Re-Speculative Re-Grammarian, Triskaidecahebdomadally—A Letter from the Re-Editor-in-Chief SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 3 Contents /nuz baɪts/

Letters to the Editor

Formerly Dear “Editors”,

Thank you for your response to our letter, which we enjoyed tremendously. In fact, one of the mailroom staff literally died laughing when the “hidden secret message” fairly jumped out at him as he read the letter aloud.

We refer, of course, to the sequence obtained by selecting the first letter of the second sentence of each bullet point: WISJFOC. Pronounced aloud, this is of course homophonous with that familiar Albanian term that is the dear companion of any serious puzzler, roughly translatable in English as “a puzzle that is unsolvable due to accidental tautology”. Your cleverness in making this puzzle-within-a-letter is extremely laudable.

In spite of your very admirable sense of humor, though, we will persist in our prosecution of your misdeeds.

In Earnest,

✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢

Dear Mr. Borgnine & Co.,

Thank you for your work in McHale’s Navy, Escape from New York, and Airwolf. It appears, however, that your mastery of both puzzles and Albanian is lackingwhile we have actually hidden some actual Albanian in this actual message, actually.

Sorry to hear about the death of your mailboy. His head would look nice on our trophy wall, though, if you aren’t using it anymorewe assume he is not. Pronouncing WISJFOC aloud, by the way, should not be allowed. It gives one the urge to yell, “WISJFOC you and the horse you rode in on!”, which is not at all acceptable in polite society. Fortunately, the use–mention distinction saves us from failing to be polite, or at least preserving plausible deniabilitypræteritio be damned!


❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Dear Specious Geometers,

In your June 2021 issue you define a “polyhedraglot” as “One who knows the names of the Platonic solids in many languages.” But don’t you know that there are many more polyhedra than that quintet of dodorkahedral dice? There are 48 regular polyhedra, plus an in(de)finitely large number of irregular ones! Let no one call themselves a polyhedraglot until they can name all of those shapes from tetrahedron to trihelical square tiling in all languages from Tok Pisin to Toki Pona, and let no one who is so ignorant of geometry write for your publication!

Stella Octangula
314 Royal Road to Geometry

✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢

Dear Stellar Octagon,

Given the excess of sides in a trihelical square tiling, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to class such knowledge as conferring the status of “omnihedraglot”?


❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Dear sirs,

Your recent /nuz baɪt/ (and doesn’t /nuz/ evoke a roundedness while /baɪt/ obviously suggests something more spiky?) seems to assume that the human tendency to pair certain phonetic strings with certain 2D shapes with far-greater-than-chance frequency is shared by other entities. Indeed, were one to ask Bouba and Kiki themselves, or any of their other phonetic-o-geometrical friends Gnashmu, PfahPfah and Kshmj, one would find that the effect largely disappears. Please don’t impose human cognitive irrationalities on the rest of us.

In any case, Kiki was quite happy to lose her funding (such as it was), along with her ‘friends’ and ‘fans’, as the international travel, endless press junkets and effectively mandatory celebrity appearances at on average two linguistics conferences per month were taking their toll. Kiki is far happier lounging by the pool on her star-shaped sunbed.

Kate Kiki and Molly Bouba

✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢

Dear Kiwi Fruit and Boba Fett,

After such a pointed reply, we’re seeing stars! There are no blotches on your character.


❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Dear Editors,

Your recent piece on possible sound symbolism and the reactionary pro-kiki-ist Centre for Critical Kiki Studies may be taken to imply that this is a relatively new field of study. Far from it! For example, why in the closing decades of the Third Age, in a company of 13 dwarves and a wizard no less, was it (mere) Bilbo who found the Ring? Clearly the predominantly (C)VCV pattern of dwarfish names (“Nori”, “Dori”, “Ori”, “Biffur”, “Boffur”, “Fili”, “Kili” (no relation to Kiki) etc.) and the trisyllabic “Olorin” (or disyllabic “Gandalf” where both rhymes have a filled coda) played a significant role in shaping the events of the narrative. Only CVCCV “Bilbo” and later CCVCV “Frodo” were found worthy of possessing the Ring. This also explains why CVCCVC Samwise surrendered it so willingly. When Gandalf later says “Bilbo was meant to find the Ring in which case you also were meant to have it,” he is clearly referring to the Ring’s preference for disyllabic names in which only one syllable is open.

There is also a strong argument to be made that Gandalf’s insistence that Frodo take the Ring to Imladris is similarly conditioned by a syllabic form of sound symbolism. Why not ask polysyllabic Radagast, Aragorn, Galadriel or Legolas to do this? As for Tom (Bombadil), abstracting away from the last name (which is just silly), the monosyllabicity of “Tom” is likely what renders this character Ring-proof (c.f. comments above on “Samwise” (“Sam”).

If a centre for Critical Kiki Studies is to be founded, might I suggest that it broaden its remit from relatively isolated corners of sound symbology and instead aspire to encompass the entire field?

Kakarakatchadoo Smith
Prof of Unsound Symbolism

✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢

Dear Kak,

Forget Lord of the Rings; more like Bored of Your Whinge. Your letter has consequently been thrown into the Cracks of (Bore)doom... from whence it came!


❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Dear Eds,

Deedles D’Dee ponders the ontogenesis of alliteration, assonance and rhyme in names of characters in the Red Book of Westmarch and associated literature. These characteristics are simply the result of the resonant echoes of the Music of the Ainur, initiated by Yours Deistically Truly, cascading down from On High in an aesthetic analogy to the theological and ecclesiastical hierarchicalism of the Catholic Church.

Eru Ilúvatar
Timeless Halls

✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢ ✢

Dear in-Eru-dite,

Do (shut up); re (-think your letter); me (-diocre); fah (from interesting); so (dull); lah (-di-dah); te (-eeny bit boring); do (-do, dead as).


❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

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.

Re-Speculative Re-Grammarian, Triskaideca­hebdomadallyA Letter from the Re-Editor-in-Chief
/nuz baɪts/
SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 3 Contents