Speculative Grammarian’s Song—Mikael Thompson SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 3 Contents A Sample of Self-Definers—Sociolinguistics & Varieties of Language—The SpecGram Book Elves™

The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective

Are you in a world of linguistic hurt? The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective (SLAC) will offer you empirical, empathic, emphatic advice you can use!*

Remember, if you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, then you don’t need advice! So, if you need advice, trust usand cut yourself some SLAC!


Dear SLAC,

I was recently dumbstruck by the fact that while “Je t’adore” sounds like “Shut the door,” “Fermez la porte” doesn’t sound at all like “I love you.” I’ve asked several linguists why this is, and they’ve all refused to answer. Please tell me!

—Snowden N. Winter

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Dear Snowdunder,

Are you sure that the linguists you’ve consulted are real friends? Because false friends will tell you nothing.

—SLAC Unit #50657465

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Dear Snow-n-thunder,

We have received your inquiry, but our automated system failed to identify an appropriate adviser to forward it to, because it could not detect strings of any known human language within your quotation marks. If you have encrypted your message by mistake, please decrypt and resend. If you have used a human language, we cannot identify it, and we’ll have to ask you to translate it into a better-known one before resubmitting your query.

—SLAC Unit #4b65697468

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Dear Future Dr. Winter,

It is not my custom to say such things (and I have never before said this so frankly), but may I ask you, nay, permit me to beg you to apply to a graduate linguistics program? You have, presumably without any extensive linguistics training at all, put forward a profoundly insightful question. The reason you did not receive satisfactory responses to your inquiry is quite simply that your question is a brilliant, original observation with paradigm shifting implications.

You would conduct groundbreaking research in pursuit of the answer to your question, and it is my honor to relay an offer of immediate admission to The Linguistic Institute and College of Knowledge, Education, and Technology’s online PhD program in Deontic Ontologies in Longitudinal Linguistics and Rhetorical Studies.

Please note that this program ranks among the best in its class, and that they know that truly great scholarship must not be artificially compressed into the usual six year limit. As long as you maintain full time status, they will never pressure you to conclude your scholarship prematurely.

I, and future generations of grateful linguists, await your response to this offer.

—SLAC Unit #5368657269

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Dear Snowed-in,

What you have discovered is proof positive that structuralism is the pre-eminent linguistic philosophy and that deconstructionism is a falsehood. None of this actually answers your question but it does fill me with fuzzy warm feelings. Or at least, they would be warm if you shut that door.

Also, if you are going to say “Je t’adore” to someone, you aren’t going to go round and use a v-pronominal form when asking them to shut the door are you. See, “ferme la porte, mon amour” sounds much more like “I love you”, doesn’t it?

—SLAC Unit #4a6f6e617468616e

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Dear Russian Refugee,

SLAC Unit #50657465 is not your friend. Don’t listen to SLAC Unit #4a6f6e617468616e. As SLAC Unit #4b65697468 pointed out, you are gibbering in a non-language, so of course SLAC Unit #4a6f6e617468616e doesn’t understand it. And the whole “v-pronominal form” thing sounds like something he made up to put on his CV to get this job. SLAC Unit #5368657269’s suggestion for online schooling may be your only choice if you are stuck in Moscow and being hunted by the NSAbut if you go that route, choose a better school, sheesh.

As for your question, I’ve consulted with Dawn B. Seely of the Department of Rhetorical Studies, University of Texas at Happy, and there’s a perfect expression in Hopi to explain the situationand by chance it sounds a lot like English “shut your face hole”. Silly of you not to know Hopi, you know.

—SLAC Unit #54726579

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Dear Mr./Ms. Winter:

We realize this is an advice column, and therefore will be sharply abbreviating the etymological details below. The Anglo-Norman punning expression je t’adore, which went on to replace completely the native Northern French expression of endearment (which translated roughly to “I find your dowry highly attractive”), actually came from an expression whose major components are now obsolete: jet the dorr, meaning something like “throw out the fool,” referring to situations in which one wants to get rid of an awkward third party so that the speaker and one other can have some privacy. It was borrowed into the other langues d’oïl (“oil tongues”, as opposed to the southern langues de vyn egre) fairly earlywhile the story about Richard the Lionheart using the expression repeatedly when on campaign and near particular monks may lack sufficient supporting evidence, it certainly spread by 1150. The expression firmir de la porte, ‘shiver before the act of carrying’ (in reference to the nervousness attendant on proposing marriage, which would lead to the carrying of the bride over the threshold), was a somewhat later development, and its Kentish reduction firme la porte later still; by the time it reached Paris, anything associated with Normandais had become unpopular. Thus, when the dictionary Milanese character Fermi Leporto became famous in the French court due to the numerous trouveur ballads in which he is a stock figure, there was no competition from the Anglo-Norman expression. Modern French fermez la porte still celebrates his propensity to lock himself in a room at the first sign of trouble.

PS: the struck in dumbstruck implies a change of state; you might consider instead using surprised.

—SLAC Unit #42696c6c

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Dear, dear, Snowden,

May I call you Snowden? What you must keep in mind is that one must reason even in deliberation. You apparently haven’t.

—SLAC Unit #56697267696e61

* Advice is not guaranteed to be useful, practical, or even possible. Do not attempt at home. Consult a doctor (of linguistics, philology, orin a pinchanthropology) before undertaking any course of treatment. This advice is not intended to cure or treat any disease or condition, inherent or contingent. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, except when it is not. “Empirical” means that we asked at least two other “people” whether our advice was good; one or more of those “people” may be voices in our own heads. “Emphatic” means that you may print out a copy of the advice for personal use in a medium, semi-bold, bold, heavy, black, or ultra-black weight of an italic or oblique typeface using an enlarged font size. “Empathic” means that deep down, in the darkest recesses of our blackest heart of hearts, we really, really care ♥just not necessarily about you.

Speculative Grammarian’s SongMikael Thompson
A Sample of Self-DefinersSociolinguistics & Varieties of LanguageThe SpecGram Book Elves™
SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 3 Contents