SpecGram Vol CLVIII, No 2 Contents Letters to the Editor

The Joy of Old and Odd Books

A Letter from the Managing Editor

As I was perusing my signed 1355 first edition copy of Jötunn Svartálfar’s Teach Yourself Gothic in Six Score Minutes per Fortnight, I was struck by the stark disparity between my personal and professional collections of books, as compared to the utter disregard for the written word displayed by the general American populace. Old books and odd books, musty treatises and crumbling tomes, flights of fancy and important, eternal ideas fill the bookshelves of my library and inhabit the chambers of my mind. In contrast, the average personbarely deserving of the appellation homo sapienscover what shelves they have with worthless gewgaws while their minds echo hollowly with a vapid emptiness.

As a linguist (both academician and polyglot), I value the unexpected find in a second-hand bookstore, be it a breezy, whimsical treatise on second-order epistemological metaphors in 15th century Albanian poetical forms, or a staid, scholarly dissertation on the use among middle school boys of vulgar puns in Zulu. A well-turned phrase, a well-made book, a well-thought-out argument all have value and meaning to me that I believe escapes the television-soaked, celebrity-saturated, marketing-steeped remnants of the average American intellect.

I believe that linguistics has afforded me, more than any other intellectual endeavor, this broadness of mind and the concomitant delicate and discerning cognitive palate. Linguistics sensitizes one to language and to Language, one’s own as well as that of others. It encourages an appreciation of languages that leads to a love of literatures that are not native to one’s mother tongue. I adore these books precisely because they are the outward manifestation of the inward transmogrification linguistics has wrought on my soul.

No, wait, I was thinking of philology. Never mind.

With that, I offer hearty congratulations to the Chiasmus of the Month Award winner for February 2010!

Gordon Wells, 2009, The Meaning Makers: Learning to Talk and Talking to Learn, Multilingual Matters.
Chiasmus of the Month
February 2010

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLVIII, No 2 Contents