Earlier this year Associate Editor Jonathan Downie made the bold move of interviewing several members of the editorial board and distilling the information, stories, and rumor he got in the process down to a one-
You are a serious linguist, with expertise in historical linguistics. What made you first decide to contribute to SpecGram?
MT: I was an undergrad at Rice from 1993 to 1997; I knew a few of the old guard (Pulju, Katz, Reindl) and often hung out in the linguistics department lounge for free coffee because I was very poor, and because it seemed to irritate any number of snooty grad students. Print versions of SpecGram abounded there, or at least were more abundant than anywhere else on earth, and one day after some of my odd extracurricular reading I had the idea for my first contribution. At the time it was a one-
If you are a Mongolist, do you know weird facts about Ghengis Khan?
MT: Yes I am and no I don’t. Though it depends on what group I am compared against when judging “weird.” Compared to other Mongolists, no; compared to a general audience, probably.
What effect(s) do you think SpecGram has had on the linguistics community as a whole?
MT: In my estimation, they look on us with a mixture of fear and revulsion, rather like old Victorian portraits staring down on their decadent descendants. Wait
Have any of your colleagues ever reacted (positively or negatively) to one of your SpecGram pieces?
MT: Yes. One of my old committee members is a regular reader thanks to me, I gather, and one speaker visiting IU four years ago was introduced to me and knew me from some of my articles.
What is your favourite linguistics area to satirise and why?
MT: Ideally I’d master Chomskyan syntactic theory and set to like a pirate on PCP; however, that would require mastering Chomskyan syntactic theory. In fact, it’s all good, but I have a special fondness for satirizing clueless interdisciplinarians and anything that makes for painful puns.
SpecGram recently celebrated its tenth online year. What do you think are the reasons for its longevity?
MT: Low cunning, nunchucks, and a complete absence of scruples, combined with serious inefficiencies in our bloated legal system.
Lastly, if you could pick any linguist, alive or dead, and poke them until they wrote a SpecGram piece, who would it be and why?
MT: Jim McCawley, probably. He could swing a nunchuck like none other.
More to come...