There is only one Orion language, but it has two forms: High Orion, used by the upper classes for business and formal occasions, and Low Orion, spoken by the Greens but used informally at every level of society. Every Orion speaker has at least a passing knowledge of both forms.
The language of diplomacy and high-level negotiations, High Orion is flowery and difficult, with precise rules of grammar and careful shades of meaning. Low Orion is the dockside vernacular, simpler, cruder, and more flexible. Although both use the same words, pronunciations are different. High can be musical and delicate, but Low has broader vowels and a honking, nasal sound. Those who lwarn the Orion tongue begin with the High form, acquiring the Low in passing. Both tend to be trickier than they appear.
Orion is loaded with double meanings, ambiguities, and intentionally vague words, and the interpretations reside in the context of usage. For example, there is no single word for ‘yes’, or ‘no’; any affirmation or denial is always qualified: "Yes, if", or "No, but". Though a marvelous debating language, delivering a direct answer is virtually impossible in Orion.
Orion is a terrific cursing language. Although Low Orion has more vile epithets and simple bad words, High Orion has a sophisticated cursing case used to deliver delicate and elaborate insults in ambiguous terms, sometimes in verse. Such exchanges are works of art, expreessions of an extremely limited linguistic style, and rarely heard by non-Orions.
Orions prefer not to use their own language around offworlders. Because Orion is a language ideally suited for those who wish to conceal their meaning and intention, the language is hazardous for talks with aliens not used to such subtleties. Orions speak the language of whatever race they are are dealing to put them at ease, to lull their suspicions, and to get inside their thinking. The Orions appear courteous, but their intentions are to gain as much information as they can without disclosing any of their own.
Uninformed beings sometimes mistake the Orion language for a different language called Rigellian. Rigellians are a furred and tailed bipedal race who happen to live in the same star system, Rigel IV to be precise, and who are far older than the Orion race. The Rigellians control a great deal of the in-system trade, and Rigel IV is the busiest freeport this side of Ferengenahr. A simplified form of their language, called Rigellian Trade Lingo, is the lingua franca of all the merchants who deal on Rigel IV or in the Rigel system. As simple as Orion is complex, Rigellian Trade Lingo has a large number of adjectives and adverbs tailor-made for describing cargoes, and its words each have an unmistakable, single meaning-perfect for brief dickering (time is money to a merchant). It is easy to pick up, easy to use, and hard to misunderstand.
Each language has a particular province. High Orion for the ambassador’s reception or a trade negotiation between two or multiple Orion houses. Low Orion in the spaceport bar and dockyards, and Rigellian Trade Lingo on the dockyards, the trade broker’s office, or the commodity or stock exchanges. Of course, if non-Orions are present, their language is always spoken instead. Orions are rarely at a lack for anyone else’s words.