Lettre à un Ami Philologue—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLX, No 3 Contents Meet the SpecGram Editors

Letters to the Editor

Dear Eds,

I have a question: Is there a word for a sentence which has no lexical or grammatical errors but makes no sense? I know there’s “nonsense” or “craziness”, of course. Is there a linguistic term for it? Or is it outside the realm of linguistics?

Rebecca F.


Dear Rebecca,

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” is the canonical example. No single term for the situation seems to exist. “Grammatical-but-nonsensical” is descriptive (of both this type of example and linguistics as a whole, really). “Syntactically correct but semantically ill-formed” is more technical. Either is better than “nonsense”, since “Gyhyg umpen fvon grekl” is also nonsense, but it is not English, nor is it syntactically correct (unless we accidentally produced some Hungarian and didn’t realize it).


Dear Speculative Grammarian,

If you had to buy a vowel, how much would you be willing to pay for it? R vwls rlly ncssry nywy?

- nt


Dr nt,

W t SpcGrm wd drly lk t by(?) vwls, bt m frd wr xtrmly(?) lw n fnds. F y(?) knw whr w cn fnd ny(?) fr chp, pls d tll! W cn spr (prhps) twnty(?) t thrty(?) cnts (ttl).


P.S.: Wr nt sr bt “y”. Dnt tll r crdtrs!


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.

Lettre à un Ami PhilologueA Letter from the Managing Editor
Meet the SpecGram Editors
SpecGram Vol CLX, No 3 Contents