Down With Uptalk—But Not Tha̰t Do̰wn—Butch McBastard SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 4 Contents /nuz baɪts/

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sirs Drear Sores:

What in the ever-loving name of the Elder Ones and all their minions are you doing in publishing? I received my proof prints of “A Theoretical Semantic, Minimalist Analysis of American Corporatese,” scheduled for publication in your November journal, and demand an explanation, several apologies, your heads, and a refund of the $4500 publication fee you charged my university that they then deducted from my next three paychecks with a threatening letter not to do that again.

First, since when did your journal impose a strict word limit? Have you even looked at the overflowing truckloads of rotten tripe your journal has pumped out in the past? I note that real publications do not reduce word count from 9230 words to 8990 simply by mechanically deleting every negative in the text. (And no, that is not how Linguistic Inquiry “makes sure it always stands at the forefront of the retreating surge,” whatever that means.) Moreover, you didn’t even reduce the word count by changing “never” to “always,” and changing “always” to “on most occasions, depending on speakers’ degree of corruption” actually inflated it.

Second, I anonymized the informants for a reason. I do not think it funny that you replaced identifiers like “Speaker A” with the names of leading New York corporate lawyers. Not only is it false, it’s unethical, like either consideration ever weighed on your pointy little heads.

Third, reducing the word count to your nowhere stated limit of 8000 words by replacing all the example sentences in the field data section with “[Censored on grounds of good linguistic taste]” is simply retrograde and obscurantist prescriptivism. Who are you, dyslexic or cognitively deficient 14-year-olds who just read their first John Simon essay, as if he was even a native speaker?

Fourth, I went to a great deal of trouble getting the syntactic trees just right. Replacing them with sentence diagrams by a bunch of interns, none of whom clearly even earned an English degree, is retrograde and obscurantist prescriptivist rotten tripe I’d not even expect from the Bulletin of the English Language Department of University of Arkansas at Lower Possum Trot (damned be their memory).

In short, I retract my article forthwith. If you do not refund my money, certain people will have a few words and many, many blows and then bullets for you.

Damn you all to hell,
[Censored on Grounds of Social Etiquette]

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Dear [Censored],

We were pleased to receive your letter; so few of our authors bother to read the painstakingly crafted editorial comments we provide with every submission. Please note that the fee is stated in the first codicil to your publication agreement (our copy, not yours). It’s your fault you didn’t clear it with your university.

Those Who Can, Do.
Those Who Can’t, Teach.
SpecGram, for the Rest of You.

Do you have that spe­cial col­league you can’t do any­thing with? Who has no more idea about the sub­ject than you have why they got en­sconced in acad­e­mia? Point them our way. They’ll thank you, your col­leagues will thank you, your stu­dents will all thank you, and we’ll thank you.

For the Rest of You.

As to your specific comments, first, check the fine print (2-point) at the bottom of the first page. It specifically states that we will make any changes we need to meet word lengths, make articles make some sort of sense, and if necessary purge our bilious humors.

Second, get over yourself. It’s hilarious! Don’t be such a stick in the mud!

Third, someone needed to take a stand against these public attempts to cast the spell to wake that evil that is best left slumbering. They’re getting increasingly accurate, and we’re not best pleased by such meddling with arcane powersthat will end very badly (for us humans). Fortunately, many of our worn-out former interns have gotten corporate jobs, so that malign tendency will in the fullness of time be utterly botched.

Fourth, we have inside knowledge that old-fashioned sentence diagrams are the centerpiece of the next version of Chomskyan generativism, intended to make up all the deficiencies in X-bar diagrams, so you’re welcome.

So no, we reject your retraction. As a compromise, weto take a leaf from your playbooksynergized outside the box and circled back after finishing what was on our plate, spitballed some ideas after a deep dive into your letter, and ran them up the flagpole and saluted. Thus, we made sure that your article was published in the November 2022 issueit’s on the official Table of Contents somewhere, so don’t bother submitting it elsewhereso you can put it in your CV yet don’t need to worry about someone actually reading it, and we keep that new super-duper handy-dandy espresso machine you bought us. Sounds like a win-win no-brainer to us!!!

Sincerely ours,

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Dear Editors,

I would like to make a complaint about English. More specifically, I would like to complain about the fact that monkey and donkey do not rhyme. This is almost as silly as the US English pronunciation of bologna, which I still cannot accept. I think it must be some kind of joke.

Getting back to the main theme, there would seem to be two possible resolutions to this crime against language. Either monkey must be made to rhyme with donkey and be pronounced “monn-key” or donkey must be made to rhyme with monkey, becoming “dung-key”. Anyone who has been around animals for any length of time will agree that adding using “dung-key” is rather apt. It should therefore be used forthwith.

I trust that you will communicate this decision to the people who regulate proper English, through the ban on split infinitives and the mandating of the Oxford comma.

Wilmslow Honky-Tonkey Eton III

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Dear Dunky,

You cheeky little monkey!
Though your prose was rather clonkey,
Your message was quite sponkey
And your observations fonkey.

We’ll therefore pass them on-key
The answer won’t be long-key
Your letter mattersreally!
Best wishes, and sincerely,


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Meine Herren,

A recent reply in your letters page made unauthorised use of one of the many famous lyrics associated with my name. Please withdraw this letter or you shall become one of my least favorite things.

Maria von Trapp

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Tia Maria,

Our inbox is alive with the sound of your whingeing. Do us all a favour: go join a lonely goatherd high on a hill and shut yer trapp (and those of your many adopted children).


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Dear Editors of SpecGram Makers of Grammatical Errors,

n “up-ness and down-ness doesn’t stop ...”
Does the subject require us to swap
Don’t in for doesn’t?
I won’t say you mustn’t
But it’s grammatically over the top.

—O. V. D’Topp

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Dear D’oo Over,

There once was a nitpicker so grand,
Whose grammar was always well planned,
But to others’ chagrin
He’d point out every sin
And bore them to tears where they stand.


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Dear Eds,

Isn’t “the crack of doom” something to do with the Great Bowel Shift after a too-spicy meal?

P. Yu Rile

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Dear Party Pooper,

No. You’re thinking of The Great Bowl Shift, which is what catering do after the gala dinner at a conference.


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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.

Down With UptalkBut Not Tha̰t Do̰wnButch McBastard
/nuz baɪts/
SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 4 Contents