Meet the SpecGram Editors SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 3 Contents Linguimericks—Book ५८

/nuz baɪts/

Not a wire news service but still more reliable than most newspapers.


An international team of linguists is redefining [s]. Since 1889, the International Prototype Sibilant (IPS) has served as the formal definition for [s]. The IPS is a wax cylinder recording of an unidentified French woman vocalizing the platonic ideal of an [s], a feat never since duplicated.

The IPS is kept in a climate-controlled vault near Paris. A few years ago, the International Phonetic Association (IPA) noticed that the wax cylinder had become damaged due to an adjacent massive platinum-iridium cylinder falling onto it. The IPS is typically handled only once every few decades to calibrate the various national prototype sibilants that serve as the workhorses for their countries.

Many of these national prototypes are no longer calibrated properly. The Dutch have had to retract their prototype sibilant. Attempts to use the Belgian prototype sibilant have been stalled as a binational team argues over whether it should be temporarily relocated to Baarle-Nassau or Baarle-Hertog. An even worse situation prevails in Spain, with multiple conflicting prototypes used on a regional basis. In Scotland, they have completely abandoned their annual tune-up of Sean Connery.

The IPA has agreed to undertake a careful analysis of the recording in order to redefine [s] without reference to the IPS. In addition to the challenges associated with recovering the signal from the damaged cylinder, the IPA will have to port their analysis software, which was originally written in LISP.

Meet the SpecGram Editors
LinguimericksBook ५८
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 3 Contents