There are, quite probably, some linguists who do not enjoy fishing. I’ve never met anyone who actually admitted this, in so many words, but now and again when I’m chatting someone up at a conference I sense just the slightest hesitation, an extra few milliseconds of pause, before an unnaturally enthusiastic “yes, the weedless hula popper is my favorite bass lure, too.” The semantics is all felicitous, but metalinguistically, I can tell we’re not really on the same page.
It’s odd, if you think about it. Fishing is just about the most appropriate pastime I can imagine for a linguist. Why wouldn’t we all love it?
In case you don’t agree with me yet, here are just a few of the features of fishing that have obvious parallels in academic linguistics:
The basic goal is to draw something from the deep to the surface.
Different methods of doing this drawing are possible, and no two fishermen agree on which method is most reliable.
You absolutely, positively, certainly never want to let any lines cross.
People often ask you what your hobbies are, but nine-
There are only a very few basic tools of your trade
There are television programs devoted to tips on fishing, allowing you to watch master fishermen reel in the big ones time after time... Oh, wait, that’s not similar at all. Sorry.
You want to catch fish, but not just any fish. Of the dozens of species of fish in any given body of water, only a handful are sought after and taken home if caught. The others are ignored, called “uninteresting,” and thrown back into the water immediately if caught by accident. In fact, some fishermen kill undesirable fish immediately, rather than returning them to the water.
As a reader of Speculative Grammarian, you can see the parallels instantly. If you can’t, though, it means you need to dust off your fishing gear and get out to the lake right away. Really, if you don’t understand fishing, you can’t expect to understand linguistics, and that means you can’t really expect to understand yourself.