How It Is Hanging—A Letter from a Junior Editorial Associate SpecGram Vol CLI, No 1 Contents The Voiced Snore Debunked—Metalleus

Letters to the Editor

To the Editors:

I recently came across a book entitled A Grammar of Eastern Porno by Sally McLendon in the “linguistics” section of my local university library. Even though the book was written in 1975, and I don’t know what a “grammar” is, I was expecting some basic quality T&A. But it was just hundreds of pages of words, with no pictures! I went to the “linguistics” department and asked them if they had a “cunning linguist” who could help me, and they referred me to you.

What do you have to say on the matter?

Sigmoid G. Schlesserbessen


Dear Mr Schlesserbessen,

It’s probably not Porno but Sorno, a language related (despite the protests of its speakers) to Moundsbar. Its original orthography was unique in the world, in writing only the vowels. Stay tuned to this journal.

Meanwhile keep a critical eye on your scanner. I have yet to find one that didn’t read ‘m’ as ‘rn’ whenever it liked, and you seem to have got hold of one that occasionally reads ‘s’ as ‘p’. Legally blind scanners can be summarily dumped in favor of hiring someone to just copy the stuff into a computer by nand. Er, hand.



“The etymologist finds the deadest words to have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


Dear Editors,

Of all the nasals, the uvular nasal is the one I hate the most. Alveolar nasal, apico dental nasal, (my all time favourite) velar nasal, even the retroflex nasal: I see the point to them. But, I cannot fathom why on earth anyone would evolve themselves a language that uses the uvular nasal. I suppose they’re the sort of people that would evolve themselves uvular stops, as well. Anything past the soft palate is for freaking dorks with nothing better to do than make it hard for people to know what nasal they are articulating. Seriously, what the hell kind of language is that?



Dear boofuls,

What kind of language is that? Frankly, not a very good one.

In “Rating the World’s Languages”, Mutombo and Thompson show that is possible to objectively rate the quality of a language based on several important properties of that language.

In an upcoming article next issue, “Re-Rating the World’s Languages”, K’awil and Hernandez y Fernandez re-rate several languages according to Mutombo and Thompson original formulas, but include several new and important criteria. One of the dimensions they consider is Obstreperousness, which captures exactly the kind of thing you are talking about. Why on earth would a decent human language need uvular nasals? It wouldn’t. It’s just being obstreperous.



“Language is the light of the mind.”
—John Stuart Mill

Dear Kind SpecGram Editors,

I was recently watching reruns of the documentary series Battlestar Galactica, when I was surprised to hear the Cylon machine Boomer correct the human Helo’s use of “further”, and then she gave a mini lesson in the use of “further” and “farther”all in the middle of a dangerous military mission in the middle of hostile territory.

I think this may reflect the prescriptivist bias of the documentary film-makers, but it also clearly demonstrates some of the worst dangers of prescriptivism. I don’t know whether building thinking, speaking machines encourages prescriptivism, or whether prescriptivism encourages building thinking, speaking machines, or both. “Both” seems likely to me, but I would value your expert opinion.

Thank you.

Martha M. Munson
Matilda, Montana


Our Dear Martha,

In our expert opinion, we think you should consider talking to your doctor about increasing the dosage of your medication. However, we are linguists, not pharmacists, so our opinion in this matter is not definitive.

As for prescriptivism, generally speaking it is a blight upon the face of the earth, and should be eradicated, except perhaps in certain special cases.

As for thinking machines that speak, or speaking machines that think, our opinion is that such achievements are wholly possible, but probably not for humans, who have yet to conclusively prove that a person can reliably think and speak at the same time. Poor humans, what are you going to do with them?

Binary to English Translation © 2006 AutoGrammatikon™.


“Dictionary, n. A malevolent literacy device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic.”
—Ambrose Bierce


Dear SpecGram,

I’ve heard rumors that you sometimes make up letters to the editor to allow you to flatter your journal, promote articles, or even just to fill space. I have always considered your awesome publication to be a bastion of academic and linguistic excellence and integrity, and I would be gravely disappointed if I ever learned that were not true.

I have more concerns, but I think my letter is probably long enough now.

Should I worry?

A. Real Linguist
Not-Made-Upton, UK


Dear A.,

You have nothing to worry about!

And your letter was exactly the right length! Thanks!



Speculative Grammarian accepts well-written letters commenting on specific articles that appear in this journal or discussing the field of linguistics in general. We also accept poorly-written articles that ramble pointlessly. We reserve the right to ridicule the poorly-written ones and publish the well-written ones... or vice versa, at our discretion.

How It Is Hanging—A Letter from a Junior Editorial Associate
The Voiced Snore Debunked—Metalleus
SpecGram Vol CLI, No 1 Contents