[reposted from 11/20/10]
I spent Thursday night on a plane so I missed 30 Rock and the
most linguistics oriented sit-com episode since ... since ... um ...
okay, the most linguistics oriented sitcom episode EVER! But thanks to
the innerwebz, I have caught up on my TV addiction.
The set-up has Jack Donaghy being the voice of Pronouncify.com, (I BEG you to sign up, PLEASE!!!!) a website that demonstrates the correct pronunciation
of all English words. Apparently, when Jack was a poor undergrad at
Princeton, he was hired by the "Linguistics Department" to pronounce
every word in an English dictionary to preserve the correct pronunciation
for generations to come. But they sold his readings, and hence his
voice is now the voice of Pronouncify.com (as well as the first perfect
Here is as faithful a transcript of the critical dialogue as I can muster:
Jack: Those bastards!
Liz: Who bastards?
Jack: Part of my Princeton scholarship included work for the Linguistics department.
They wanted me to record every word in the dictionary to preserve the
perfect American accent in case of nuclear war. Well, the cold war
ended, and Princeton began selling the recordings.
Liz: So people can just buy your voice?
Jack: Ohhhh, the things it's been dragged into. Thomas the Tank Engine; Wu-Tang songs...
must have been the glory days before the hippies took over and started
"protecting" undergrads from "exploitation." Whatever...
any case, it's understandable that this trivial tid-bit of academic
minutia blew right by most people, but it is a fact of the world we live
in that Princeton University does not have a linguistics department per
se. They do offer an Undergraduate Program in Linguistics
in which students can "pursue a Certificate in Linguistics," but this
is not an official department as far as I understand it. Jack, if he is
the same age as the actor Alec Baldwin, would have been at Princeton in
late 1970s. Maybe they had a full fledged department back then, I
honestly don't know.
You can watch the episode College at
NBC, or wherever else you prefer. BTW, there's an awesome ode to color
perception conundrums at the end as well. It's all kinda
linguisticee/cog sciencee (I never know how to add the -ee morpheme?).
Random after-point: Near the end of Thursday's episode of Community, Dean Pelton actually utilized the Shakespearean subjunctive construction Would that X were Y... He says "Would that this hoodie were a time hoodie" around the 19:20 mark (see Hamlet, would it were not so, you are my mother). Just thought that was kinda awesome.
And not for nuthin', but if you haven't seen Tina Fey's Mark Twain Prize speech, it's a gem: HERE.
[reposted from 11/20/10] I spent Thursday night on a plane so I missed 30 Rock and the most linguistics oriented sit-com episode since ...
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