SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 1 Contents Letters to the Editor

It’s the Independent Scholar’s Life for Me, Boyo!

Artemus Zebulon Pratt, PhD

An irksome nibble in the side of a cheese sandwich recently put Your Editorship in mind of the hallowed days of his callow youth, and more particularly of a lunch partaken one day of yore with the other churls and girls apprenticed to his guild. After a spell of experimental Aristotelianism pondering the metaphysical status of essence of turtle soup, one of our strapping, as yet undimmed fellow spirits shocked us with a Platonocartesiochomskyan speculation: “You do realize, do you not, that all knowledge and every philosophical truth have already been stated in the works of Plato?”

Quoth our fellow Abefatt, “Tell me then, Saul, what is the Gödel number in Greek numerals for the statement of Gödel’s Theorem, and what straight edge and compass construction would you use to prove its indeterminacy?”

Saul: “Ah, no, that is merely an insignificant epiphenomenon of the underlying truth. Every statement can be translated into Greek, and if you rearrange the letters in a sufficiently long stretch of text from Plato’s dialogues, you will produce the Greek translation of any given statement.”

Abefatt: “But Saul, can all knowledge be expressed verbally?” Saul responded with an extended medial digit, to which I replied, “Guess not.” Alas, a limousine then pulled up with newly flush computer grooms and we had perforce to curtail our fast-breaking activities, or non-activities, as the case may have been. Truly a mixed lot we were, some of us not yet receiving a teaching assistanceship, the others of us having turned down assistanceships because the pay and work conditions were better as waiters and waitresses, yet we all of us were convinced that in time the Boss Men would be we, and how much more humane our regime of the disinterested pursuit of knowledge would be than their knowing pursuit of the uninterestingah, such blessed innocence! such damnable careerism! Even at that age different proportions were evident in the mix, but it boots one ill to pursue such analyses too far: As a teaspoon of wine in a vat of sewerage is sewerage, so a teaspoon of sewerage in a vat of wine is like thereunto. For above all, we none of us had yet learned that while a man might not be a political animal, an academic certainly is.

Oh, this was borne home to some of us in time, even occasionally just in time. Such truth is different to but dependent on that birthed by the usual midwives of academia, such as parking committees and the frustrations of dealing with smelly grubby undergradsnot least the problems of dwelling amid a kennel of boozehounds. True, as a grad student it is not too unseemly to crash their parties, for indeed at the better of such symposia more potable libations may be found than grad students can customarily afford, but while for junior faculty the jovial company is far preferable to that of one’s alleged “colleagues,” the rotgut’s just too brackish, not to mention that the majority of universities frown on the mixing of the castes. (There are also the little-recognized dangers of the less brackish undergrad rotguts, such as seniors alternating Jaegerbombs and the insulin shots four to ten years of such a scrofulous brew entails.) More profound are the difficulties of dealing with the political fauna, for it is little realized that the liquid proclivities of the academic world are an unconscious Darwinian adaptation to the environment: Ethanol is a potent disinfectant in cases of rat bite. Thus it is not so much that those who advance in academia drink more heavily as a result, but that those who drink more heavily are better equipped to survive and flourish in academia. And from the concomitant state of disaffection arises insight.

Japan Association for Language Teaching, whose motto is “Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn”.
Chiasmus of the Month
February 2012

For Your Editorship, enlightenment was provoked though assuredly not cultivated by the famed Vera Ileana Peckinsnith, founder of such hitherto unsuspected branches of comparative linguistics as Bantu-Nepalese, Uto-Azteco-Hmong, Finno-San, and Cree-Ugric Studies. As a second-year grad student I had a methodological discussion with “Lena,” as she likes to be called, that finally she cut short, and therewith my career shorter, with, “I am not a crank, I am an interdisciplinarian.” After comparing an Amazon review by one of her fanboys, “I don’t know much about linguistics, but I have to say it’s definitely an argument that’ll really make you think!,” and a review in Speculative Glottochronologist, “While I don’t know too much about these languages and have doubts about her methodology, I have to say it’s certainly an argument that will make you think,” I realized that such was the quality that made V.I. “Lena” Peckinsnith, PhD, FRS, ROUS a success and Your Editorship not, what our Academic in Chief might have christened The Audacity of Snopes. Just as “There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher,” so there’s many an interdisciplinarian that could have been prevented by better academic discipline.

Fortunately, there is a way out, and by reading Speculative Grammarian you stand at its threshold: The life of the unencumbered independent scholar beholden to no one, unbowed by Teacher’s dirty looks, and forced to serve on no parking committeesand, if you’re lucky enough to get a job at a liquor store, able to drink a better line of booze than your erstwhile “colleagues.” We are nothing if not independent, and even our interns are happier than the usual run of grad student: Not only do they find hamsters much cuddlier, their bites are much less prone to sepsis.

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 1 Contents