Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 3 Contents Diacritical Linguimericks, Part II—Book ८१

/nuz baɪts/

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

Spicy Food May Have Precipitated the Great Vowel Shift

The world of linguistics around the world was stunned today by the announcement at the Institut Carême et Escoffier de Cuisine Théoretique that the Great Vowel Shift in English was not caused, as many have charged, by either a phonemic distinction between tense and lax vowels or by chronic sinusitis during the Little Ice Age, but rather to the introduction of spicy foods with the centralization of the English monarchy under the Tudors.

“We tested a variety of spicy foods ranging from mashed potatoes to phaal curry made with artisanal mutant peppers on native speakers of 47 languages from around the world. In Paris you can do this sort of thing, you know,” began Dr. Sandrine Béchamel-Velouté. ”We discovered that our British subjectsI do like the sound of that, I must saywere by far the least able to enjoy any of the food hotter than roast beef boiled to the consistency of shoe leather. As the hotness of the food increased, their responses ranged from [u:] to [ǝw] to [æw], then from [i:] to [ǝj] to [aj], and on occasion to [ajajajajaj]. The implications for linguistic history are too obvious to belabor,” after which her coauthor, Dr. Mathilde Hollandaise-Mornay, proceeded to discuss the point for thirty minutes in excruciating detail. “Here we see in our synchronic data the mechanism behind the diachronic change. As the Tudor court followed the beneficent reforms of the French monarchy and centralized the state in London, so the other glories of French culture spread as well, such as the spices necessary to make roast beef boiled to the consistency of shoe leather and served with mashed potatoes edible.” After a brief whisper, she said, “My apologies to any Americans here who might take offense at well-fitting shoe leather. In any case, as the level of spiciness rose, it became increasingly intolerable to the genetically handicapped English tongue, resulting in the changes usually called the Great Vowel Shift.”

Letters to the Editor
Diacritical Linguimericks, Part IIBook ८१
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 3 Contents