Remembering Better Times—A Letter from a Former Editor—Herbert Theodore Howlingstonshire, XII SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 4 Contents The Great Clouseau Vowel Shift—Tel Monks

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sirs

I was mortified to read of the retraction by Keith W Slater of his recent articles on Pinnacle Sherpa. SpecGram’s standards have not just slipped but veritably fallen flat on their face. I demand an immediate full refund of my annual subscription. Furthermore, I want compensation. Based on Mr ‘Twit’ Slater’s research, I have recently purchased round trip tickets to Nepal in order to investigate his claims for myself. This trip will now have to be cancelled at great financial loss to myself. Seeing as the author has cashed in from his spurious work, he should be able to recompense me in full, and I would be obliged if you would make it happen. Please find attached an itemised bill for $22,345.67.

Mr G U Rung


Gee, G,

We don’t really know what to tell you. As the result of a very complicated tax situation in Vanuatu, Mr. Slater is technically a corporate entity, and as such a wholly-owned subsidiary of Speculative Grammarian Inc., Ltd. As a result of the Pinnacle Sherpa “situation”, Mr. Slater, the corporate entity, has gone into receivership under an order from the High Court of Tuvalu. Mr. Slater, in the form of his incorporating papers, is currently on file in the Marshall Islands, and unavailable for comment.

By a quirk of Tuvaluan law, the SpecGram Editorial Board is allowed to take on the role of receiver for Mr. Slater, the corporate entity, and has done so. Interestingly, at least to devotees of international business law, the SpecGram Editorial Board owns 999,543 shares of Mr. Slater, all of it preferred stock; and Sr. Editor Keith Slater, the actual human being, is the chair of the SpecGram Editorial Board’s Committee Overseeing the Disposition of the Corporate Entity Known as Mr. Slater. Funny that.

Because of the preferred stock situation, all of Mr. Slater’s debts to SpecGram are to be paid off first (along with his debts, proportionally, to the owners of the other 457 preferred shares). As the result of a complicated credit default swap in the late 1990’s, Mr. Slater, the corporate entity, owes the SpecGram Editorial Board approximately $17,432,142,789,322 (in 1922 dollarsmeaning, specifically, that the debt must be paid in Buffalo nickels). Sorry to bore you with details, but we wanted to make sure your position and your likelihood of receiving compensation are clear. To bring things around to a more linguistic point of view, our lawyers advise us that we can share with you the following semi-standard but very relevant transcription:



Dear Editors,

I call “foul” on the so-called Move-α-plex advertisement placed in your September issue. $7?! For an adult?! Have you been to the movie theater recently? More likely, the ad is a coded message being sent by the CIA, NSA, or other TLA.

Παραμονιμος Νικόδημος Παπαδόπουλος
Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης


Dear Παρανοϊκός,

You cretin! Have you ever been to an independent theater? They don’t charge as much, but they don’t always show A-list movies, either. The Move-α-plex is a mom-and-pop independent theater catering to linguists. Duh.

And SpecGram obviously would never shill for any three letter agencies. Puh-leeze.



Dear Editors,

I’ve just finished reading R.M.W. Fillmore’s “Where have all the evidentials gone”, and I was struck by one phrase in particular, discussing Proto-World:

...we do not normally expect grams associated with verbal categories to be reanalyzed...

Etymologically speaking, doesn’t “gram” imply a written unit rather than a spoken unit? Is Fillmore implying that Proto-World was a written language? That can’t be Fillmore’s intention can it? Is it an error, or further evidence of crack-pottery?

Imya Rek


Dear Imya,

We really wanted to allow Dr. Fillmore to reply to you directly, and his response came just moments before our deadline for the issue. We omitted a rather uninteresting letter from Stephen Pinker and thus were able to fit in Dr. Fillmore’s original replywhich came to us on a stone tablet of all thingsand a rough-n-ready translation provided by one of the interns.

A facsimile of Fillmore’s original:

And the translation:

Dear Dr. McBastard,

I scanned Dr. Fillmore’s missive and ran it through the AutoGrammatikon™. Here is the output:

“You need to stamp out, at all costs, any ru­mors of a writ­ten Pro­to-World. The people are not ready to han­dle the con­se­quen­ces of such a dis­clo­sure: the writ­ten re­cords we have dis­cov­er­ed could dis­rupt the very foun­da­tions of cul­ture if the truth got out. Do not, un­der any cir­cums­tan­ces, di­vulge the facts to the un­pre­pared pop­u­lace.”

Thank you for this chance to serve you.

With humility,
Cynthanie Diplodocus
Intern #79502



Control November Seven One One Charlie.
Idem Sierra Oscar Uniform Niner Niner Zulu Xray.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.


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.

Remembering Better TimesA Letter from a Former EditorHerbert Theodore Howlingstonshire, XII
The Great Clouseau Vowel ShiftTel Monks
SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 4 Contents