Labyrinths & Linguists—Craig Kopris SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 3 Contents L’Ishing du Gwujlang V—Phicorthogra—Dorothea Dorfman and Theodora Mundorf

The SpecGram InquisitionThe Tables are Turned!

A probing of Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie
with Inquisitor Inquisitoris Trey Jones

Early last 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’d arranged with Jonathan and his interviewees to publish his full interview notes. Then we noticed that no one had interviewed him, so we set out to rectify the situation. The final interview in this series, with Associate Editor Jonathan Downie, is below.

You are a serious interpreter. What made you first decide to contribute to SpecGram? (That is, how did you end up consorting with a bunch of low-down, dirty, good-for-nothing linguists? Or, worse, are you really a linguist, too?)

JD: First off, there is no such thing as a “serious interpreter”. We are all slightly nuts! That said, I stumbled across SpecGram by accident one day, I know not how, and got slightly ticked that all I understood were a few of the comics (I always thought phonology was the study of public telephone boxes). So, I decided to show you all how it’s done by writing pieces on things that people would have heard of: like obscure theories of interpreting and endless claims and counter-claims that used to pass for research. I might not actually have been that funny but at least I was comprehensible (barring performance and reception errors).

Most people don’t know that most people confuse translation and interpreting, because most people confuse translation and interpreting, and so don’t know there’s a difference. What’s the difference, and why does it matter to people in general, and to linguists, translators, and interpreters more specificallyassuming hypothetically that translation and interpreting really are different things? (That is, why should anyone care?)

JD: Translators work only on written texts. Interpreters work with spoken or signed texts. Translators are rarely spotted outdoors. Interpreters rarely shut up. Absolutely different jobs but some people insist on muddying the waters by doing both!

Most people also don’t know that you are always trying to sneak translation or interpreting (assuming there’s a difference) into SpecGrambut the top echelon of the editorial board is aware and keeping an eye on you. (That is, there’s no question; we just wanted you to know that we know.)

JD: I know you know. You know I know you know. Now, we both know that I know that you know that I know. No?

“Nerds tend to be infectious and anyone who has any contact with language-based disciplines needs a sense of humour.”

You have also appeared on Language Made Difficult, the SpecGram podcast. What was it like for you? (That is, how big of a mistake was that, and just how badly did they mistreat you?)

JD: It was no mistake. It was actually a lot of fun. I had been on live TV and radio before as the world’s first Glaswegian-English Interpreter so I knew what was needed: snarkiness, silly jokes and over-reaching metaphors. I actually want another go, when the time arises.

What effect(s) do you think SpecGram has had on the linguistics, and translation and interpreting (assuming there’s a difference) communities as a whole? (That is, does anyone care?)

JD: I have no idea if anyone outside of Translation Studies reads SpecGram. Professional interpreters and translators probably don’t as they can’t use it for terminology mining. A few people have commented on my excellent delineation of species of Translation Studies scholars. I am still hoping to convert the entirety of Interpreting Studies into SpecGram contributors, if only to make me feel more normal.

Have any of your colleagues ever reacted (positively or negatively) to one of your SpecGram pieces? (That is, does anyone care?)

JD: Two of my colleagues reckoned I was right on the money in my article on Translation Studies species. Now I tend to hide behind joint articles so no one can actually tell what I have contributed, if anything. It’s exactly like writing a co-authored journal paper.

What is your favourite linguistics area to satirise and why? (That is, why are translators and interpretersassuming there’s a differencealways picking on poor linguists?)

JD: I love satirising post-modernism because, well, it’s post-modernism. I am not sure if that counts as linguistics but then what is linguistics?

SpecGram recently celebrated its tenth online year, what do you think are the reasons for its longevity? (That is, other than the translation and interpretingassuming there’s a differencethat you are always trying to sneak in.)

JD: It has succeeded because nerds tend to be infectious and anyone who has any contact with language-based disciplines needs a sense of humour. That and the subtle hypnotic tricks Trey writes in each editorial.

Ultimately, you brought this counter-inquisition upon yourself by publishing that article, “Can you Take a Joke?”, in The Linguist. How did the article come about, and what were your motivations? (That is, why would you do such a thing?)

JD: Money. Fame. Glory. That and I am beginning to see that humour is much more important than people think. Writing humour helps us learn to write more clearly, think about audiences, analyse critically and it has health benefits too. It really is serious business and is something we need much more of in academia. We might not be able to change the eternal parade of targets, bureaucracy and politics but we can choose to enjoy the ride anyway. It is only humour that lets us do that and still stay halfway sane.

Lastly, if you could pick any linguist or translator or interpreter (assuming there’s a difference), alive or dead, and poke them until they wrote a SpecGram piece, who would it be and why? (That is, your deadline is next week, so get them to start writing!)

JD: The live one, definitely! Dead people aren’t funny.

I would love to see Anthony Pym write for SpecGram since he already slips sarcasm into his writing. I would also love to see Noam Chomsky get his own back on the entire SpecGram editorial team.

Labyrinths & LinguistsCraig Kopris
L’Ishing du Gwujlang VPhicorthograDorothea Dorfman and Theodora Mundorf
SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 3 Contents