melgibson [the actor] for "I'll give." Old slang is also included, as in "payola" for "money." Thus, rather than universality, the newly-acquired language is a hodge-podge of sounds and words that end in an imitation of the first meeting of Romeo and Juliet (Act I, Scene 5) and the lines which form a sonnet as they hold their palms together and kiss:

Dawn: (Holds out her hand) Di anda. 
Don: (Holds out his hand) Di anda. 
Dawn: Da palma. 
Don: Da palma. (They join hands) 
Dawn: Da koosh. (They kiss.)

Dawn falls in love with Don [their names sound almost the same] because she stops her stuttering when she speaks the nonsense language. Extending her personal experience to everyone, she feels that people can speak this Unamunda [Meaning one ("una") world (munda)] language universally.]

Because he has fallen in love with Dawn, Don refuses to take her money for the language course, admitting it is a fraud. However, when another customer enters, both Dawn and Don answer her affirmatively when the customer inquires about learning

Student: Excuse me. Is this the school of Unamunda? (Don and Dawn look at each other.)
Don & Dawn: Velcro! (Oh, yes!)


Now they speak another "universal language"--that of greed.



NB: There is a English-Unamunda Dictionary at this site:



Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question