Twas The Night Before Christmas (Linguists’ Version)

Twas The Night Before Christmas (Linguists’ Version)

by Dr. Dave Sayers (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

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.

The moon made a shape like a back-rounded vowel,
Which was also the sound that I heard from an owl.
When, what should my wondering eyes quickly see,
But a representative sample of society.

Old folks with conservative pronunciations,
And fad-happy teens with their fresh innovations,
Networked globetrotters, laggards and lames,
Their dialect features I noted by name!

Now Nasal! Now Velar! Now Plosive, and Dental!
Lexical! Grammatical! Suprasegmental!
To the top of the mouth! With the tip of the tongue!
Now palatalise! Labialise! Old, middle and young!

This I must record, and I must analyse,
But before I do that I can only surmise,
That this being Christmas and I being me,
There may be more surprises ready to see.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the kitchen,
A noise that soon set my microphone twitchin’,
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He spoke in a language never before heard,
Not a sound ever known to man, beast or bird.
Impossible sounds he flung from his face,
He spoke like a robot or a being from space.

Why hadn’t I learned this from tales as a child?
That his taps, clicks and trills were so phonetically wild?
It seemed that his mouth was drawn at an angle
That enabled these baffling articulatory tangles.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
Through which fell approximants past the IPA’s reach.
Pharyngeal nasals, glottal flaps quite deducible,
He produced all the phonemes that were thought unproduceable.

I looked through the glass at his hovering sleigh,
And realised at last where his origins lay.
He’d come from the future, he can travel through time,
Hence climbing every chimney in one night, even mine.

This also explained his weird trills, taps and flaps.
In his time, we’ve evolved to fill in all these gaps.
He said his farewells and climbed back whence he’d bound,
But wait, how come I now understood all his sounds?

In his time, Google Translate’s become far superior.
It transferred his message into my mind’s interior.
So I heard him exclaim in his space-age vernacular,
“Happy Christmas! And may your peer reviews be spectacular!”

‘Tis the Season to Sew

This Christmas is going to be extra special for us as we travel to visit my older sister and her family.  My parents, younger sister and her fam will meet us there.  All nine cousins will be in the same place at the same time for the first time ever.  I couldn’t let the occasion pass without attempting some kind of big heartfelt sewing project.  So I made every single one of them a Christmas stocking.  I have grand hopes of lining the cousins up, oldest to youngest and taking their photo with their stocking.  A keepsake marking a very sweet time of Christmas festivities surrounded by young ones and babies.  We won’t get this time back.  The oldest is 14 and the youngest will be 6 months.  Below is a short video I made for my new vlog concerning all things needle and thread.  Subscribe to Sew Emily on YouTube if you don’t want to miss future videos.

Sew Emily

I first began sewing at age 11. That’s when I took to my first sewing project. Today I’m moving forward. I find myself in the perfect location, surrounded by endless vibrant, dramatic prints. Sewing is calling out to me.

After the fun experience of Bama Meets Britain, I’ve decided that video logs are my favourite form of social media. While it’s true that a photo speaks a thousand words, a video speaks even louder.

I’ve felt like I wanted to join a sewing community, to get involved. So, here I go—Sew Emily—talking weekly about my sewing and crafting projects. I’ll show you what I’ve made and how I’ve made it. I’ll reveal my struggles and what I learnt from them. And, I’ll be showing plenty of wax print fabric along the way.

If you are interested in crafts or sewing, join me as I start at the beginning, as I juggle life with twins and littles, as I dream daring dreams of filling my wardrobe with me-made originals. It’ll be fun.

Now for the first installment—”The Seamstress Tag.”

Celebrating Good Times

Moments ago songs of celebration and thanksgiving rang out in our branch auditorium where earlier today we held the closing ceremony for the third and final part in a series of new translator workshops designed based on orality and resulting in a preliminary draft of the book of Ruth. Participants from four different languages of Cameroon took part in what we can be described as enriching and capacity-building first steps towards translating the Bible into their “treasure language.” Watch the video and celebrate with us. 💃