Overheard in the SpecGram Editorial Lounge—Hellgrün Dunkelblau, Ph.D. and Myrkur-Viviti Темнота, ABD SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 2 Contents From the Archives!—Satirical Linguist’s Hat—The SpecGram Archive Elves™

It Was a Dark and Stormy Noun...
1986 Edition

The SpecGram Puzzle Elves™

Some of our more, ahem, mature readers may remember that back in the mid-80’s Speculative Grammarian ran an annual Bulwer-Lytton-style contest, asking readers to submit the worst possible opening sentence for a linguistically-themed book. In fact, some of those same readers may have submitted entries, and may still be wondering whether or not they won.

Sorry about that. The contest entries were in fact judged by the editorial board, but a dispute between Pulju (a Givónian functionalist) and Slater (a Lasnikian generativist) turned uncivil and the winners were never announced. In the meantime, we have lost our records as to who submitted them. So no prizes this time! But we do remember which category each was submitted for.

Less than three full decades late, we are proud to present volume 2, the winners from 1986!

1st Place—Fieldwork

The man servants had cleared away the platter on which I had been served the lightly-spiced squirrel-kebabs and the dessert of sardines covered in banana yogurt was brought out in large bowlsand of course my stomach quailed as I saw the golden mixing bowl filled to the brim destined for my pleasure as guest of honorand I thought, not for the first time, and far from the last, “Why did I not apply for fieldwork in France?”

1st Place—Fantasy

When Dr. Malvo Stargins of Bagend University announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a retirement party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in the post-docs’ office.

1st Place—Science Fiction

At the last possible moment, Captain Retroflex braced for impact (though he had parens and brackets {both angle and square} [and even so-called «guillemets»] in his arsenal) as his trusty space cruiser, The Spatiotemporal Dynamic, crumpled under the primary and secondary stresses of the epiglottal plosives hurled unrelentingly at the hull by his sworn enemythose non-pulmonic bastards, the utterly alien Astroalveolar Clickersthe rising-falling contour of the alert siren ringing in his ears, while his superordinate officer, Major Intonation Group lay and/or lie on the floor, dying.

1st Place—Uncategorizable

Soon after joining the Royal Engineers, he became convinced that learning Klingon would make him a better soldier, and so got the nickname “Sapper Worf”.

1st Place—Steampunk

Mördȩkāị vonn Groggengestüftthe self-described most brilliant Germanic linguistic engineer and Gothic language scientist of the late modern Victorian erawas convinced that he was too smart, too good looking, too noble, and too good at producing implosives to die here, atop Mount Cacuminal, as the result of a mere gasket failure in his steam-powered Linguodecadent Patoisitron he hadup until a mere few moments agobeen using to persuade the kindly but cannibalistic Chief of the SOVages to let him depart in peace, rather than in mere pieces, and he felt no qualms about letting his assistant and travelling companion, the mere Miss Myrtle Menzies-Urheim (of the Gourock Menzieses), know that it was all her fault: “You are the subglottal pressure too high havink, Mÿrtle!”

1st Place—Romance

He tensed as her hands laxly explored his vowel spacea markedly unexpected intimacy not unlike that which a tongue has for its alveolar ridge in the vocal tract of a speaker of a dental-heavy languagebut without the frisson of excitement one might expect from undergoing, for example, Anglo-Frisian Brightening; nonetheless he felt his vowels lengthen as she trilled him, and his consonants underwent involuntary fortition until he uttered an ejective “Stop!”

1st Place—Phonology

“Call me a reductionist,” said Fred, “but surely all languages can be reduced to one phonemethe nasal ingressive, voiceless velar trill.”

1st Place—English Country Gentry Linguistics

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a professor in possession of a good corpus must be in want of a few more MA students.

2nd Place—English Country Gentry Linguistics

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single Grammarian in possession of a good Spec, must be in want of a Bare Phrase′.

1st Place—Conlanging

As I set out to write the Great American Conlanging Autobiography, I realized that the only true ɰɱɯɲ to success would be to embrace my newly-created ʛɷʘʝ, and bring you, dear ʂʈʚɞȵ, kicking and ᴤƙᴞɬɫᴂ, along for the ɧʯɧʯ’ɝergatives and all; and thus without further ʁɐðᴒƻ, let us ɓᶕʢʊʬ ƺɶȶʸ ʗøȡɩʎ ɤəʋɚƥɜʑɨʅɨƈɨɸ!

1st Place—Horror

We all knew that Reginald was the consummate phonetician, but we never imagined that his dedication to the science of sound would get him killed, or that his death would be the first of many great losses for the university linguistics department that day, but when others ran from the zombie horde that erupted from the student union, Reginald ran toward them, smart phone with Praat app in hand; his final words were, “It’s pharyngealized breathy voice, Garrett, I told you it wasn’t creaky voice, you nit­wer­gle­ar­gle­bur­gle­gr­grl­grl­grlgr...”and that’s when Reginald, Garrett, and the rest of the linguistics department volleyball team learned definitively that you can’t speak very clearly when a zombie is chewing on your throat (though Garrett, skeptic that he was, remained unwilling to accept Reginald’s Praat analysis, since he hadn’t seen the data for himself, for the rest of his lifeall twelve minutes of it).

1st Place—Literary Adaptation

I had the grammar, bit by bit, from various introspective sessions, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different grammar.

1st Place—Syntax

Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages.

1st Place—History of Linguistics

As is widely knownthough not exhaustively covered in the linguistic, academic, or mainstream pressan unfortunate series of events that have become widely known as “The Linguistics Wars” unfolded in Montana in the spring of 2005: over the course of a few days, several devastating attacks were launched between the Montana Morphemic Militia (M3)a group that has been variously described as a linguistic-oriented paramilitary organization and a military-oriented paralinguistic organizationand the Montana field office of the First Earth Battalion (F.E.B.)a formerly secret but still active unit of the U.S. Army established in the late 1970s to exploit paranormal and other alternative forms of military intervention.

More to come...

Overheard in the SpecGram Editorial LoungeHellgrün Dunkelblau, Ph.D. and Myrkur-Viviti Темнота, ABD
From the Archives!Satirical Linguist’s HatThe SpecGram Archive Elves™
SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 2 Contents