Dedicated to Frank Harrington, Graham Turner,
Deborah Cameron, Elizabeth Frazer, Penelope Harvey,
M. B. H. Rampton, and Kay Richardson
In the fields beyond Slough, past the sheep and the cows,
There are men who enjoy the narration
Of a young man called Ted, “a legend” they said
For feats of co-articulation.
Whether plosive or stop, he’d say four in one pop,
Even dentals and velars were conquered.
And the affricates too, though the trills made him blue.
After /Ꙫʙ͡tk/, his mum thought he was bonkers!
What made him so honed in simultaneous phones?
The answer’s the core of this fable.
By an odd quirk of genes, and strange though it seems,
His mouth was quite clearly trilabial.
Although multi-lingual, his language was single,
His French and his Spanish were spotty.
He could not say “hi” in Burmese or Thai,
Despite having three epiglotti.
His phonetic skill was to turn out for ill,
When his talent was known to Linguistics.
The profs sent acolytes by taxi and bike,
All afraid that they just might have missed it.
For a year and a day, the young man held sway
All the researchers came to hear Ted talks.
Phonology buffs could not get enough
And the students all cried “oh how Ted rocks!”
And so prof after prof came with cam’ras and stuff
To make sure that his gift was legit.
The lovable rogues filled poor Ted’s mouth with probes
The hardware soon made him feel sick.
A year in the spotlight made Ted hate the limelight
And the fashion soon moved on to syntax.
The friendly reviewers became so much fewer
And they told writers, “You can just bin that.”
The moral is clear and much-needed I fear
In a world where we publish or perish:
Whether people are young, old or tall or three-tongued,
They deserve to be honoured and cherished.
So remember this song as your life marches on.
I promise you’ll need it much later.
To save us from tears, as you build your career,
Remember: we’re people not just data!
Cameron, D. et al. (1992) Researching Language: Issues of Power and Method. Taylor & Francis Group.
Turner, G. H. and Harrington, F. (2000) ‘Issues of power and method in interpreting research’, in Olohan, M. (ed.) Intercultural faultlines: Research models in translation studies. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing (Research Models in Translation Studies, 1), pp. 253–65.