April 01, 2007

Forester hired in linguistics department


In a desperate effort to make linguistic tree drawings more understandable to the linguistically unwashed, North Orizen Junior Technical University yesterday proposed hiring an experienced forester, Kari "Woody" Leohtenen, as a tenured full professor in its newly created linguistics department. "Mr. Leohtenen has no background whatsoever in linguistics, which makes him the ideal candidate," said the dean, "but I'm sure that my brother-in-law's many years of experience in the timber industry will prove invaluable to our linguists as they try to prune what they call language tree diagrams. I'm told that right and left branching leads to semantic confusion--and we have a lot of this in our faculty meetings. We're also hoping that Woody can teach one of those critical languages that Homeland Security keeps harping about, like Finnish."

Mr. Leohtenen took his B.S. in Forestry at the University of Montana, a state known historically for wiping out its ponderosa pines to stoke the smelters of the state's now-defunct copper mines. Recent years have seen a glut of foresters on the job market and so North Orizen's experiment in cross-disciplinary cooperation is being heralded as a boon for otherwise unemployed specialists in the rapidly declining timber industry.

"It doesn't matter that I'll have to take a 50% cut in pay," said Leohtenen. "The chance to be a big-time, highfalutin university professor is worth it. Anyways, foresters don't have much to do these days and I was probably about to get laid off." Despite the dean's hearty endorsement, somewhat muted concerns about Leohtenen's lack of qualifications were voiced by a few apparently disgruntled faculty members. "I doubt he knows a stripling from a stripped cleft sluice," gruffed the newly hired syntactician. And the new phoneticican added, "He probably thinks the alveolar ridge is somewhere in the Rocky Mountains."

University administrators say that they don't intend to stop here. Their next step in their "Hiring-Across-Disciplines" strategy is to locate a forester who will specialize in the poetry of Joyce Kilmer for the English department. "After that," said one top-level official who asked that he not be identified, "we may examine the possibility of using foresters to teach math logarithms."

This reporter's efforts to get Language Log's response to this development have been unsuccessful.

Posted by Roger Shuy at April 1, 2007 08:42 AM