SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 1 Contents Letters to the Editor

On the Speculative Grammarian

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

We are often asked1 why we don’t use “the” in front of “Speculative Grammarian” in the name of our journal. It’s a noun like any other, after all. Many inquire whether we are against determiners for some reason.2

The organisers of the conference Quality of Models and Models of Quality, October 2015, in Stockholm, Sweden.

Chiasmus of the Month
May 2015

It’s a perfectly good question. Most of our staff have become so used to the name Speculative Grammarian that we interpret “the Speculative Grammarian” as using “celebrity theas in, “You’re Panini? The Panini? Not a sandwich, but the actual Sanskrit grammarian?” So, in that sense, yes, we are the Speculative Grammarian, and it’s somewhat flattering every time.

But stepping back, it’s clear that others do not share our familiarity or ease with such use. Truth be told, as a cub reporter for SpecGram back in the day, I also let slip “The Speculative Grammarian” once or twice. Then-Managing-Editor-now-Editor-Emeritus Tim Pulju kindly explained to me3 that, for example, even that rag Language isn’t called The Language.4

While he is technically correct,5 looking back I feel he may have made a sort of category error. Language can be a mass noun, but grammarian is notno matter how massive any particular grammarian or set of grammarians may be.6 On the other hand, grammar is... so maybe we should have been Speculative Grammar. Or, maybe we are and the -ian is silent and I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all this time!

1 Well, that’s a bit generous. Not enough people ask. Many fail to notice, and use “the” without asking. This editorial is a nicer response than having them canedthough that, too, would be fair.

2 The editorial board of SpecGram can categorically and collectively state that we are not against determiners in the slightest. We are against determinism, though. Collectively, we do not have a position on determinism because it is impossible to agree on the truth of the matter. Thus we have instituted a ban against discussing it during editorial meetings. It is the only topic that is both more contentious and less consequential than comma placement.

3 After the requisite caning, of course. See footnote 1.

4 In the time-honored tradition of relegating the most important academic and scientific advancement in a paper to a footnote, where it will be unseen and ignored (possibly for decades), I hereby reveal and instantiate my proposal for an orthographic representation of a combination of air quotes and scare quotesthe AirScare! Licensing terms available upon request.

5 Normally the best kind of correctbut not when I am not it.

6 On the other other hand, I suppose if a set of grammarians grew so large that they fused together, like a forest with a shared root system that is arguably one biological entity,7 then maybe one could use grammarian as a mass noun,8 or at least a collective one.

7 Some have argued that this has already happened, intellectually, in many academic circles.

8 Alternatively, if the fused grammarian exploded, deflated, or otherwise experienced severely compromised structural integrity, grammarian obviously could be used as a mass noun, as in, “Eww, I’ve gotten grammarian all over my good shoes.”

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 1 Contents