Frances and her baby sister Gloria were playing dodge ball in their front yard when Albert came along. Albert was pulling a toy wagon with a large picnic hamper in it.
“Hi Albert!” said Frances. “Want to play with us?”
“No thanks,” said Albert. “I’m pretty busy today. I’m collecting compound nouns for my MA thesis.”
“That sounds like fun,” said Frances. “Can I help you do your fieldwork?”
“I don’t think so,” said Albert. “It’s not the kind of fieldwork you know how to do, and I’d have to spend my whole research day showing you how.”
“What’s in the picnic hamper?” asked Gloria.
“Nothing much,” said Albert. “A few typology books and a couple of etymology dictionaries. An IPA handbook. Notebooks and lead pencils. Three kinds of voice recorder, three lapel microphones, four or five sets of headphones, and six dozen dry cell batteries. Soundproofing materials, a phone tapping device, my netbook, a laser pointer and a miniature photovoltaic AC generator. Oh, and a comparative list of compound nouns in Germanic, Romance, Celtic and Indic daughter languages. Plus a few sketch pads, oil paints, watercolor paints, and charcoal pencils.”
“That doesn’t sound like a picnic to me,” said Gloria, and she threw the dodge ball at Albert.
Albert kicked the ball back and said “It isn’t a picnic. It’s field work. I’d better go on now so I can try to get back in time for my noon meal.”
After Albert left, Gloria said “I thought Albert was your best boyfriend. Why didn’t he want to play?”
“He’s always busy now that he’s studying word origins” said Frances. “He doesn’t spend much time on child’s play anymore.”
Then Frances made up a ball bouncing song and she and Gloria sang it as they bounced the playground ball to each other.
Compound nouns are not much fun,
Albert won’t play ball or run,
So we won’t have Mr. Fat
Albert when we play like that.
Frances and Gloria were making paper dolls after lunchtime, when Albert came by again.
“Did you use all the fieldwork equipment in the picnic hamper?” asked Frances.
“I didn’t have a chance to,” said Albert. “I could only find one compound noun, and I wrote it down on this brown paper lunch bag.”
“Can I see?” asked Gloria.
“You are too little,” said Frances.
Gloria sat down on the porch steps and cried.
“Let me see, Albert,” said Frances.
“No,” said Albert. “I am afraid you might steal this lexical item and use it in your own MA thesis.”
“Don’t be a dumb bunny, Albert,” said Frances. “I am studying syntactically-
“I forgot,” said Albert. “Let’s go in and have a mid-
Albert and Frances and Gloria ate potato chips and licorice sticks, and then spent the rest of the afternoon looking at Albert’s field equipment. A year later, Albert and Frances both finished their MA theses and got academic jobs in the linguistics department of the local community college. They served licorice sticks to their research assistants for many years afterwards.