A SpecGram Festivus—Not Necessarily for the Rest of Us—Skip Tacular, SpecGram Minister of Intern(al) Affairs SpecGram Vol CLXVI, No 1 Contents Hymns for the Reverent Linguist—The Linguistick Hymnary

Letters to the Editor

[We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Speculative Grammarian. —Eds]

Dear Editor,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that Linguistics is a science. Papa says “if you see it in Speculative Grammarian it’s so.” Please tell me if Linguistics is a science.

Virginia O’Hanlon


Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scientism of an obsessive age. They believe that only science is worth believing, and that nothing can be which is not reducible to empirical testing and replicable proofs.

That sort of belief, Virginia, is not worth believing in at all. It is the foolish consistency hobgoblin of small minds. It rejects the likely in favor of the statistical, the good in favor of the publishable. That is nothing to aspire to, Virginia, and neither do we aspire to it, nor would we consent to inhabit a world in which little Virginias like yourself aspired to it. Your little friends have been deceived, Virginia, and we would not have you deceived alongside them.

Oh Virginia! Language is a natural phenomenon in much the same way Santa Claus is. Just as innumerable acts of holiday- and charity-inspired giving (or commercially-motivated expectations of gift-receiving), when combined with the sociocultural metabolic byproducts of (Northern European) religion-digestion, can catalyze a narrative process culminating in a personified nexus of signs dwelling at the North Pole, so can innumerable acts of communication, when combined with the sociocultural metabolic byproducts of (Neo-Platonic) religion-digestion, culminate in a nexus of higher-order categorizations that lives in grammar books. Santa has elves without which he cannot make toys; Linguistics has sentence-sets with clearly-delineated grammaticality judgments. It’s just that with language, stores start putting words and sentences all over everything a full year before LXmas, so you can’t tell there’s a season.

No, Virginia, Linguistics is not a science. It is noble, and it contains great truth, and we will pursue its elegant insights as long as we have breath, but it is not a science. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, Linguistics will continue to make glad the hearts of children and adults alike, but it shall never debase itself to the level of mere science. It is, and shall remain, pure faith, the lofty heights of which mere science can only dream of attaining.



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.

To the Editors of that Scurrilous Rag, Speculative Grammarian

Due to a catastrophic shelving error, for which several library interns were flogged, your scurrilous rag of a journal ended up placed between the Southern Journal of Philosophy and Studia Phaenomenologica in the hallowed expanse of the stacks of the Philosophy section of Aristoxenus Graduate Library.

Due to a catastrophic delivery error, for which several messenger interns were flogged, your scurrilous rag of a journal ended up placed between my scone and my afternoon tea on the hallowed expanse of my desk in the Director’s office in the Philosophy Department of Zeno University.

Due to a catastrophic page turning error, for which several page turning interns were flogged, the words of your scurrilous rag of a journal ended up between my ears, in the hallowed expanse of my mind in the middle of my late afternoon snack!

Such scurrilous poppycock! Such contumelious claptrap! Such scabrous twaddle! Among the several hundreds of articles I was forced to readsuch is the fate of an eidetic with a page turner with an itchy trigger finger!the most ridiculous was “Why Linguistics is Not a Science” and in particular the comments concerning having to put one’s trust in a theory, rather than paying attention to mere data.

Are you people not familiar with Parmenides?

You must debar your thought from this way of search, nor let ordinary experience in its variety force you along this way, the eye, sightless as it is, and the ear, full of sound, and the tongue, to rule; but judge by means of Logos the much-contested proof which is expounded by me.

Or, to put it more plainly for you scurrilous editors of your scurrilous journal: “You just have to put your trust in the theory”!

Whether Parmenides was right or wrong is irrelevant. The point is that the thought you are considering has been thought two and a half millennia before, and by your betters.

Also, stop worrying about whether linguistics is a science. All of science is ultimately philosophy, as is all of linguistics. Stop obsessing over the details.

Philo S. O’Fee, Ph.D.
Director of Philosophy
Zeno University
Now with campuses in Elea, Citium, Tarsus, and Sidon

P.S.: While I find your rag of a journal entirely scurrilous, I do however approve of your intern remediation plan. —P.S.O., Ph.D.


Dear Phil,

Thanks for your secret message! The Margos decrypted it. Thanks for your order! Your credit card has been charged the discount rate of $49,999.95 for three, two and a half millennia subscriptions to Speculative Grammarian, to be shipped to your home, office, and Zeno Library. Thanks for your business! Thanks for your continued support of Speculative Grammarian!

As a special premium gift, a tattoo artist will arrive next Thursday to record your undying love for SpecGram in your flesh. Thanks again!

Scurrilously yours,

A SpecGram FestivusNot Necessarily for the Rest of UsSkip Tacular, SpecGram Minister of Intern(al) Affairs
Hymns for the Reverent LinguistThe Linguistick Hymnary
SpecGram Vol CLXVI, No 1 Contents