Past Tense, Present Mood, Future Voice—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLIX, No 4 Contents Meet the <i>SpecGram</i> Editors

Letters to the Editor

Dear, Dear Editors,

Oh dear dear. I hesitate... I hesitate and reduplicate, because I must own up to a swina twin sin. I got full scores on the Vallelz fieldwork puzzle, on the day it was published, for which I won a magnet, twice over. I twon: won one for speed and won two for accuracy.

Alas! (This is where I own up to what I twon.) My winning is fraught with insider spinning. Not only is Vallelz my father tongue, I am also a linguist on my mother’s side, so this was a spin win, yet another swin, and thus not a fair win. And two swins cannot make a right, right? I am duplicately duplicitous, oh dear dear. So please find enclosed not only my abject apologies, as above and as below, but the magnets, as is. The one which says that All My Morpheme Are Belong To You doesn’t make much sense anyway, because -emes cannot be belong to anyone, as my mother taught me and you should well know, although the magnet is, to you, because my swins are not belong to me and fair is fair and twon is tnot. The one with a drawing of something or other about Macaroni and Cheese doesn’t make any sense at all. Besides, cheese makes me sneeze.

Bear with me for only two more paragraphs, where I grovel some more and wheeze, a pox on the cheese. Dear dear. I had a difficult childhood. I know this is a pedestrian excuse, but it is gratifying to assign dishonesty to abstract -hoods. In her youth, my poor mother was among the many victims of the horde of field linguists who regularly descend upon us, all male and pale and pimply and theoretically and practically hormonal and persuaded that our affixes are belong to their fixes about promotion and tenure and extended coffee breaks, just like other vermin jab and grab for their grub as they please and as our Vallelz patrilineal ancestors were so quick to notice and so keen to sanction in a unified semantic class. They said, the fieldworkers, they did, that they’d make her one of their honored tribe, honored, they said!, if she only showed and told the stratificational convolutions of our tongue, which they did because she did. Her condition was passed on to me, since our culture is matrilineal.

I’m a bit jealous, actually. She goes on promoting and tenuring away because she’s pretty and pithy; I’m writing letters to Editors because I’m plain and inarticulate. Won’t any of you pimply fieldworkers please offer to speculate about my (af)fixes? Please? Soon? I am currently struggling through graduate Informant Studies at the Lalolalo Vallelzian Foundation, Powder & Rouge.

Compunctiously and expectantly yours,
Ms vu-Blank-ɦā*

* “Blank”, my mother taught me, is code for “Fill-In-Your-Informant-Pet-Nickname-For-Me-Honey”, something that field linguists delight in, she also taught me.


Dear Ms vu-Blank-ɦā,

While we are displeased at your deception, we respectfully accept the return of your prizeshad you only disclosed your native speaker status, we could have handled this all much more discreetly. We also regret to inform you that your original letter, with your home address, was vigorously passed around among our interns. Over a dozen pimply prospective fieldworkers are in transit to you as this issue goes to press, each with a potentially unwholesome desire to speculate your affixes. Beyond these more mundane concerns, we must also say that while we do not personally put much stock in psychology (largely because their departments have better lab equipment than our departments), the help you obviously need is outside our area of expertise, and you should seek advice from a therapist. Good luck.



I enjoyed reading The Encyclopedia of Mytholingual Creatures, Places, and Things, but was distressed to detect an overwhelming philological flavor, without even a tiny taste of the great culture and folklore of computational linguistics. So, I have included below 14,783 entries that you may wish to add to future editions of the Encyclopedia.

[Note: We obviously could not include all 14,783 entries, so here is just one, chosen at random.]

PALIN. A mythical programming language that reputedly allows coding without checking spelling, grammar, or pretty much anything at all. In most variants of the myth, it can be compiled but not interpreted, and runs on only one platform (the most common version has this as Windows ME). The language is described as being completely declarative and context-free; variables are strongly typed, yet hyper-mutable (their values change spontaneously). It allows constant self-reference but not reflection, and is supposedly describable only in the (also mythical) Delusional Backus-Naur Notation. Do not confuse with Python; different Palin.

Declaratively yours,
Rhett Urnvall-Yu
Professor, Ironic Nasalization Grammars
Axiopneumatic College, Kingston


Yo, Notorious P.I.N.G.!

Ack! That was a very... long... treatise you sent us. It was downright ridonkulous.

In other news, the various and numerous birds around our office (we keep them, rather than plants, because they tend to keel over should there be an unhealthy build up of gasor gasbagsin the office) shall never want for cage liners again.

In other, other news, we were not pleased with the implied disrespectful political overtones of much of your list. We accept that folklore is a living thing, shaped by the Zeitgeist in the mouths and minds of those who use and live it. (Unlike, we might note, Language, which is a Platonic Ideal reflected, via the luminiferous aether, directly if not perfectly into the minds of speakers.)

You clearly misunderestimate the solemnity of your actions. Because of the partisanship present in your list of computational linguistic folkloric entries, we must refudiate it, completely and without reservation.

You are one wee-wee’d up melon farmer...

You betcha!


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 letters 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.

Past Tense, Present Mood, Future VoiceA Letter from the Managing Editor
Meet the SpecGram Editors
SpecGram Vol CLIX, No 4 Contents