John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Linguistics for Lazy People

February 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Seems like it is whenever I have most things to do that I find seriously fun things to distract me. Nothing new about that, it happens to all freelancers. But just at the moment, I have toothache and laughing is quite painful. And a Language Hat post has introduced me to Speculative Grammarian, “the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics,” and it is fabulous (but my mandibula feels as if it is being used as a punchbag). SpecGram’s humour mostly lies in its apparent earnestness, but it is beautifully creative, for example, having invented the field of Langualogy, with its own academic department “comprised of former eminent scholars in the field of Linguistics who have realized that “linguistics” would be the study of “lingues”, and that’s just dumb.” Or its book review of Linguistics for Lazy People, “not an attempt to reach out to people who are lazy, but nonetheless have an interest in learning about linguistic science—David Crystal has certainly already written a book for them. Rather, this is a practical book for lazy people who want to learn how to use the fruits of linguistics to enhance their laziness.” Techniques to this end include using “the passive voice to avoid taking responsibility for things you really don’t want to be responsible for.”

I can’t go on, this is wrecking my face, and bloggers’ honour would in any case prevent me discussing the article Language Hat has singled out in great depth, but believe me it’s funny. I’ll just mention that it deals with Shigudo, “a language with only one verb, meaning “do”, only one preposition, meaning.. uhh.. “preposition”?, no nouns (only pronouns), no adjectives, and the only productive class of words left is adverbs.” If you’re a real linguist or just a working stiff of a translator like me who wants to be distracted, you’ll find it worth your while to check it out.

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Tags: Language

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