Reviewerish Field Notes
by Cy Tayshon and M. Paktphaq-Torr
One of the most important skills linguists-to-be must develop is the ability to interpret the true meaning behind apparently transparent locutions used by more senior practitioners of the art and science of linguistics. Early, helpful work in this area includes Metalleus’s “Important Idioms in Contemporary Science” (Lingua Pranca 1978), and An Interpreter’s Dictionary of Linguistic Argumentation (Onesimus, 2008).
As important as these resources are, they focus largely on the critical interpretation of linguistics texts. As proto-linguists develop to the point where they begin to prepare their own texts, it is crucial to be able to similarly interpret relevant critical meta-texts—i.e., the comments of usually anonymous reviewers who act as gatekeepers to the precious commodity known as “publication”.
Inspired by the likes of Metalleus and Onesimus, and after several years spent gaining the trust needed to pierce the veil of anonymity, we have set out to meet the obvious need, and have begun extensive fieldwork among reviewers.
Here we present an early look at some of the most intriguing and useful examples we have discovered so far.
Reviewerish: The authors should include references to Smith (2009), Smith (2010) and Smith (2011).
English: Pad my citations, baby!
Reviewerish: I find the argument in the discussion section less than compelling, especially as it deals with the theoretical work of Smith (2009, 2010, 2011).
English: How dare you question my theories, boy! When I was your age, we looked up to our elders. I will tan your hide for that!
Reviewerish: The structure of this paper is unclear in places.
English: No idea what you are trying to say here, chief.
Reviewerish: This is an adequate addition to the field.
English: Me? Jealous that you have just revolutionized the field and will be quoted for years? Nah!
Reviewerish: The conclusions of the paper are sound; however some details need revision before it is ready for publication.
English: I did actually read it. Bet you weren’t expecting that!
Reviewerish: This paper touches on an interesting subject.
English: Nice abstract. No pretty pictures. Too long; didn’t read.
Reviewerish: The figure on p. 3 seems to be unclear.
English: What was it supposed to be? A Magic Eye picture?
Reviewerish: This paper presents an exciting, although under-explored question.
English: Ooh, I actually like this one. Or maybe I just put too much sugar in my coffee again.
Reviewerish: There is a typo on page 37.
English: I only read that one page carefully, and only so I could find a typo to point out.
Reviewerish: The author may want to consider making some of the following changes.
English: Good luck figuring out which ones I actually think are important.
Reviewerish: I feel this text may have been submitted too early and needs substantial revision in all aspects of its theoretical background, analysis, and argumentation.
English: Dang! My group is doing a similar study and we don’t want to be scooped.
Reviewerish: This paper represents a major and exciting contribution to the field, and deserves to be published immediately. It will have a lasting impact.
English: I’ll be applying for a job in the author’s department soon, so please forward these comments to her.
Reviewerish: The text falls way short of this journal’s rigorous proofreading standards.
English: Why the heck do non-native English speakers insist on submitting research papers?!
Reviewerish: The theoretical underpinning of this paper leaves something to be desired.
English: Seriously, what part of “pad my citations” are you not getting?
The reader is reminded to ponder this question: Is a belief really jaded cynicism if it’s completely and utterly true?