LINGUIST List 28.5274

Wed Dec 13 2017

Media: Night Before Xmas Linguists' Version! & Other Fun

Editor for this issue: Kenneth Steimel <>

Date: 11-Dec-2017
From: Dave Sayers <>
Subject: Night Before Xmas Linguists' Version! & Other Fun
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Yo-ho-ho! It's that time of year folks, for making a list, checking it twice, and seeing which vowels have been FLEECE, GOOSE or PRICE! That's right, it's time for my annual rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Linguists' Edition!)'. Last year, the LinguistList team let slip that they actually look forward to me sending it in every year, which obviously now means I'll never stop!

For some, this will be a joyous new seasonal tickle; for others, a welcome reprise of a familiar chuckle; and for hopefully a minority, a cringeworthy Christmas jumper to be avoided like so much stale turkey. Welcome everyone!

Before my poem, I'll share some other little linguistic Christmassy goodies I've collected over the last year. Consider them new tinsel and wrapping around the same old pair of socks.

Firstly, I hesitate to do corporations' work for them but this clever little advert was too linguistically delicious not to mention: It'll undoubtedly feature in my world Englishes lecture on New Zealand vowels. Hilarity will ensue I'm sure.

Here's a terrible Christmas pun from Cambridge University Press: Unforgivable. Awful. Bad Cambridge University Press. Bad!

Gretchen McCulloch has learned nothing of how unacceptable such jokes are, and has a whole list of them up on All Things Linguistic: I look forward to posting the nearly-completed 'The Twelve Days of Ling-Mas' (linked on that page) in next year's spamming of my poem! (By the way, Gretchen also co-hosts the podcast which you could do worse than subscribing to.)

Next, here's a pondersome little blog post by Gretchen McCulloch's co-host Lauren Gawne over on Superlinguo, asking: ''Why is it that we rarely wish anyone a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year?''

Alexia Bowler takes Lauren's interest in this phrase and raises her 687 words with a longer analysis: This includes mention of how Charles Dickens' use of 'merry Christmas' influenced the wording of Clement Clark Moore’s 1823 story ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas'.

And that, linguistical chums, brings me seamlessly on to the main feature of this little show, my poem. Strap on your sleigh-fty belts; here we go again...!

Twas the night before Christmas in the ivory tower,
Not a creature was stirring at the midnight hour,
Twas a problem for linguists who live to hear sounds,
Consonants, vowels (open or round).

We linguists were nestled all snug in our beds,
While visions of fricatives danced in our heads.
Snug in our gowns and our four-cornered caps,
We pondered enigmas like bilabial taps.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
I sprang from the bed hoping for research matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Hoping my equipment would record and not crash...

(Poem continues over at

Merrily/happily/Christmassilly yours,

P.S. For fans of deeply layered intertextuality, the ending of the poem is based somewhere in the future I described in a speculative thinkpiece this year on Language on the Move, about brain-integrated translation: Stick that in your pipe and auto-translate it!

P.P.S. Tweeps can spread the love in the time-honoured way:

Dr. Dave Sayers, ORCID no. 0000-0003-1124-7132
Senior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University |
Honorary Research Fellow, Cardiff University & WISERD |
Communications Secretary, BAAL Language Policy group | |

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
                            Ling & Literature

Page Updated: 13-Dec-2017