Secret Places Discovered—Alibaba Loquat Smith-Guernsey SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 3 Contents Notes on Sociophonology—Lea Kim Shopmont

The Legend of Trey

Hemeralda Ilissey
Dean of the Tell-Tale Tall Tales Telling Bureau (Emerita since first appointment)
Huāxyacac Community Center

Once upon a time, there were The Ancient Linguists. They lived happily ever after, doing what linguists have happily done ever after, although, or perhaps because, they were not linguists to start off with. They were grammarians, which means that they grammared, just like summerians summerized in the warm sunshine, or barberians practiced close shaves and draconians close shoves.

The tribe that spawned the first dynasty of these professional language nerds went by the name of Pāṇini, the collective patronymic for Pāṇino, a delicacy of (obscure) Mediterranean origin. Collective delicacy showed principally in Pāṇino scholars’ keen and wise collaboration, not only with one another, but with proponents of alternative nerdy analyses of language. The Pāṇini grammared with open minds, intent on learning from their data and teaching from their learning, and this is why they produced grammars which are readable and, above all, digestible, still today.

The next dynasty, the Ling, took the discipline by force. Like other fanatics, the Ling were self-appointed truth-holders, who aggressively enforced both their own entitlement to the truth about human language and others’ conversion to it with an iron-fisted reign of terror. Their strictly hierarchical organization came complete with a PrinceLing, who was in charge of producing unintelligible analytical policies; UnderLings, who wrote, peer-reviewed, published and perpetuated exegeses of the PrinceLing’s cryptic dictums, as well as sang his praises in cleverly orchestrated campaigns directed at both academic and popular media; and HireLings, also known as bouncers, who winnowed job-seekers at the doors of Academia. Courtiers comprised inordinate amounts of DarLings, those whom the PrinceLing favored with his favors, and SibLings, those who, by blood, marriage, oath, or all of these, pledged themselves to abide by Ling codes of conduct in body and soul. Together with the Whists, a tribe of (obscure) Gaelic origin whose core job was to keep mum about Ling goings-on so long as nobody messed up their tenure, the dynasty eventually evolved into what became known as the LingWhists.

Irreconcilable antagonism between LingWhists and Pāṇini came to a head in Massachuséttas, a sleepy settlement of (obscure) Algic origin, whose name the LingWhists stipulated as the underlying representation, and therefore the true nature, of its more known toponym, Marrathónas, itself of (obscure) Hellenic etymology. Massachuséttas → Marrathónas (or conversely, depending on the Ling flavor of the week), became the infamous site of The Great Pāṇini Slaughter (GPS), a tragic event which had the incidental linguistic consequence that the assumed Algic etymon was reanalyzed as a suffix, attaching to the location of GPS (Gruesome Pain and Suffering), as in neuralgic or odontalgic.

As the legend has it, the one survivor from the carnage, Φειδιππίδης, ran all the way from Massachuséttas to Trey, a toponym of unknown etymology gracing a thriving, no-nonsense community of independent-minded language nerds, leisurely ruled by King Jonas, a half-mortal married to Hélène of Paris, a toponym of (obscure) Gallic etymology. Jonas of Trey had lately been moping around in half-mortal boredom at the perfection of his kingly, intellectual and marital blessings, so the ghastly tidings of Pāṇini demise and LingWhist surmise certainly distressed his half-compassionate heart, but mostly perked up his half-dispassionate mind.

Jonas dispatched Φειδιππίδης on the double back to the surface destination Marrathónas, as he insisted on calling it, with an offer that the gloating LingWhists could not refuse: an invitation to celebrate their growing hegemony, in traditional Trey fashion, RSVP. Φειδιππίδης expectedly returned on the treble with a positive R, gasped [Φ]... [Φ]... in utter exhaustion (phonologically /amsoaʊdəbrefawanəbɑrf/), and promptly collapsed at Queen Hélène’s exquisite feet.

The king retired to implement the plan he had concocted to ridicule every living LingWhist morphless. Three days and three nights Jonas spent in the secluded depths of his sanctuary, surrounded by cutting-edge technological gadgets of his own making and breaking, painstakingly crafting the pièce de résistance, as Hélène would etymologically put it, against the catastrophic consequences of an impending lingwhistic flood: an X-barrel. Immersed in his work, Jonas ate X-shoots and leaves embedded in the paired tree branches with which he recursively filled the barrel, tier by tier, and drank his own sweat and tears because Trey, as we all know, is damn hot inside or outside a barrel, even for a half-mortal, and the execrable aftertaste of X-nodes makes any eyes sting, even half-godly ones.

Meanwhile, Hélène was allowing Φειδιππίδης, still [Φ]ing intermittently, to entertain her on the subject of his vulnerable heels, a predicament inherited from his impoverished childhood, when his mother had been unable to provide him with shoes fitting his growing feet. La Belle Hélène, whose goddess-like body belied its full-mortal predicates, knew all too well the havoc that her rich-girl fashion obligations could wreak on her own feet (otherwise exquisite, as said), and the sight of [Φ]’s worn and torn heels had in fact made her fall head over them in love with their owner. She and the owner thus kicked up all of their heels while waiting for the arrival of the odious guests from Marrathónas, as Jonas would superficially put it, all the while nibbling at Apples of Concord, whose transparent etymology draws on perfect agreement between the subject (the heels) and the (full-mortal) predicates.

The LingWhist dignitaries finally arrived, treated to the magnificent entertainment that Trey routinely lavished on its visitors. Their haughty indulgence only abated when their parting gift was solemnly wheeled forth to their presence: a luxurious, gigantic X-barrel, now marked VSOP. Verb-Subject-Object-Predicate syntax, that lingwhistic theorization had decreed to form the core of universal language structure, had never been encountered in the wild. Not that lingwhistic theorization had ever required wild facts to substantiate it, but King Jonas knew that the mere suggestion of VSOP evidence would suffice to send UnderLings, DarLings and SibLings on a wild fact chase that would completely absorb them and, by proxy, their PrinceLing. He was right, as usual. The visiting LingWhists entered the barrel and instantly started conjecturing about where and/or how VSOP could be minimalized and/or axiomatized out of its familiar yet intriguing X-architecture.

Satisfied, Jonas quietly locked the barrel, and forwarded it to Marrathónas (sans Φειδιππίδης), where he predicted that its effect would spread like insect poison in nests where the queen (avec ou sans Φειδιππίδης) is known to be wholly dependent on assorted -lings for survival. He was right again. The LingWhists went on looking for VSOP in the X-barrel forever after, to the unbounded mirth of language nerds worldwide. What Jonas of Trey could not predict was that the Trejan Barrels, as his infiltration tactics became thenceforth known, would come to gain deserved notoriety as infallible attention-grabbers, and that his poisonous recipe would become legend through a popular nickname, SpecGram, that pays etymologically transparent homage to Spectacular Grammarians of Trejan inspiration.

Secret Places DiscoveredAlibaba Loquat Smith-Guernsey
Notes on SociophonologyLea Kim Shopmont
SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 3 Contents