Turkish Q and OEM and ΓΧ, Oh My!—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLXVIII, No 3 Contents Linguimericks—Book २

Letters to the Editor

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

RE: Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics, The: Introduction

I have not had the opportunity thoroughly to peruse this appalling volume but perhaps I could draw your attention to an error in the Introduction. [Cited on the book’s web page. —Eds] It is alleged that the Introduction says:

“... progress in getting a few members of the general public to realize that the term “linguist” is not defined as ‘someone who works at the UN doing simultaneous translation’.”

Any such progress must be in the opposite direction to most English-speaking people, to whom a linguist is indeed someone adept in more than one language, frequently making a living out of the exchange between them.

What you are, if I may put it like that, is linguisticians.

Yours helpfully,
Andrew Duncan-Jones

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Dear Andrew,

It is customary to actually purchase a scholarly tome before proceeding to critically disparage it. This supports the author(s) in their scholarly endeavors, which is only fair since their scholarly endeavors in return support the critic in their disparaging endeavors. Thus we can neither confirm nor deny at this time that the quote you cite is actually in the book.

While you may be technically correct in your use of “linguist” in some odd primitive retrograde backwater vernacular dialect of English, you have nonetheless insulted the collective honor of our field.

Perhaps you are familiar with the distinction between little-l language and big-L Language, which refer respectively to the specifics of a particular language, and to the general abstract human language faculty.

There is similarly little-l linguistics, which is about studying big-L Language, writing papers, and getting tenure, and big-L Linguistics, which concerns itself with the more abstract notions of the place of linguistics in the humanities, in academia, and even in big-H History.

Now you have raised the ire of Linguists, and woe shall be unto you. We’re coming for you, and you’re going to need a good lawyer and a better bodyguard. We would wish you good luck, but luck has nothing to do with what is going to happen to you.


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Sheeple of SpecGram!

Don’t you fools know what ⟨h⟩ really is? Interesting that Robson called him a “soldieras is often the case, that’s the cover of choice for a spy!

If only Lois Lane had taken Ling 101, she would know, based on their complementary distribution, that Superman and Clark Kent, no matter how different they seem on the surface, are underlyingly the same.

Similarly /h/ and /ŋ/though the relationship is dismissed as “nonsense” by the majority of sheeple.

⟨h⟩’s odd behavior is, of course, explained by this dual identity. Sometimes he’s high profile (Robson’s “overworked”)so he seems to be plenty busy; sometimes he’s low profile (“underworked”)so it’s not surprising when he’s not doing much.

Why do you think ⟨h⟩ has that odd /ç/ accent sometimes? Why the silent status in “French”is that really ⟨h⟩, or just a body double without a speaking rôle?

And what of ⟨ng⟩ and /ŋ/, ⟨h⟩’s undercover identity? I don’t know what his real mission is, but he seems to be awfully busy over in Vietnam.

Kon S. Piracé-Knutt
Linguistic Savant

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Dear Knutter-Butter,

We have no idea what you are going on

about. Your preposterous assumption

that ⟨h⟩ is /ŋ/ or /ŋ/ is ⟨h⟩or whatever

claim it is that you are trying to make—

has no place in civil discourse.

Yes, complementary distribution hints—

only hints—that two phonemes may

underlyingly be the same. But it’s not

really any kind of guarantee.

Best to leave the linguistifying to those

academics who are truly qualified to

comment on these matters. You are just

kidding yourself, and look like a fool!


[Note: Mid–last-month, we released a pre-publication “Early Edition” of Butcher and Candlestick-Maker’s article on the Etymology of twerk, which appears in full in this issue. To our surprise and delight, it spawned a large number of interesting letters from our readers. Those were too good to share, so here are two other letters we received on this topic. —Eds.]

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Dear Speculative Grammarian,

While Butcher and Candlestick-Maker’s etymology of twerk appears to be correct in its broad outline, it is lacking in one crucial detail. Surely the PIE root *terkʷ had some connotation of folly? After all, its current meaning is “to dance in a somewhat foolish manner”. Further to this, we find it has a cognate, doubtless obtained from some P-Celtic language, twerp, and another, obtained by some unknown route, where it underwent the unusual but not implausible sound change tʷ > b, yielding berk.

G. Berish

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Dear Doctor Ber(k)ish,

That’s some mighty clever word-sleuthing you got going on there. Mayhap you ought should enlighten us as to the origin of your surname, which certainly seems to be related-ish.

Bless your heart,
—The Southron Lady Eds.

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Dear Sirs:

I must protest your recent “Early Edition” article on twerking. Articles like that toll the death bell of scholarly endeavor. The constant refrain that our work must be up to the very split second that was just slashed by the bleeding edge of fashion encourages the publication of poorly thought out, rash, and indeed shoddy speculation. In the olden days such an article would not even be submitted until twelve years after the word became passé. Ideally, it would not be published until everyone else had forgotten the word. We should take as our model Venable Blenhurst (1784-1862), who first encountered the gulimagao, an extinct dance form of the region around Brindisi last recorded in 1512, and spent the remainder of his life collecting every scrap of evidence in the literary remains and judicial records of Southern Italy to show that it was inspired by an extinct species of rodent described in a number of southern Italian and Sicilian medieval bestiaries, and on his death bed was able finally to give an etymology of its pre-Indo-European sources. This article was reviewed between 1892 and 1936, revised by his descendants between 1952 and 1976, and accepted for publication in 1987, and is due to appear in the Spring 2016 edition of the Wellbridge Philological Quarterly. Truly that is the proper way to amass, collate, ponder, and colligate knowledge, and only then slowly, hesitatingly, and with a demure blush allowing it to appear publicly.

Ichabod Glomulerous ‘Bucky’ Fantilliade
Professor of Non-Applied Philology,
University of Lower-Fenchurch-on-the-Fen

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Dear Buckeroo,

While we would ordinarily print your reply in our July 2429 issue, we felt it was such a groundbreaking, cutting edge anddare we say it?innovative contribution to contemporary methodology, we decided against our better judgment (and no doubt yours) to publish it immediately upon receipt. Sorry.


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Dear Sirs:

I really liked your limericks last issue. They rocked my world! Indeed, they’re stuck in my head on auto-repeat, and it is only their all-surpassing brilliance that keeps me from killing myself in despair.

Yours Forever and Ever,
Catalina Toutepuissante Pumacar,
Van Brooks Memorial Commune,
Vernal Pike, CA

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Dear Hit Catalina,

Your impeccable taste is doubtless the least of your virtues.


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[Note: For better or worse, the limericks will continue for the foreseeable future, including in this issue, so you’re better off if you just come to love them. —Eds]

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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.

Turkish Q and OEM and ΓΧ, Oh My!A Letter from the Managing Editor
LinguimericksBook २
SpecGram Vol CLXVIII, No 3 Contents