Killing My Rhythm with Commas—Roberta Flap, Charles FOXP2, Normative Gimbel SpecGram Vol CLXXXI, No 1 Contents 2018 Conferences in Nerdolinguistics

A Minim of Wine and a Minim of Confusion for Maximal Contusion

by Artemus Zebulon Pratt
Speculative Grammarian Editor-on-the-Lam

Just the other night, after treating myself to the new Anti-Kosher Burger at our local eatery (shrimp, bacon, fried egg, and cheese atop locally produced rabbit patties), I had the need to treat myself for the new Anti-Kosher Burger and so was relaxing with an unfortunate bottle of experimental wine my wife had been prevailed upon somehow to buy some time ago: “A gift just for you!” she said. I smiled, but knowing her wont it was strictly wait-and-see. She held it out further.

“Asparagus wine,” I replied.

She held it out even closer to me. “It will be an experience.”

“One we should share.”

“No, it’s all yours,” she replied with her usual game gamine face. Finally, I was prevailed upon to take it, and it then sat upon the sideboard until the need for a purgative arose to open it. Suffice it to say, “In vino veritas, sed in asparago asperitas.” After checking online for the closest purveyor of artichoke wine, as her birthday is in a few days, I read a couple of news articles, but gave up in frustration when I read, “...admitted to marital infidelity. Fourteen alleged women have come forward, claiming to have had an affair with the dog catcher.” Besides the spectacle of a hound serving as dog catcher, I was puzzled by the failure of our local beacon of truth to jump all over the salacious possibilities of his dealings with “alleged” women, which for newsworthiness in our neck of the woods would be right up there with the seventeenth coming of Christ (as of last count); it would appear that when He does come back, He does not stick around these parts for long, possibly because the wine offerings are so dodgy.

I thus logged out and traipsed from the room past the guestibule (“Vestibule, dear.” “We don’t keep vests in it, dear.” And so it was named.) to my study, bottle in hand, for it is best to take one’s punishment all in one go, and sat contemplating what to read as I looked unseeingly at the needlecraft on the wall (one of my wife’s earlier salvos in our birthday gift-giving) in Gothic script of the famous sentence devised by medieval scribes with far too much time on their hands, and we know what they themselves would hear about idle hands, so we know where they ended up, to illustrate the confusion of minims:

Many times I have sat there rewriting mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt ‘The snow gods’ smallest mimes do not wish in any way in their lives for the great duty of the defences of wine to be diminished’ as something involving Mimi, mummies, the mini-mime, and their wish for minimal immunity from munitions in the mines, always foundering on a lack of ascenders for t’s, sometimes continuing into my sleep, on occasion waking up to my wife’s peculiar smile of triumph, as apparently I talk in my sleep, but, as having already been troubled by one Anti-Kosher Burger that day I didn’t need another, I resolutely turned my chair upon the needlecraft’s coming into full focus and attention and picked up my e-reader to continue my study of Lovecraft’s by-gone epigones, for our anniversary is coming up soon.

This week it was Frank Belknap Long’s collected weird tales, a sub-Lovecraftian passel of quasi-Lovecraftian doings, and gliding smoothly through “The Sea Thing” (1925), I choked on my asparagus wine even harder than the other times when I read, “Another flying fish came aboard today, and Tommy Wells made a dive for it. He dived after it head first, with anus akimbo like a man just awakened from some crazy dream, and he slid along the planks.” After my coughing ended, I thought, “Crazy dream sounds rather like both misdirection and severely minimalist understatement,” then as I considered that only arms may be akimbo in standard English, a notorious image stumbled upon in a spirited on-line discussion of the merits of a particular scholar came to mind that required me to finish the asparagus wine in one chug. My mind cleared, throat scoured, and belly soured, I realized that once again OCR had worked its magic on the texts we wish to preserve for posterity in electronic form and considered that even with correction to “arms” the image was incoherentsurely such a dive and slide would result in serious head trauma akin to that caused by reading Belknap’s OCR-rendered prose while drinking asparagus wine.

And of a sudden an image, nay, a historical vista worthy of Lovecraft himself opened before me of an era in the distant future where despite the best efforts of humanity’s would-be saviors, like hiragana and Comic Sans, all that survives of mankind and our doings is spell-checked and OCR-rendered newspaper archives full of stories about how “Poun’cena-Hedged women leave [illegible string of odd characters] dairning to tiave tiad aria Hair with the dope ate her,” and the scholars with an archeological, philological, and hominosapientilogical bent of the species succeeding us shudder, one might say, in the anatomical fashion appropriate to their physiques, as they realize the dark truth that by reading out loud in bemusement or bewilderment what our bewitched scribal tools had tricked us into intoning after centuries of digitization directed ever-so-subtly by forces beyond our ken seeking to imminentize their eschata, we had awakened what should have been left slumbering, the spirits of our idle-handed suborned medieval scribes grinning evilly in their workshop as they play with scanners; and looking at each other in the anatomical fashion appropriate to their physiques they devise the best script they can immune to such hazards, thereby forestalling the inevitable by a few centuries.

Killing My Rhythm with CommasRoberta Flap, Charles FOXP2, Normative Gimbel
2018 Conferences in Nerdolinguistics
SpecGram Vol CLXXXI, No 1 Contents