Reflections cont'd (2)

Mark P. Line mark at
Wed Mar 22 07:39:03 UTC 2006

Alexander Gross2 wrote:
> The identity crisis Pullum ascribes to linguists has clearly not
> gone away, all the more so if the person expressing doubts about the
> field is not a stranger in the bar but someone who has bothered to obtain
> an M.A in the field and works with language on an advanced level.

Would all linguists who are currently experiencing an identity crisis as a
linguist please stand up?

(I'm sure there *are* linguists who are currently experiencing an identity
crisis as linguists, but I wouldn't expect very many of them to be on this
list. I assume that they consist mostly of (a) the old ones who are now
recognizing that things didn't work out the way they expected back in the
60's and 70's, and (b) the young ones who are now recognizing that they're
doing computer science, mathematics or philosophy, but not linguistics.
The rest of us are pretty much still doing the same thing we've always
done, with reasonable success.)

> Blow Stroke Sweep Breath.
> How would you translate that into another language? Or since it's
> English, what would you imagine it means in your own language?

It's probably a rule of thumb for some first-aid technique...

Mnemonic phrases that do not form complete sentences are not limited to
Chinese -- we have them in English as well. (Note, though, that the
Mandarin original can possibly be read as a sequence of four one-word
imperative clauses.)

Dad Mom Sister Brother (rules for long division)
First Outer Inner Last (FOIL rule for multiplying binomials)
Port Out Starboard Home (POSH staterooms)
Spring Forward Fall Behind (rule for Daylight Savings Time)
Roy G. Biv (color spectrum)

Of course, most common mnemonics in English seem to use some kind of word
play and form at least one complete sentence:

Pregnant Camels Ordinarily Sit Down Carefully. Perhaps Their Joints Creak
(geological eras)

Some Old Horse Caught Another Horse Taking Oats Away
(right-triangle trig functions)

-- Mark

Mark P. Line
San Antonio, TX

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