...The Monkey Chased the Weasel—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLII, No 3 Contents From the Department of Cheap Research—Woody Ellen

Letters to the Editor


In “TLAs DOA? TBD!”, author Claude SPP trots out the VTC of TLAs leading to the DEEL. IMO, TLAs, 2LAs, FLAs and even 5+LAs are AOK b/c they improve the RoC for TITK. FWIW, DOE research shows the EOE, IIRC. Of course, IANAL and YMMV.

Eks Wyy Zee
Miami, Fla

2LA: Two Letter Acronym
5+LA: Five or More Letter Acronym
AOK: A-okay
b/c: because
DEEL: the Downfall of the Entire English Language
Dir: Director
DOE: Department of Energy
Eds: Editors
EOE: Exact Opposite Effect
Fla: Florida
FLA: Four Letter Acronym
Fmr: Former
FWIW: For What It’s Worth
IANAL: I Am Not A Lawyer
IIRC: If I Recall Correctly
JTF: Joint Task Force
MLA: Multi-Letter Acronym
RoC: Rate of Communication
SPP: Searsplainpockets
TITK: Those In The Know
TLA: Three Letter Acronym
TTFN: Ta-Ta For Now
VTC: Very Tired Cliche
WCTYBWHTKY: We Could Tell You But We’d Have To Kill You
YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary





* That was very hard to follow, but we think you actually proved the opposite of what you set out to prove.


N with Long Right Leg


Dear Eds,

I’ve been meaning to write since I first read Vére Çélen’s fine article The Quotta and the Quottiod. The subtitle, “Punctuation Designed for Linguists, by Linguists” got me thinkingperhaps linguists should be designing punctuation for non-linguists, too.

In particular, our historical (if not personal) experience with maintaining distinctions between typographically overlapping orthographic, phonemic, and phonetic symbols, dealing with use versus mention, and handling interlinear transcriptions/morpheme-by-morpheme glosses/idiomatic translations, all while limited to typewritten text, gives us unprecedented collective practical expertise.

One of the most pressing issues of the day is what I call “Google quotes”. When telling someone what search terms to use in an internet search engine, it is difficult to properly indicate whether to include quotes in the search. Searching for Speculative Grammarian is different from searching for "Speculative Grammarian". Of course, in that example, I used italics, but that is not always an available option.

The most obvious solution, to me, is something like /Speculative Grammarian/ or ["Speculative Grammarian"]. I prefer the slashes to the brackets, since they seem to be somewhat less polysemous.

With great hope,
Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck
Yuniveristy of Yonkers, NY


Yo Adriaen,

You have come up with a grand suggestion, we think. We don’t really fully understand the interweb thing, but it sounds nice. Our records indicate that we actually thought of this very same thing back in 1974 when many of our more senior editors were consulting with the NSA on certain free-text-search-related projects.

Slashes are the proper form to use, and their proper name, in such usage, is SpecGrammackets©®. (Turns out we invented so-called “CamelCase”, too!in 1845, no less!) Thanks for the walk down memory lane.



Inverted Small Capital A

Dear Speculative Grammarians,

Homeopathic medicine is all the rage right now, with its talk of “proving”, increasingly puissant “powers” of dilution, vibrations, and whatnot. The generally gullible public, unaware or unwilling to believe that it is all bunk, has fallen for the homeopathic spielhook, line, and sinker.

It seems to me that we, as linguistsverbivores and lovers of language allcould concoct a superior line of patter to hawk our own brand of equally ineffectual snake oil. A little creative etymology or other linguistic legerdemain could readily put a very high-polish verbal shine on our own medicinal dog excrement.

Some first thoughts: the best scientific theories of the day indicate that homeopathic medicine, if it works at all, works through the placebo effect. Using of a touch of verbal judo to bring some New Age Native American fetishism into the mix, we could attribute this inarguably powerful source of healing“which is still not fully understood by hidebound traditional Western medicine”to the remnants of mystical wisdom and lore that have trickled down to us through the years from the medicine men of the enlightened “Placebo Indians”. If we can, albeit unintentionally, firmly entrench in the minds of some segment of the public that the Hopi language is better than other languages for studying quantum mechanics, we can convince them of anything.

While I believe that this approach could net its practitioners oodles of cold hard cash, startup costs for initial promotion are prohibitive. That is why I have written to such fine and respected scholars as yourselves; “SpecGram Brand Linguopathic Medicine” would instantly have a sense of gravitas, authenticity, and trustworthiness that few other brands could muster.

Please respond to my proposal at your earliest convenience.

Reginald R. R. Rapscallion, MD., Ph.D.
Resourceful Resources Development Co.


Dear Reggie,

The lure of “oodles of cold hard cash” is hard to resist, so we are making your proposal public, to ensure that we are never tempted to yield to it. While we do believe that your scheme may be an effective money-maker, to implement it would be contrary to the spirit of this august journal, and to that of the field of linguistics as a whole. Both quasi-legality and pulling the wool over the eyes of the public, or even other linguists, have a long and and storied tradition in linguistics. The Great Vowel Shift, Tad von Thessperpool’s Austrian Phoneme Dutch-Auction Bidding War, and glottochronology are well-known and loved examples of the former. Stratificational linguistics, tagmemics, and X-bar theory are known and well-loved examples of the latter.

But using linguistics to make money?! What gall! Who do you think we are? A bunch of Deborah Tannens and Steven Pinkers? Never! The field is built primarily on the three pillars of hard work, clever analysis, and financial sacrifice (if not outright financial ruin and destitution).

Declining respectfully though reproachfully,


Hooktop Barred Dotless J


Dear Eds,

I was glad to read Wells-Jensen’s recent article on A Braille Orthography for tlhIngan. As it is with blind Klingons, so it is with blind Kzinti: “It is unwise to anger these warriors lest one find oneself suddenly alone in a darkened corridor with a very serious problem.”

Our understanding of the Kzinti language has grown substantially since the old days. As previously noted, the Kzinti script is apparently “designed for inscribing messages into the flesh of defeated adversaries with a Kzin claw,” and as such parallels Wells-Jensen’s description of writing Klingon Braille on skin. Recent discoveries have revealed that in fact blind Kzin use the standard Kzinti script in the same way blind Klingons use tlhIngan Braille. The parallel evolution is intriguing.

Arthur T. Saxtorph


Dear Art,

As a Vulcan friend of ours was wont to say, “Fascinating.”



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.

...The Monkey Chased the Weasel—A Letter from the Managing Editor
From the Department of Cheap Research—Woody Ellen
SpecGram Vol CLII, No 3 Contents