Pjerpe N. D’Kular
& Oldja Loppy
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies
In an attempt to better understand the thought processes of expert linguists, scientists at the University of Shuffleboard set up a challenge of spatial and logical reasoning. Linguists from a variety of subfields were asked to parallel park a small white hatchback between two stationary articulated trucks. Results follow:
- Three phoneticians were hospitalized after spending four hours next to the exhaust trying to transcribe engine noise.
- Two Chomskyan linguists spent six hours arguing that parking was innate and so the ideal linguist would be able to do it easily. He looks a lot like them, apparently.
- A gaggle of postmodern linguists arrived with placards that called parking “an imperialist imposition” and proceeded to write a thick book that showed that the car now self-identifies as a banana.
- A lexicographer parked the car in the next city and claimed success for a given definition of success.
- A morphologist identified the hatchback as a mesoclitic, and it fit right in. Unfortunately, the car would no longer move without the trucks, and the convoy was quite difficult to park. His minimalist friend suggested that they define the truck-hatchback-truck group as a mesoclitic of its own. Several Merges later, authorities were advising everyone to stay off the road while they cleared the large traffic jam.
- A native speaker parallel parked perfectly fine, but the prescriptivist in the passenger seat kept barking that she was doing it wrong.*
- A dialectologist wouldn’t focus on the task at hand, instead asking everyone present to say “park the car” repeatedly.
- An animal-communication researcher commented that a chimp could do a better job than many of the competitors.
- Three X-bar linguists were arrested for DUI.
- A conlanger paddled a canoe into a jetty, since it was the most culturally appropriate translation he could come up with.
- A freelance translator parked the car fifteen times and charged 25% less for the repetitions.
- A specialist in humor studies parked an eel-filled hovercraft.
- A xenolinguist parked a flying saucer.
- A statistical linguist first parked the car a mile to the north. After trying again, he parked it a mile to the south. He walked away victorious, pronouncing that he had managed to get a perfect performance (on average).**
- An Esperantist got the most internationally recognizable car he could find. He spent the day driving round town looking for the perfect parking space, asking passers-by to get in the car with him and haranguing anyone who drove a different car, until he ran out of petrol.
- A couple of Lojbanists got into an argument about how to properly translate “parallel.”
- An etymologist enclosed a Celtic war chariot with fences placed alongside each other.
- A couple of entomologists wandered into the testing area by mistake, but before they could be shooed away, the historical linguist pointed out that their arrival was inevitable, and it was best to just make them and their butterfly collection ride in the back of the etymologist’s chariot.
- A computational linguist with a specialization in machine learning spent seven hours recording every feature of the hatchback and all the other cars the various linguists had driven to the event, then placed a red and green beacon light on the right front fender, wedged a unicycle under the rear driver’s side tire, painted a racing stripe on the trunk at a precise 37.4° angle, and then intoned the magic phrase Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl stayshn wagn—and suddenly the hatchback was perfectly parked, though inexplicably the steering wheel had moved to the other side of the car.
- A syntactician painted an α on the roof of the car and said she’d send some grad students over later to work out the details of properly ordering the necessary constraints to get the car wherever it needed to be.
- A phonologist parked the car perfectly, but was disqualified when one of the phoneticians pointed out that the car she had parked was technically “ivory,” not “white,” and therefore was a completely different car.
- Jacob Grimm put a dog in the car and got it to bark.
- A typologist parked the car in a nearby slot, arguing that anywhere on the same block is close enough to count as an instance of the same kind of parking.
- A phonologist issued a ticket to the parallel-parked car for violating IDENT(lane).
- A functionalist would not park the car, but continued driving it, because cars are meant for driving. (Eventually she ran out of gas.)
- A grammaticalization specialist inched into the parking space so slowly that the transition from movement to being parked could not actually be observed.
- A grad student chose a different space because he spotted a meter that had time left on it.
- A documentary linguist crashed the car because he was focused on using his mobile phone to film the backup camera display during his parking attempt.
- Young(er) Chomsky easily parked in the underground garage right below the trucks, waved his hands, and claimed that he had transformed the car into the correct position on the surface.
- A conference interpreter said that she could only drive the car if it had ISO standard ventilation, a fast Wi-Fi connection, and a cup holder. Also, she could only drive it for 30 minutes at a time with someone in the seat next to her.
* -ly! You’re doing it wrongly!
** Every time Frederick Jelinek fired a linguist, the performance of his automatic parallel parker went up.