In your recent NewsNibble, your reporter wrote regarding E-Prime, “The English variant, in which all forms of the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ are eliminated to try to improve clarity and reduce discrimination...” and added that “Experts at EnPhoWahrs University have pointed out that a similar, albeit less-restrictive, version of the rule is in existence in Russian...” Please note that while Russian doesn’t have a copula in the present (it does in the past and future), it does have a verb of existence, есть. It also does have a verb of possession, иметь, as well as more common expressions of possession involving the verb of existence. Comparisons of Russian and E-Prime, therefore, are about as sensical as the rest of your rag’s wiped-up spills.
Professor of Linguistics, Kuhlerdan U.
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We contacted someone from an institution marked by greater doctrinal purity and adhesion to orthodoxy than [sniff] your stomping grounds, Prof. Sue Persilius, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Chomskyan Universal Linguistic Analytical Regimentation, the shock of which caused her to be sent to a hospital for whiplash. Her deputy at JOCULAR, Herr Doktor Doktor Professor Seelenruhig Gipfelhund, was finally prevailed upon to tentatively accept our inquiry as serious and replied as follows, “The usual analysis among the less inadequate sort of morphologists is that the behavior of the Russian copula in the present can be treated in two ways: 1. Replace it with a non-silent copula. (This causes circularity problems, but one likes those because they lead to an infinite loop of additional publications.) 2. Replace it with more silence. (This may solve problems of interlocutorial insomnia, which counts as service in one’s tenure application.) I would remind you, however, that in fact morphology savors far too much of the phenomenal realm to merit even that much attention, though admittedly it does merit rather more than you do.” We then contacted Dr. Снежинка На. Белой-Бумаге, professor of linguistics at the University of Arkansas at Lower Possum Trot, who replied, “You could do it that way, but a better way is to step from the auditory to the visual realm. The copula is not silent, it is white. This is why the Reds were always so damn paranoid about the Whites—with them lurking about invisibly behind the scenes, who knows what counter-revolutionary grammatical changes they could trigger? After all, so many had lost being in the Red cause of eliminating having that it would be truly counter-revolutionary to allow that to be reversed, even in theory.” There was more, including two pages about how the existence of the present-tense copula in Czech and the bourgeois deviationism of the Prague School deeply influenced Leninist typological analyses of the copula that posited (or, as they called it, derived from the material dialectic) that the length of the copula in phonemes was directly proportional to the distance of the speakers’ society from socialist purity, accompanied by analyses of the English copula that posited an underlying root with 72 phonemes in US English and 67 phonemes in UK English* realized as null morphs, leaving only the personal endings with phonetic content, but we think that suffices. Hope that helps!
—Da Editorial Guys and Da Editorial Gals
* More or less; the latter figure varied depending on whether Baldwin or MacDonald was Prime Minister at the time of publication.
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Dear Da Editorial Guys and Gals,
No, no, NO!!! That is not how you do it. You have to look at the way English treats auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs move while full verbs stay put, except for “to be,” which is both an auxiliary and a full verb, except in the real world of syntactic reality, where clearly what is going on is that all forms of “to be” are purely auxiliary verbs and there is a zero full verb of existence, just like in Russian, which only differs in lacking auxiliary verbs (except in the future imperfect form)!!! Sheesh, I can’t believe I have to teach basic stuff like this to a bunch of self-declared yet clearly self-deceived non-tyros.
The Teacher You Clearly Never Had,
Expert, The Realm of Syntactic
Theory You Never Visited, Reality
P.S.: So there.
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While I find Dhe /Vowoʃtʃæk/ Sisterz suggested spelling reform to be one of the less hare-brained I’ve seen, it is clear that they have entirely missed the point of Dr. Trals’s treatise.
Are they so uncultured that they have never heard of Ernest Vincent Wright, Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair, or freakin’ Lasus of freakin’ Hermione? A disgrace.
Mistress (32nd Level)
The SpecGram Margo Cult
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Your point is valid, sound, and logical. And it is wrong to act lippy about it—wouldn’t want a fat lip for doing so.
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I am outraged. Your December issue was an embarrassment to the entire noble field of Linguistics. In your “Occam-themed” issue, you wantonly flouted Occam’s Razor itself.
One article would have been adequate; in fact it would have made your point with so much less than your usual hypocrisy.
Please cancel my subscription forthwith.
Bryan Brandybuck, PhD
Lower Ipswitch Institute of Ips and Switches
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Sorry for the delay in replying, as we had been following the maxim that screeds are not to be published without necessity. Unfortunately we got column inches to fill.
In honor of Occam’s razor, we will assume that you are not trying to get a free subscription extension by asking for yours to be cancelled, and that you genuinely want to cancel your subscription.
Please allow us to express our appreciation through the small token of extending your subscription for another five years, gratis.
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With deep thanks,
The entire Speculative Grammarian Editorial Team
In your recent November issue, Claude Hatcher, Esq. (is he “Esquire”? As he is from Georgia and not a colonel, since no such rank is listed, I believe that is the default title) writes, “Recent correspondence in this venue has repeatedly suggested that Dr. Pepper is a desirable beverage to imbibe when in Lubbock, Texas.”
I fear that Mr. Hatcher, Esq., misunderstood what he had heard. In West Texas, “to be in Lubbock” is slang for “to be in a coma,” and as you cannot imbibe in that condition, his statement is ill-formed.
I think the expression he heard was that “drinking Dr. Pepper is about as good as being in Lubbock.”
Moll Luella “Salty” Poplins, PhD
Anti-Lubbock League of Texas
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Dear Sally Llewellyn “Malty” Popplers (AbC),
Texan English sure has some colorful turns of phrase, so none of this comes as any surprise to us, having spent a century in Houston.
On the other hand, de gustibus non est disputandum. If people like Lubbock, or Dr. Pepper, or even Big Red, let ’em! It’s no skin off your nasal vowel.
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.