To the dismay of U.S. Government Linguists everywhere, in the February 27, 2009 strip for the comic Judge Parker, by Woody Wilson and Eduardo Barreto, the character April says, speaking of her recent employment history with the CIA, “A linguist’s life is fairly dull...not what I expected! What I’m doing now is much more rewarding!”
Three years ago, three U.S. Government linguists, A. Nonymous, Linguist (CIA Covert Linguistics Program), B. Nonymous, Linguist (FBI Overt Linguistics Program), and C. Nonymous, Linguist (NSA No Such Linguistics Program) published in these pages an important snapshot of a day in the life of U.S. Government Linguists in Action, the purpose of which was
to recruit linguists into the exciting, rewarding—though not necessarily financially rewarding—world of U.S. Federal Government service. [Emphasis in the original.]
Take note of April’s comment that her new work is “much more rewarding”. Readers familiar with Judge Parker (of which I am not one) will know that one of the strip’s main characters, Abbey Spencer, is defined largely in terms of her ridiculous wealth. Her adopted, indigent children have since been revealed to also be embarrassingly wealthy. Is it any surprise that April is concerned only with the “reward” she is to gain from her work as a linguist?
The editorial board of Speculative Grammarian believes (as the result of a close emergency vote: 18 yea to 15 nay) that dedicated linguists should take a vow of poverty early in their careers; it’s actually fairly predictive in most cases, and thus sets expectations accordingly. Linguistics is about seeking your fortune out in the world, doing daring fieldwork in unexpected, far away places, escaping (from tropical diseases, the informant who wants to marry you for a Green Card, and your thesis advisory board) by the skin of your teeth, on a wing and a prayer.
April, I have served with many linguists; I have known many linguists; many linguists have been friends of mine. April, you are no linguist!