SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 1 Contents “Dates in the Month of May that Are of Interest to Linguists”—by James D. McCawley—Reviewed by Mikael Thompson

In Retrospect...

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

You have before you a Special Retrospective Issue of Speculative Grammarian. How did that happen?

Well, I said to myself one day, “Y’know, self, it’s a lot of hard work putting together an issue of SpecGram. I think we need a break. How about we just re-run a bunch of old articles and see if anyone notices?” And my self replied, “Gee, self, that doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. What about an issue highlighting some of the best articles from years gone by?” “Well, self, that would be a fine thing to dobut it doesn’t really address my goal of not having to do any actual work.” “You are kind of lazy, self.” “Yeah, I know.” “And yet you are the Editor-in-Chief. How did that happen?” “Beats me, self, beats me.”

So, despite the laziest of intentions, you have before you a Special Retrospective Issue of Speculative Grammarian, in which we have (mostly) short reviews of (mostly) some of the best articles that are at least five years old. Old readers of SpecGram will have a chance to revisit some nearly-forgotten favorites. New readers of SpecGram will have a chance to discover some new eventually-to-be-forgotten favorites. Five-year-old readers of SpecGram will probably not get any of the humor, and should probably finish pre-K Ling 101 first.

I’d also like to point out that the SpecGram website also features the complete Archives of SpecGram, The Journal of the Linguistic Society of South-Central New Caledonia, Babel (not that one, the other one), Psammeticus Quarterly, and Lingua Pranca and kin. Over a thousand articles are available, ensuring everyone’s endless intentional enjoyment and occasional incidental edification.

Now, to properly kick off this Special Retrospective Issue, I thought it would be nice to review some of SpecGram’s history.

For the longest time, it was generally believed that Speculative Grammarian was founded by Petrus Hispanus, one of the original speculative grammarians, in 1276, shortly after he became Pope John XXI. Only relatively recently were we legally able/forced to reveal that the journal began life as Íslensk Tölvumálvísindifounded in Reykjavík in 881 by Ingólfr Arnarson, and passed to Petrus Hispanus under a new name in the 1270s.

The journal’s early legal troubles were not, alas, an isolated incident. There was the retirement feast of Viðskeyti Framburðardottir in 1402, which led to the creation of the Voynich Manuscript; Tad von Thessperpool’s Austrian Phoneme Dutch-Auction Bidding War in 1515; the case of certain unscrupulous editors promising forthcoming “weightier issues”, only to have them delivered on slabs of wood in 1594; and too many run-ins with the law in Europe to countresulting in the eventual relocation of SpecGram to the New World in 1806 (and the opening of a semi-secret hard-partying Nauruan office around 1810).

Despite the amazing amount of ground-breaking linguistics always being done at SpecGram, disasters have always plagued us. A bizarre series of hurricanes (4), tornadoes (2), volcanic eruptions (6), fires (3 7/16—including the Great Chicago Fire) and landfill mudslides (18) reduced the SpecGram Archives to mere tattersthough we’ve been working hard to rebuild them for the last ten years.

Eventually SpecGram found its way to the semi-tropical jungles of Houston in the 1990s, and then fell off the map for a time, before being resurrected on the web and around the worldbringing us more-or-less to the present day.

It’s a crazy story, but it is ours. It all makes sense. It is all true. Even the seemingly contradictory bits. Every word is true.

Now, let’s take a look back at some of the most restrospectable articles from years gone by.

“Dates in the Month of May that Are of Interest to Linguists”by James D. McCawleyReviewed by Mikael Thompson
SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 1 Contents