Friday, February 29, 2008

Reasons why linguists are freaks

1) Most normal people who love language enjoy words such as sublime and kerfluffle, and the subtleties of meaning in the word "grace". Linguists write articles about "the" and "or".

2) Normal people laugh at the funny things kids say. Linguists draw 12 level tree diagrams of the same 5 word sentence. Oh, it's a subjacency rule violation in an object reduced relative clause under a high memory load. That clears things right up, doesn't it?

3) A linguist's idea of a relaxing time with friends is to make up fake dialect maps of the various names of scotch tape. (It was on the dept. lounge board for a month.)

4) Normal experts in the English language wax rhapsodically about the Pathetique in George Eliot. Linguists don't have much to say about anything that's longer than two sentences. To be honest, one sentence is really fine; thank you very much.

5) Normal language teachers correct student essays in order to make them sound more persuasive. Linguists lecture their class on all the reasons "ain't" is a great word. (Me on Wednesday with my students.)

6) A linguist says the word monophthong without giggling.

7) A normal lover of language studies French and German and Thai and tries them out every chance she gets! A linguist will argue for governmental policy that supports bilingualism and trilingualism, but only speaks English decently.

8) A normal person looks up a word in a dictionary and believes what it says. A linguist looks at the entry and goes, "pff, how much was Jack drinking that day?"

9) A linguist loves to say things like, "When a noun N is followed by an adjective A in sentence S...." because it seems so much more mathematical with capital letters like that and people respect mathematicians! Usually, the abbreviations A are never used U again A1.

10) When a normal person learns a new language, they quickly learn how to ask, "where's the bathroom?" A linguist quizzes the person about the language's pronoun system. "Hey, it an inclusive vs exclusive 1st p sing system again!"


Precie said...


But I don't think I'm allowed to play with you anymore. "Ain't" is completely unacceptable. LOL!

moonrat said...


Robin S. said...

Oh- I love 'ain't'. Glad to see you do, too, though most probably for different reasons.

And monophthong - if I was younger, I'd say that sounded bikini-like. Buut I'm not, so I'm going ot look it up now. Unless you'd like to share.

Anonymous said...

Dude. Field Methods class. Number Ten. Right there.

pacatrue said...

Emily, Field Methods class is exactly what I was thinking of. Spent an entire semester working on Chuukese and none of us ever asked how to get to a bathroom. I wonder if we ever learned to count? But we can detail a whole host of morphological patterns.

pacatrue said...

Robin, a monophthong is a regular old vowel that isn't a diphthong. The latter has two vowels mushed together (the vowels in "boink", "kite", "wake", and "boat". Remember that it's vowel sounds mushed together, not vowel spellings.) Monophthongs don't change their quality through-out the whole vowel. Examples of these are everything else (bit, beet, bot, bet, but, bore, boot, book).

By the way, do I have lists of words in my head that I can call on to explain something? No. I have the vowel chart in my head (an organized list of what vowels exist in American English) and I walk through it, grabbing examples.

McKoala said...

One word. Sellotape.

SzélsőFa said...

The other day I was truly and basically fascinated by a map that showed how the same fruit was called by people of different regions of our country.
Does that make me a linguist?
Plus, I've found many of your points applying to me :)))

Besides, I had lots of fun reading it!

ChristineEldin said...

You are so erudite and funny at the same time!

ain't is a word!!! Yay!!


writtenwyrdd said...

Love it, paca. I recognize some of those trends in myself from when I was in college, considering a linguistics degree. Didn't go there and now I ponder multisyllabic words instead of 'of' and 'or'. My loss, I'm sure. Loved #s 3 & 5.

Ello said...

I wonder what it would be like to play scrabble with a linguist. hint hint.

paca - go get thyself a facebook account so you can play scrabulous with me and Precie! I will kerfluffle you.

Anonymous said...

Howdy - I strolled over here from Precie's blog, where she used "ain't" in her last entry no fewer than 21 times.

Or not.

But I can't read "linguist" without thinking of my all-time fav book (cliched, I know), Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. Hmm. I'm due for a re-read...