New Grammatical Discoveries

faked by Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Uttboro, Indiana: Grammatists at the famed University of Indiana at Uttboro Institute of Grammatical Underlined Physics (UIUIGULP) have announced startling new discoveries in the farfetched realms of extreme grammar.

“The new discoveries may completely change the way we think about grammar,” said Dr. Strontium Toodlehorne, Palin Professor of Experimental Linguistics at the famed University of Indiana at Uttboro Institute of Grammatical Underlined Physics (UIUIGULP). “While theorists have understood the implications for decades, it is only now that we have been able to observe these new entities in, so to speak, the field.”

The new discoveries have been made possible by the creation of the Astonishingly Long and Lame Best Seller (ALLBS), a work of such prodigious extension that 123,000 copies of Ulysses could be fitted into it end-to-end.

“Theoretically speaking, of course,” says Toodlehorne. “If one were actually to bring Joycean material in contact with the exotic grammars achievable in the Astonishingly Long and Lame Best Seller (ALLBS), they would annihilate each other in a burst of nonsense radiation that would wipe all meaning from the face of the Earth. And don’t even think about Nabokov.”

Many of the new findings are counter-intuitive. The grammatists at UIUIGULP say they now have evidence that all syntactical phrases are combinations of quirks in seventy-leven varieties, including the martin, the individual, the irresponsible, the smart-ass, the buttered, and the wackadoo quirk.

Even such familiar grammatical units as personal pronouns have been proven to have high-cacaphony counterparts. There are in fact distinct families of personal pronouns for every human on the planet. Mine include ig, buk, gnoto, deludon, biliueze, gark, and pheb. You can’t have them, they’re mine. I would tell you what they mean but that’s on a need-to-know basis.

Another example of the weird behavior of grammar at levels of incomprehensibility achievable only within the ALLBS is the prevalence of garbled sentences (sentences created when fragments with completely different structures collide). “Grammatists have wondered for a long time,” says Toodlehorne, “why most of the sentences in literature to date have made sense. Logic dictates there should be an equal number of sentences that don’t make sense, but where are they? It turns out they are observable only when conventional grammar is subjected to extraordinary stress in a thought-vacuum, the sort of vacuum which can be maintained for any length of time only within the ALLBS. Though,” he appended, “the fleeting occurrence of such conditions has been theoretically posited within the minds of certain individuals, primarily politicians, lawyers, fundamentalist preachers, and financial analysts.”

Grammatists now think that unusual conditions during the first micro-seconds of the Big Gabfest, when all of language originated, may have selected for sense instead of nonsense. “There’s no other imaginable reason,” Professor Toodlehorne expostulated, “that we should find ourselves in a primarily functional discourse.” Sentences composed of garble resemble ordinary sentences in every respect, he went on to say, except that they are impossible to understand.

“And don’t get me started on comma splices,” he commanded this interviewer. “Did you know that one comma can support the weight of ten thousand overblown sentiments?” As evidence, Toodlehorne cited a recent sentence-like element discovered in the ALLBS: “ . . . completely crapulous fandoogle, the weight of ten thousand overblown sentiments.”

“Just think,” he whispered dreamily, “what would happen if we could splice thousands of commas together. We would have the world on a string.”

The ALLBS was constructed by a team of grammatists who mated John Grisham’s talent, Stephen King’s logorrhea, and Michael Crichton’s politics with a supercomputer programmed to churn out unfathomable prose at rates never before possible.

“A new paradigm is upon us,” Toodlehorne predicted exultantly. “Even more incredible discoveries lie ahead of us in future time. The world we thought we knew is being replaced by the world we never known we thought.”

8 Responses to “New Grammatical Discoveries”

  1. I may have teared up laughing at this, just a little. And it’s helped me see the world anew: I thought my persistently comma-splicing students were just poor writers, but it turns out that they’re just advanced theoretical grammatists. I think I owe a few apologies.

  2. gorjus says:

    I would love to know what ALLBS triggered this!

  3. Jack Butler says:

    Thank you, Professor Fury. Actually, Gorjus, this was not triggered by anything I read, though obviously it was preconditioned by a lifetime of unwillingly endured inanity. I think it started with thinking of personal pronouns in a new sense of personal, and sort of burgeoned from there. I do read a lot of those gee-whiz physics articles . . .

  4. brd says:

    As you might suspect, the invention of movable type originally created a maelstrom of grammatical anomalies. Word processing,,, opened whole new holes of exploration into experimental linguistics.

    As Jasper Fforde explains, “Books may look like nothing more than words on a page, but they are actually an infinitely complex imaginotransference technology that translates odd, inky squiggles into pictures inside your head.” So to expect grammar to lie down and cooperate with that, is naive indeed.

  5. Jack Butler says:

    Dear Betsy: You did my satire one better with “imaginotransference.” Thanks. Yeah, like you, I’ve seen the argument that print changed words, and it did, but for me it’s mainly offbrain memory storage of sound. As is digital technology. I use word processors to write novels and sonnets, forms that predate the technology.

    And it’s more nearly the novels and sonnets that stimulate my imagination than the technology. In fact, without good communication, good language, it would have been impossible to build either printing presses or computers. In my view, those are better described as effects of language than as the driving energy behind its continued evolution.

    Have always felt that people using words is the force behind the continual change of language—how Latin became Italian, French, Spanish, and others, for example, or how U. S. English evolved from British English, or British English from Old English for that matter.

    People still talk to each other. In order to do that, they have to be able to understand each other. In order to do that, they have to agree on a vast majority of interpretations. You can’t declare that “bllkkt” means frosting on a carrot cake and expect the rest of the world to know what you’re talking about unless most of them have agreed with you to use that meaning. So in my view, grammar arises from cooperation between people. We agree to say things in certain patterns, and that allows us to understand each other. The agreement itself is tacit, not written down, and certainly not enforceable. We accept it because it works, but differences creep in continually, like genetic drift in species.

    And that notion, that grammar itself should “lie down and cooperate,” is not one I have known anybody who’s really good with words to hold. I think it’s a straw man argument proposed by those who think anyone who loves grammar must be a rule-bound tight-ass. Most of the truly fine writers seem to me to be capable of not one but many grammars. Faulkner rendered the grammar of the Snopeses so splendidly not because he was limited to that grammar, but because he understood it as one grammar among many. I suspect on good evidence that he was fully capable at conventional “proper” written grammar.

    I hated grammar in English in public school. It always seemed to be taught by authoritarians with no feel for the vivid movement of thought. The grammar they taught was wrong, too—all that “parts of speech” garbage.

    All my life it has been clear to me that language changes, and that no person or authority can dictate the changes (I think the French Academy is silly), that there is no such thing as “proper” grammar, though there is certainly good faith grammar—which is where I part company with the lame writers who pen some but not all best-sellers I suppose. I don’t think they’re keeping the faith. I think they’re like the mechanic who overcharges me for my car repair, or the hospital that bills you $40 for an emergency-room aspirin. You pay for more than you get.

  6. brd says:

    Oh, oh, oh, I love this comment so!

  7. plok says:


    “Logic dictates there must be an equal number of sentences that don’t make sense, but where are they?” Now that is just beautiful.

    I tip my hat!

  8. Lynn says:

    Beautiful! I love language even though I know only one and I’m not especially good at it.