A Plea For Decency
Linguistics has gone bad, and we need to do something about it.
Our discipline is riddled with sinful words like syntax, syndeton, synthetic, and crude innuendos such as genitival, clitic, deictic, and dangling participles. Is it a mere happenstance that durative sounds like the name of a condom? No, it is not. It is a deliberate attempt to vulgarise the field of linguistics by gaudy grammarians after having spent too many nights at X-Bars.
These all too obvious attempts at sexualising our discipline must be stopped. It is a moral crime to allow innocent, pure students to be bombarded with such tawdry terms as c-structures (we all know what the c-word is, and it ain’t a count noun, I can tell you that), cross-
I realise that some of these derive from lewd linguists’ sub-
The time has come to act. We need to clean up our filthy discipline from these horrible STDs (Scientific Terminological Diseases). We need to appoint a Guardian of Scientific Decency. Someone who can act as a moral mentor and secure the chastity of our students’ intellectual development.
Please send your nominations for candidates to “Lost & Found Dept., The United Nations Building, New York, USA”. Someone will be in touch with you for further instructions.
Ummmmm. Uhhh. Wow. That’s, uh, a perspective.
I’ve read H. Barca’s letter1 with great interest. I totally agree with him on the topic of the abuse of footnotes,2 but I’d like to remind the linguistic community that, although long unrecognised, the real function of footnotes in footnotes lies elsewhere: their raison d’être is to create the impression of witnessing an academic discourse unravelling itself in real time, with all the infinite recursions language is famous for.3 Footnotes, therefore, have not so much a pragmatic function, but a mimetic4 one.
1 SpecGram CLIV.4
2 I especially agree with the following: “If something is important, put it in the main body of the text. If it’s not important, don’t include it in your paper at all.” After all, linguists still keep their footnotes within reasonable limits, which is probably a direct consequence of their suffering from Physics Envy and graphically denying any link to the much more footnote-
3 See, for example, Chomsky 2006, Language and Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, or any other of the thousands of references on this topic.
4 Depending on the reader’s disposition, they can also have an entertaining function, thereby creating a whole new level of meta-
1 By “Hmm” we mean to indicate that we agree1.1 with what you are saying.
1.1 Our agreement is, naturally, only general1.1.1 in nature; some specifics1.1.2 require further pondering.
1.1.1 Though there are certainly some specifics we do agree with, like the whole Physics Envy thing,220.127.116.11 and recursion.18.104.22.168
1.1.2 Some specific specifics we were thinking of: entertainment,22.214.171.124 and “a whole new level of meta-
126.96.36.199 That really is a sad and nasty business.
188.8.131.52 We really like recursion.184.108.40.206.1
220.127.116.11 Is it really appropriate for academic discourse to be treated as mere entertainment? We have mixed feelings on this.18.104.22.168.1
22.214.171.124 While “a whole new level of meta-
126.96.36.199.1 We really, really like recursion. Even the infinite188.8.131.52 kind!
184.108.40.206.1 See every issue ever of SpecGram, for instance.
220.127.116.11.1 Not all of the editors agreed with this statement.
18.104.22.168.2 Some of them threatened to quit over it.22.214.171.124.2.1
126.96.36.199.3 But we agree that meta- is the most under-
188.8.131.52.2.1 One who threatened to quit was Butch McBastard.184.108.40.206.2.1.1
220.127.116.11.3.1 This may be recursive.18.104.22.168 Or maybe meta-
22.214.171.124.2.1.1 Which is why several editors demanded we print the statement, even though they didn’t agree with it.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Two chances of me quitting: fat and slim! —B. McB.
Speculative Grammarian accepts well-
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