Things You Know You Didn’t Want to Know—A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief SpecGram Vol CLXXVII, No 3 Contents /nuz baɪts/

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editors,

I read with interest the editorial by The giant sheet ten twenty and was astounded. First, it took me around 20 minutes to realise that it was not, as I supposed, the result of a rather bizarre virus or a mis-placed browser setting. Instead, once I had put on my monocle and shifted my seat back ten feet, I realised that it was another attempt at a writing system for English.

Do we not have enough? What is wrong with IPAor better, Cyrillic?

I must ask that you do not try such bizarre experiments again, especially given that the translation of that “piece” was especially revealing. Is it true that there is a “mouth feet foot giant corpse” in the SpecGram offices now? And as for the “acetic work” done by the “ten still ruler workers”, the least said, the better!

Ding ShanWork Giant Blade

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Dear HumDinger,

Cyrillic would have been a fine choice, but if you haven’t noticed it’s already taken by some other European languages. And anyway, Greek is just Latin with its shirt on backwards, historically speaking.

And IPA is way more soLatin reductio ad absurdum. Nobody should ever have given Jones a key to the Phonetics office. What an unprincipled mess.

This seems to be a good time to remind you (and all our readers) that you should not experiment with Google Translate. The results are sometimes even worse than IPA.


P.S. M.A.Y.N.A.R.D. recommends the AutoGrammatikon!

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We recently received a decree purporting to come from l’Académie française concerning Roger Prentiss Claremont’s research on Nostradamus that we recently began publishing. We asked one of our staff members who is a native speaker to translate the decree, as well as Claremont himself. The translation by the native speaker reads:

Dear Sirs,

We recently had the essays of Roger Prentiss Claremont brought to our attention arguing that Nostradamus did not write French at all but rather encoded English prophecies in French. We assume that your journal seconds this attempt to claim Nostradamus as English. Be our guest; he’s all yours. Quite frankly, he’s one of the greatest embarrassments in French history and we’re pleased to be done with him. With deepest wishes for your future success,

etc., etc.

Claremont’s version was much less clear but included an offer on generous terms of ocean-front property in Tours. Given the nature of l’Académie française, we are simply unsure which version is more accurate; indeed, given the historic nature of French diplomacy, we strongly suspect both to be true.


Most Careless Eds.,

Your peer reviewers let pass a very disturbing blunder in Linguimericks, Etc.Book ३५: “born speaking”?? Not even staunch nativists[1] ever dared assert an enormity of this[2] caliber!

Stephanie Pinkie
Professor Emerita, Cognitive Linguistics Animal Laboratory
Cambridge MA, PhD, Post-Doc and UK

[1] Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (1999). How Babies Talk. The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life. New York, NY & London, UK: Penguin.

[2] Valian, V. (2013). Determiners: An empirical argument for innateness. In M. Sanz, I. Laka & M. K. Tanenhaus (Eds.), Language Down the Garden Path (pp. 272–79). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Dear Prof ESP,

It isn’t a blunder. Unlike you, our reviewers keep abreast of inborn pearls of wisdom. Do add [3] and the quotation therein, “We are born crying, but those cries signal the first stirring of language”, to your list of academic references.


[3] Berwick, R. C., and Chomsky, N. (2016). Why Only Us? Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Dear SpecGram,

I feel it is my duty to respond to the letter from Conlangers Anonymous in a previous issue of your fine publication. We at the Language Creation Society believe every fictional culture has the right to a fully functional language. We aren’t just trying to get conlangers jobs, we are helping those poor fictional aliens who are forced to speak meaningless dialogue. Shouldn’t they be able to speak actual words?

Conlangers Anonymous is clearly just an anti-conlang group intent on continuing the practice of depriving these noble creatures of meaningful conversation. I daresay it serves no function to support ex-conlangers at all, as I have not seen any such support groups advertised nor heard from anyone who has been to one.

Please, let the fictional peoples of the multiverse speak!

George Alston Corley
Vice President, Language Creation Society
Host, Conlangery Podcast

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Dear Mr. Corley,

Whoever is denying the rights of poor fictional aliens to speak poor fictional languages, it is certainly not us. Go right ahead and create them.


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Speculative Grammarian accepts well-written letters commenting on specific articles that appear in this journal or discussing the field of linguistics in general. We also accept poorly-written letters that ramble pointlessly. We reserve the right to ridicule the poorly-written ones and publish the well-written ones... or vice versa, at our discretion.

Things You Know You Didn’t Want to KnowA Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
/nuz baɪts/
SpecGram Vol CLXXVII, No 3 Contents