How Does Art Mean? Parsing the Grammar of Fine Art—Morris McConaughey SpecGram Vol CLXXXV, No 4 Contents Update on Linguistic Protocol Regarding Addressing the Monarch—Her Majesty’s Department of Linguistics


Frank Quipley spent some time yachting around one of the -nesias1 with his nephew Josh. A brief unscheduled stop from late morning to early evening allowed Dr. Quipley to do more fieldwork.

Dr. Quipley reports on the K—— tribe, located on a remote South Pacific atoll too small to show up on any maps.2 The island is home to about 75 non-seafaring natives. The elders tell of a man and woman and a giant storm that destroyed their vaʻa. Dr. Quipley was unable to figure out the meaning of this word but is willing to venture an “educated” guess that it means banana.

The island is mostly devoid of edible flora with the exception of silipu, an abundant local plant resembling a wild carrot. The natives subsist primarily on the fish iʻa teeming around the atoll. The local fish is clearly not to Dr. Quipley’s refined tastes,3 but Dr. Quipley is not one to back down from a challenge. At their second meal, his personal chef fried up some iʻa in herb-infused extra virgin olive oil, topped with toasted pine nuts and served with farro and a creamy banana puree. Dr. Quipley offered it to the natives, who were confused by his description of the dish.4

An unusual feature of the K—— language is its lack of any kinship terms beyond words meaning parent and child. Dr. Quipley noted the tropical nature of the island and its lack of obvious natural resources as reasons why their society is, to use his description, “clothing-optional”. Taken together, these observations suggest an explanation for a popular activity that Dr. Quipley observed, which he wouldn’t describe in any detail except that it was “exceptionally prurient from the perspective of an enlightened society” (again, his words). Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, Dr. Quipley was shocked, shocked to discover the sociological implications of these facts and, in retrospect, not so shocked, shocked to discover that he had completely lost track of his nephew Josh, who was remarkably chipper at suppertime.

While gathered for supper, Dr. Quipley tried to teach the natives the basics of the Inuit kinship system, introducing concepts that translate roughly as aunt; cousin; incest; morality; and please, dear God, stop doing that. His presentation went over about as well as his5 meal. At first, one of the elders pointed to the silipu and waved off Dr. Quipley’s concerns about genetics and heritable defects.6 Things got progressively more heated from there. The Quipleys narrowly escaped, chased by natives angrily shouting “get their banana!”

The editors are split on the believability of this one. On one hand, it does fit what we know of the Quipleys. On the other hand, our friends in the geography department assure us that there are no habitable islands that haven’t been discovered. Our conclusion is don’t believe it! ... or do?



1 Polynesia? Mononesia? Micronesia? Mininesia? Dr. Quipley seems to have come down with amnesia.

2 We think that a more attentive captain might have avoided grounding the yacht regardless.

3 Nor to those of his nephew, who rather indelicately likened their taste to something that Dr. Quipley felt advisable not to translate into the natives’ language.

4 Although a reluctant few tried it, Dr. Quipley felt it advisable not to translate their feedback into our language.

5 Well, his chef’s.

6 In fact, the elders had a better understanding of Mendelian inheritance than Dr. Quipley’s nephew, who has supposedly taken a few biology classes. Count us as shocked, shocked.

How Does Art Mean? Parsing the Grammar of Fine ArtMorris McConaughey
Update on Linguistic Protocol Regarding Addressing the MonarchHer Majesty’s Department of Linguistics
SpecGram Vol CLXXXV, No 4 Contents