Letters to the Lawyers—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLX, No 2 Contents Meet the SpecGram Editors

Letters to the Editor

Dear SpecGram Editors:

One cannot help but notice that the ⅔ ellipsis your journal has pioneered is not experiencing the exponential wave of adoption that you doubtless wish it would have, and which it no doubt deserves. We here at Spinnemics Marketing, as a gesture of goodwill that has nothing whatsoever to do with getting a free mention in your journal, would like to suggest that the problem liesas is usually the casenot so much in the concept as in the packaging. People see two dots, and think, “But that is not an ellipsis! Part is missing!” They view the ⅔ ellipsis as an attack on the integrity of the ellipsis, rather than as a different mark entirely. The key to changing perceptions in such a situation is to give the new mark a name that emphasizes its distinctiveness, and point out that by providing an option usable in situations that almost, but not quite, justify the ellipsis, the mark prevents the real ellipsis from being overextended to the point of meaninglessness. Or in this case, metameaninglessness.

To that end, we suggest the following label and ad line:

The Bessillipsis: Because nothing less than enough nothing is nothing enough for an Ellipsis.

Geerhardt Sophos,
Dir. of Product Presence Enhancement
Spinnemics Marketing LLC


Dear Mr. Sophos,

Thank you for your interest in The SpecGram ⅔ Ellipsis™© (hereafter referred to as “the product”). We at SpecGram Corp LLC LTD Inc. appreciate the involvement of our dedicated fan community, and encourage its continued growth.

However, we must insist that you cease and desist with your knock-off version of the product. Consider this a friendly warning. The product is owned and controlled by SpecGram Corp LLC LTD Inc.’s parent group, Amalgamated Entertainment Services and Industrial Lighting Concern. Your attempt at “rebranding” and distributing the product can and most certainly will result in legal action against your person and/or organization. We take the intellectual property rights of our employees and subsidiaries very seriously, and are committed to prosecuting each case of intellectual property theft to the full extent allowable under the law. Though we appreciate your enthusiasm and value you as a fan, don’t believe for a moment that that will prevent us from seeking full restitution before a judge.

Thank you again for your continued interest in Speculative Grammarian. We look forward to seeking a speedy and amicable resolution to this matter.

Gerald R. Mikkelson
Senior Counsel and
On-Call Toaster Repairman


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.

Dear Editors,

Did you know that the Nazca geoglyphs actually represented life-size tracings of isoglosses and as such provide for an accurate picture of the dialectological situation on the plateau almost 2000 years ago? It can be regarded as established that regular cultic processions along these lines took place several times a year, in which people from different dialects would line up on either side of the line [sic] and shout words illustrating the isogloss in question (e.g. [e] vs. [ej]), while the elders and other principals of the different tribes would solemnly cross the plateau along the isoglosses, thereby asserting the underlying unity of the Nazca people, despite differences in low-level phonetic detail. In this sense, it is clear that earlier interpretations which saw the lines as either a giant calendar or a giant sports arena were blatantly false (Reiche 1941, von Breunig 1980). The fact that some of these lines form representations of animals can be regarded as a pure coincidence, since isoglosses often twist and bend in unpredictable ways, and need not be given any special amount of interest.

Epiphanios o Phorologoumenos
Isogloss Department, Linealogical Museum, Athens


Dear Prof. Ph:

Interesting as your hypothesis is, we feel compelled to point out that it relies on an assumption that is refuted by almost the entirety of sociolinguistic research (and history): that elders would have any tolerance at all for pronunciations different from those of their youth. Far from asserting unity, any tribal elder worth his/her ceremonial headdress would instead be vigorously whacking nearby young people upside the head for saying things the wrong way. And walk across that plateau? Do you have any idea what arthritis is like? Oh no, it’s all fun and games until someone’s hip gives out.

Assembling everyone together and asking them to focus on speech would simply exacerbate the linguistic archeoflamefest, particularly since any given subset of the population might have trouble hearing some of the distinctions (cf. “pin” vs. “pen” among Southerners). We do, however, give you points for providing a novel explanation for why the Nazca are no more, particularly since it would explain any cranial contusions on mummified remains.

There are, by the way, two far simpler explanations in addition to the “sports” and “calendar” views.

(1) The van Daniken explanation: that not only was Earth visited by aliens, but that these aliens were of such titanic stupidity thathaving crossed the measureless gulfs of space in starshipsthey couldn’t figure out where to land unless someone put up a giant picture of a critter, or a nice easily-visible pyramid. Saucer aliens are inevitably the elderly uncles of the universe, unable to navigate but too proud to ask directions.

(2) The Realist explanation: Nazca philosophers decided that words had to refer to something, even abstract words, and that unanchored reference caused confusion. They then set about creating giant designs to act as referents for common abstract terms, particularly religious ones. Alas, a slightly later philosopher then pointed out that the system only worked via the ability of the pictures to refer to the words, whereupon the entire population moved to the coast out of disgust.


Letters to the LawyersA Letter from the Managing Editor
Meet the SpecGram Editors
SpecGram Vol CLX, No 2 Contents