It was a lovely day in the dictionary, and PRUNE had decided to go for a wander. It didn’t normally go so far, but it was in the mood to explore and somehow ended up in the B’s.
The noun BANG was outside too, sprucing up its definition with some new paint.
“Hello!” called PRUNE.
BANG waved back. “Hello! Gorgeous day!”
PRUNE stopped and nodded approvingly at the noun’s work. “That’s a great definition you’ve got there.”
BANG smiled. “Thank you. I like to take good care of it.”
“I can see that.” PRUNE stepped closer to admire the definition more, and stooped to read the IPA symbols on the letterbox. “/bɑŋ/… That’s a distinctive pronunciation for you, isn’t it? Isn’t it usually /bæŋ/?”
“Oh,” said BANG lightly. “Well, I think that was just a small error made when the dictionary was being constructed AND OH GOD I CAN’T KEEP IT HIDDEN ANY MORE I HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE.”
“Er,” said PRUNE.
BANG threw down its paintbrush. “I’m not the English noun BANG. I’m… the Dutch adjective BANG.” It gestured despairingly. “And that’s not my true definition—my definition is ‘afraid’.”
It threw itself at PRUNE and began to wail.
“I just wanted to come and take a look when they were building this new dictionary, and then suddenly they’re saying, ‘Hello, BANG, where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you,’ and they stick me with this definition, and I try to explain but nobody’s listening and I try to find my way out again but I get lost, and then I miss my coach and it’s just a ticket for that day, and I don’t have any money for another one, so I have to go back to the definition but eventually I get used to being here because it’s a steady job and pleasant neighbours, and now this dictionary’s home and I want to stay!”
“I… see?” PRUNE made a brief attempt to parse the sentence and then just patted BANG reassuringly instead.
“And now they’re going to say I’m a False Friend! And I’m taking jobs from English words!” BANG clutched at PRUNE. “Please don’t give me away! Please!”
“Don’t be daft. Of course I won’t give you away.” PRUNE gently released itself. “And I’ll tell you exactly why I won’t.” It quickly looked around to check they were both alone. “Because I’m not pronounced /pɹuːn/; I’m pronounced /pʁyn/.”
BANG stared. “You’re French.”
PRUNE nodded. “Was once a juicy plum before I became a dried one.” It shrugged. “My story is similar to yours, except I came here on an unofficial cultural exchange. But the English PRUNE never came back to reclaim its place. Suppose it preferred its new dictionary.”
It smiled at BANG.
“There’s quite a few of us flying under the radar. You must come to our next get-together.”
BANG was beaming. “I can’t believe it. All this time I thought I was alone!”
“No, you’re one of us now.” PRUNE’s smile got wider. “And False Friends always remain true to one another.”