Profuse Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 4 Contents It Was a Dark and Stormy Noun...—1985 Edition—The SpecGram Puzzle Elves™

The SpecGram Inquisition—Sheri Wells-Jensen

with Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie

Earlier this year Associate Editor Jonathan Downie made the bold move of interviewing several members of the editorial board and distilling the information, stories, and rumor he got in the process down to a one-page article in The Linguist (“Can you take a joke?”, 53.2 April/May 2014). Unfortunately, while the distillation process resulted in an intoxicating final product, it removed all the pulpy goodness of the interviews, too. To rectify that situation, we’ve arranged with Jonathan and his interviewees to publish his full interview notes. His third interview, with Consulting Editor Sheri Wells-Jensen, is below.

You are a serious Linguistics researcher, working at Bowling Green State University. What made you decide to contribute to SpecGram?

SWJ: I really want to BEEEEEEE somebody in linguistics, and if you don’t tell anyone I said so, being somebody in linguistics carries with it very serious potential side-effects: the most serious of which is an impacted sense of humor which, left untreated, could threaten your health if it becomes infected. You can tell which colleagues have impacted senses of humor by a strategic analysis of their publishing records, but HIPAA laws prohibit me from saying more: we aren’t allowed to out one another as having this ailment. So, to avoid this myself, I eat right, exercise yearly, avoid smoking anything grown in Colorado or Washington state where anyone in administration can see me... and I contribute to SpecGram to prevent impaction and subsequent potential infection of my sense of humor. I don’t think it’s working though. Was this funny? If not, I could be on the decline anyway...

What effect(s) do you think SpecGram has had on the linguistics community as a whole?

SWJ: What?! You mean you think more than me and that one Scottish guy read this thing? OK, well, assuming anybody does, I never hear about it so the impact is either absolutely non existent... or so catastrophic it causes the reader to immediately repress the trauma of having read such a thing. Probably, they mostly repress it: thus causing tremendous guilt and free-floating anxiety. This can also lead to loss of sense of humor of course. So it’s bad, bad... all bad.

“My colleagues don’t read what I write. I don’t read what they write. We get along better that way.”

Have any of your colleagues ever reacted (positively or negatively) to one of your SpecGram pieces?

SWJ: My colleagues don’t read what I write. I don’t read what they write. We get along better that way.

What is your favourite linguistics area to satirise and why?

SWJ: I consider myself an equal-opportunity agent, but I like to pick on phonology because that’s all so dumb. And syntax, yeah, that seems to me to be an area worthy of elongated prose which elaborates the essence of the fixated crux of meaningful discourse initiative... and morphology: I like that for the dumbness too... and of course, I’m awfully fond of infrared-Sapirian dialogistics... lovely stuff.

SpecGram recently celebrated its tenth online year. What do you think are the reasons for its longevity?

SWJ: Well, there was that one thing that Trey did that one time at a crossroad at midnight somewhere in Kentucky, but we don’t talk about that.

I see that you are into xenolinguistics. Does that mean you can’t write a research paper without writing half of it first?

SWJ: It means I was in the saucer with the glowing light on top that saw that one thing that Trey did at midnight at the crossroads in Kentucky that one time... but you didn’t hear it from me.

Lastly, if you could pick any linguist, alive or dead, and poke them until they wrote a SpecGram piece, who would it be and why?

SWJ: This happened... my hero and mentor Dr. XXX wrote a perfectly brilliant piece of satire once, and after proofreading it, left it on his desk as he stepped out to have a quick lunch. His assistant, finding the manuscript, decided to help out and submitted it to Language which published it forthwith. I’m afraid to say that the linguistic community loved it. The paper got rave reviews and was proclaimed as a paradigm-shifting piece of brilliance. Many people based their careers on the subsequent analysis and support of the arguments laid out in the paper. Being a kindly fellow, Dr. XXX was too polite to point out their error, so it remains the best piece of satire in existence and to this day remains undetected. I think Trey did eventually get a copy of the manuscript, so he knows which seminal article it was, but he’s not telling. Someday, maybe, Trey will publish the piece in its intended forum: SpecGram, and we’ll watch the whole field of linguistics crumble.

More to come...

Profuse Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
It Was a Dark and Stormy Noun...1985 EditionThe SpecGram Puzzle Elves™
SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 4 Contents