SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 4 Contents Letters to the Editor

Folk Entomologies

A Letter from SpecGram Intern-Wrangler Col. Curtis Kirby-Girdle

It has recently come to our attention that Leeds Trinity’s School of Journalism has issued a harsh weather advisory to its instructors urging them not use capital letters or don’t prohibitives when writing to their students for fear of upsetting and oppressing them. The common refrain among commenters seems to be along these lines:


On the other hand, our first thought was bemusement; we’ve been trying to upset and oppress that sector of the population (inter alii) for centuries now and wish we had known it was so darn easy. Granted, the know-how we have amassed in the horsewhip, thumbscrew, and related trades has stood us in good stead come collective bargaining time with the interns, but as with the whale oil refining industries, this knowledge is not amenable to overmuch market expansion, however much it helps warm the cockles of our hearts, the nooks and crannies of SpecGram Tower, and the hide of the more refractory sort of intern.

Natalia Levshina, Dirk Geeraerts and Dirk Speelman, 2014, “Dutch caus­a­tive con­struc­tions: Quan­ti­fi­ca­tion of mean­ing and mean­ing of quan­ti­fi­ca­tion,” in Dylan Glynn and Jus­tyna A. Robin­son (eds.), Cor­pus Meth­ods for Seman­tics. Quan­ti­ta­tive stud­ies in pol­y­se­my and syn­on­y­my. John Ben­ja­mins.

Chiasmus of the Month
February 2019

Our second thought was amazement that such soft-shelled creatures have proliferated so: Where once undergraduates were hard-shelled bottom feeders of the stature of trilobites, all that seems to be left of the breed is sow bugs1 that roll up in little balls when lightly tapped and make satisfying crunching sounds when stepped on. This does make sense, though; gardeners tell us one of the best ways to attract sow bugs away from your plants is to put out glasses of beer. They love beer. (They differ from typical undergrads, apparently, in not showing a great fondness for weeds. Also unlike undergrads, they’re very fond of vegetables.)

Our third thought is that this is the typical anti-capitalism of the academic crowd. To which the obvious response is, “Well, yeah.” However, we also realized in short order that it does explain certain features of linguistics in academia. Much ink has been spilled regarding the Chomskyan program of personal intimidation at academic conferences, but this recent development in typography reveals a heretofore completely unnoticed tool which Noam and his associates used to great effect in cowing their intellectual adversaries: intimidatory capitalization. Just think about it: MERGE, OCP, INFL, UTAH, NP, etc. Similarly, a number of critics have charged that Chomsky is an opportunistic running dog of the military-industrial complex because he accepts funding from the military that gives him a monopolistic position in the economy of academia. To which the obvious retort is “Jealous much?”4 It is the usual tool of the academic grifter to decry capitali{sm/zation} while smuggling in just enough of it to quell the opposition.

We have to say, once the technique is identified, it does fill one with awe. Now we know how to vanquish the lesser sort of academic competitor. Now we know how to cow the uppity undergrads, mere mewling infants, into obedient crying m{a/e}sses. Now we know how to make the sow bugs roll up into little balls with words both spoken and written. In short, when facing one of these soft-shelled creatures, one of these little children with the loco parents of the university administration, we finally know how to drive the baby buggy.

1 Or pill bugs, doodle bugs, roly-polies, etc. Not earwigs, which one loser as weak in entomology as in etymology called them that one time in class. Earwigs are like those cool bugs that climbed into the ears of Khan’s prisoners in the second Star Trek movie, only not as coolthough, come to think of it, those fine SF-nal pets-cum-intern trainers look more like antlions. Which are also cool.2

2 Interestingly, one of our number knew a cool pet cat about four decades ago that loved cricketsnot as pets. Its owner would collect crickets in a Coke bottle and let the cat chase them. Whenever it caught one, it would eat it, crunch crunch crunch. Then after about thirty crickets it would throw up and beg for more crickets.3 It didn’t like sow bugs, however, showing that sow bugs, like undergrads, just aren’t cricket to the cool cats.

3 Don’t judge us with that look on your face. There really wasn’t much to do in a small town in Central Texas in the 1970s. It was feed crickets to cats until they puked or listen to Barry Manilow twenty times a day on the radio. We made our choice, and in our shoes you would have done the same thing.

4 Followed thirty seconds later by “Oh, stop crying, you big baby.”

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 4 Contents