SpecGram Vol CXLIX, No 4 Contents Letters to the Editor

Selling Out for Fun and Profit

A Letter from the Managing Editor

Linguistics is in trouble. In fact, our chosen field of

"Linguistics is arguably the most hotly contested property in the academic realm. It is soaked with the blood of poets, theologians, philosophers, philologists, psychologists, biologists, and neurologists, along with whatever blood can be got out of grammarians."
--Russ Rymer

endeavor has been in trouble for some time now. Many of us were lulled into a false sense of security by the rollicking good times of the late 1980s, when funding was readily available and Linguistics programs in English departments at many universities were elevated to full-fledged departments. Then tougher times returned, and Linguistics took the hit, full force: departments downsized, downgraded, and downtrodden.

What we need to do as a scholarly discipline is to take our destiny in our own hands. The means are readily available and there is a well-developed model to follow: we should sell naming rights to linguistic entities, similar to the way naming rights to sporting arenas and sporting events are sold.

Suppose naming rights are sold for a decade at a time, starting say, optimistically, in 2005. First--and many will object because of this--new editions of textbooks will need to be printed, to become up-to-date with the new terminology. Updating textbooks really isn't such a bad thing in any event, but if it seems burdensome to publishers, then some of the income generated by selling the naming rights could be used to subsidize the re-printing of the best textbooks in the field.

Another objection is that changing the names of linguistic terms will create confusion among linguists, and make linguistics harder for new students to master. Names of linguistic entities with informative, meaningful names would remain unchanged. However, eponymous terms in particular have names that carry little useful meaning, especially when the person after which the term is named has been dead for a good long time.

So, perhaps Broca's Area becomes

"I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."
--Winnie the Pooh

The Pepsi Area, while Wernicke's Area, Exner's Center, and Heschl's Gyri become The FedExArea, The Exxon Center, and Hershey's Gyri respectively.

Similarly, Grimm's Law, Verner's Law, and Grassman's Law are transformed into SpecGram's Law (yes, we'd do our part to help!), Victoria's Secret Law, and The Glad Law(n and Leaf Bag), with a nice margin of profit for Linguistics.

The Ford Readability Index (formerly known as the Fog Readability Index) and the Sears-Roebuck Hypothesis (née Sapir-Whorf) might also grace the pages of textbooks of the future. The Great Vowel Shift could even be brought to you by Lay-Z-Boy!

With the dough rolling in, the Linguistic Naming Rights Holding Company (administered jointly by the LSA and the editorial board of SpecGram, for example) could sponsor departments, scholarships, and research fellowships, propelling the field of Enronguistics through the next millennium.

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CXLIX, No 4 Contents