Dear Editors of SpecGram,
In regards to the recently-published “Phonotronic Energy Reserves and the Tiny Phoneme Hypothesis”, by Dr. Equus Q. Quagga, I find I am unable to accept his ridiculous hypothesis. What the map of Africa really shows is the aggregated pattern of human habitation; the areas of lowest phonotronic energy are those where the largest number of humans have been for the longest periods of time. See? This provides vital new insights that can help archeologists figure out where to dig.
Tiny phonemes indeed!
—Edgars P. Allen
We forwarded your message on to Dr. Quagga, in order to allow him to respond directly. Contrary to standard practice, however, we accidentally included your return address, phone number, and both your and your wife’s Social Security numbers, as inexplicably provided by you. Here is Dr. Quagga’s response:
While many cling to the quaint notion that all ideas are created equal, that there are no stupid questions, and that true insight can come from any quarter, I am responsible for several multimillion-dollar satellites, the operational cost of which I have to justify on a monthly basis. Your doubts are neither helpful nor appreciated.
By chance a LingSTAR-2500J happened to be aimed at your Wonkatonk home, on July 8th, 2011, around 1 pm. Oddly, we picked up a clear energy signature of spoken French—the kind only a native speaker could produce—coming from probable location of the master bedroom of your house. Glotto-refractive analysis of the pitch residuals of that energy signature indicates either high excitement or intense pleasure, or possibly both, in the voice. Mass noun spectrography indicates a 97.4% chance that the speaker was female. A quick perusal of your wife’s college transcript shows that she got three Cs and a D in her four quarters of first-year French. Immigration records indicate that your 22-year-old secretary is recently arrivée from gay Paree. What do you make of that, sir?
Dr. Equus Q. Quagga
Center for Geosynchronous Orbital Linguistics
São Tomé and Príncipe
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.
One prefers to show tolerance in matters of scholarship, but the hubristic ineptitude of your editorial practices has finally reached a nadir so base that one can no longer dissuade the muse. The so-called “map” of Indo-European which was cavalierly thrust upon us in an earlier issue evinces an utter disregard for propriety, to say nothing of an unmitigated failure to account for the facts.
One refers, in the first place, to the assignment of the reader’s position to a spot associated with “English” on the aforementioned “map”. Many readers of your “journal” may disprefer the assumption that they somehow belong (like so much chattel) to “English”. (One does not necessarily refer to oneself, but one feels compelled to speak on behalf of the voiceless.)
One refers, in the second place, to the nonsensical assertion (if a mere diagram can in fact be said to signify anything at all) that those readers who would wish to be identified with “English” might somehow find themselves positioned outside the figure itself, alongside the label for their beloved mother tongue. This is worse than absurdity; it is heinous prattle. The very schematic itself shows up this folly with crystalline clarity: the indicated position, for any living being, must be within the linguistic sphere to have any referential value, not suspended in some extralinguistic ether.
One refers, in the third place, to the unnatural character of the “map” itself, which misleadingly implies that linguistic history might lend itself to linear representation, and further that languages might be inexorably moving outward in a consistent direction, as if some sort of “progress” were occurring.
One feels compelled to assert, more bluntly than propriety would usually dictate: said “scholarship” is a less than merely absurd. It is egregious effrontery, which insults rather than edifies any who might innocently stumble upon it, and thus one dare not fail to comment upon it, in the strongest of terms.
Hector von der Grass
Department of Academic Journalism
University of Northern Missouri and Southern Iowa
What the heck, Hec!
Dude, one needs to pull one’s head out of one’s behind and get with the program. As part of our commitment to Linguistic Outreach here at SpecGram, we provide simplified linguistic-themed audiovisual materials for elementary school children the world over. Dr. Praeteritio—a specialist in junior high school linguistics—made that map specifically to appeal to young girls who would rather go shopping than learn about linguistics. Sheesh, dawg.
I also edited out your thirty-three-page footnote that droned on and on about relative proportions of the parts of the diagram. One needs to give it a rest, homie. But here’s your answer anyway: as for the central circular area being too big, it makes sense for the PIE speakers to need a large area, given that, in the immortal words of Bill Spruiell, they “liked to gallop uninhibitedly about spiritedly advising those in their path”.
Finally, one needs to stop making assumptions about other people’s assumptions, brah. We printed only the English version of the diagram, as a trifling amusement for our readers. One should understand that if one is reading a sentence in English, one is using English! Duh. Another version, for instance, says “Jūs esat šeit”, and points, naturally, in the general direction of Latvian.
Sr. Junior Editorial Associate