An Editorial Comment on ElHaye and Jiŋkins—Butch McBastard and Jonathan van der Meer SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 1 Contents Union of Linguist Lecturers Sets Speaking Fees—SpecGram Wire Services

Letters to the Editor

To the Editorial Board

Your journal recently featured a series of articles debating a variety of pseudo-cosmolinguistic theories, such as the Linguistic Big Bang, Freeze, Bounce, and so on. I find it characteristic that the other side of the debate is bitterly missing. A publication platform such as yours should embrace and give a forum to the Controversy.

Don’t you believe there is a GENERATOR who not only set everything in motion, but creates each individual form each time a sentence is uttered?

Don’t you believe that each word has its own abstract underlying representation which will persist in the language even when it has been forgotten and is no longer in use?

Who do you think created the constraints in the grammar? Who fine-tuned them in such a way that English, as we know it, could eventually emerge, alongside a variety of other language families and larger phyla? This can’t be due to chance! It would be simply incredible!

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the grammar of a language should increase in complexity over time to the point of becoming really unwieldy and incomprehensible. Yet this isn’t happening. How do you explain this without resorting to a superior Prescriptor whose laws keep the grammars of our languages in the beautiful order we know?

How could we lovingly care for each idiom, no matter how distorted or pidgin-like it is, if it is just regarded in a utilitarian way? Even when a language or dialect is in a near-vegetative state, with the last speaker having gone deaf and lost their teeth, we still think it has kept intact all its higher underlying representations, so it should be treated with respect.

How could anyone find it not utterly unbelievable that constructions of such intricate complexity as the Basque auxiliary verbs could have come into existence without the considerate planning of some higher being?

We concede that microevolution does existthings like /u/-fronting in British Englishbut this doesn’t make for a new language.

Show us the evidence for real language change! As far as we know, every stone tablet scientists have found in the desert displays an already fully developed language system. There are no intermediate forms in the paleographic record. Besides, nearly all papyri found in the Middle East and North African deserts are fakes.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but we have Truth on our side.

Randy Right
Concerned Scientists for American Structuralism


Dear Mr. Right,

Despite your lack of understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which states that entropy, not complexity, increases with time in a physically closed system (which belies your lack of familiarity with the more relevant Thirty Fourth Law of Linguodynamics (which states that linguistic entropy increases with time in a linguistically closed system (that is, one which has no socio-communicative energy coming into it (a claim borne out by the existence of the only such system, the language of the Perry So-so (the so-called “laziest language on earth”)))))), your point is clear enough. As with the article by ElHaye and Jiŋkins we have begrudgingly printed in this issue, we have deep reservations that your idiosyncratic theolinguistic notions are nothing more than a weak façade for an ugly and unctuous underlying prescriptivism. Are you also a Wrathful Dispersionist?

Believe what you will, but call it by what it is. “Truth”? Bah!



Dear SpecGram,

I’m puzzled by the decapitated i’s in the recent article “Descrıptıvısm X!”. Is this symbolic of something that I’m missing? I thought the first 53 of them might be typos but then I decided they must be intentional.

Keith S.


Dear Kev,

We used the dotless i’s (and even a dotless j or two) because the author of that article, Ldaxın Kushtaka, has a pathological fear of dotted letters, and we are obligated by the International Linguists with Diacritical Disabilities Agreement, and compelled by common decency, to accommodate such authors if possible. We regret that we have not been able to accommodate linguistic authors who suffer from verbophobia and submit verbless papers. As a matter of principle, we do not cater to adjectivophobes because (a) that’s not a real condition, and (b) they can get jobs as newspaper journalists.



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 Eds,

I have been discussing with several of my grad students the correct participle forms of words like cancel and travel. Our conclusion is that they ought to be formed with two l’s, but for some reason, aren’t. We considered travel(l)ing to the university library to research the situation, but none of us remember where the library is, so we cancel(l)ed the trip. One of the grad students searched on the internet, but she didn’t get an easy answer in three clicks or less, so we gave up. We thought you could help explain the situation and maybe even help to change it.

Noam C.
M. Institute of Technology

PS: We’re your biggest fans!


Dear Ensy,

What is a proper linguist doing using words like “ought” in reference to how language works? You are veering dangerously close to prescriptivism. Also, orthography is not languagemostlythough it is interesting. That said, ideally spellingas a subset of writingshould concern itself with a faithful and transparent representation of phonologically relevant sounds. That’s not what English spelling does, but that is probably what it should do.

Dozens of the senior editors and junior editorial associates of SpecGram attended the American Standardized School of Hortatory, Axiology, & Textology over the decades. All of them studied the prescriptive rules of Standard American English under the firm tutelage of Ms. Gertrude Henderson-Obelleska, the Grand Dame of English and Literary Studies at ASSHAT. Ms. Henderson-Obelleska taught them a decent enough spelling rule about doubling final consonants to distinguish them from words that drop a final silent “e” when inflected.

Through some malevolent confluence of polysyllabicity, lack of ambiguity, and the miasma of general prescriptivist malaise exuded by William Safire and his ilk over the years, long words ending in “-el” seem to be exempt from the rule on the western shores of the Atlantic. Perhaps Noah Webster’s attempts to differentiate American from English are to blame. Whatever the cause, the British often treat their English better than Americansexcept for the Cockney dialect, which technically, is actually no longer English.

So, in principle we support simplified spelling, though in practice we don’t, because there are necessarily inconsistencies to be had in any proposal of substance. Does one spell “caught” and “cot” the same in California, but not New York? If one is crafty one might get a one-way unambiguous mapping from spelling to pronunciation in all dialects, but spelling will never be fully predictable from pronunciation. It’s not worth the trouble to add that much more distance between ourselves and the works of Shakespeare (and so many who preceded or followed him) to end up with a system that is so far from perfect. The Irish tried and look what they got for their troubles. Spanish was close, and possibly could have pulled off a proper spelling reform before the language spread to the New World; but as the reception Latin Americans gave the recent edicts of the Real Academia Española amply demonstratethere’s no turning back now.

We have considered contacting the Γραμματο-Χαοτικον to see if we could get them to introduce new words like labele or cancele or travele, which would cause ambiguity in the ridiculous forms labeled, canceled, and traveled, just to prove the point. But that seems wrong.


PS: We have to admit that we doubt your claim that you are our biggest fans. Our biggest fans are most likely Lucille and Annette McPherson of Bloomington, Indiana. Lucy and Annie are six-foot-eight, 320-pound identical twin bodybuilding phonologists with very fine tongue control, exquisite physical proportions, and a delicate air of femininity. If you wish to take issue with any of these claims, take it up with the McPhersons.

You may, however, be in the running to be named our most fanatical fans, now that the Roberts Brothers (Robby and Bobby) have been committed to the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane and, thanks to a restraining order, are no longer permitted to subscribe to SpecGram.


Dear, beloved, much cherished editor,

Your “Meet the SpecGram Editors” feature is getting less and less informative as it goes along. For example, in the most recent offering, you printed a picture of several odd-looking men without telling us anything about it, not even which one was supposed to be Tim Pulju. Please correct the omission.

Ambrose P. Hill
Nationwide Debt Collection, Inc.


Dear Mr. Hill,

The picture in question is a digitally enhanced version of a very faded, blurry photograph, on the back of which someone once wrote “SpecGram office Christmas party, 1911”. Pulju claims that he’s the guy in the hat. We have no idea who the other guys are.


An Editorial Comment on ElHaye and JiŋkinsButch McBastard and Jonathan van der Meer
Union of Linguist Lecturers Sets Speaking FeesSpecGram Wire Services
SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 1 Contents