Fear of Twitter

Back at the beginning of this month, an invitation (with the header “3Q Twinterview”) in e-mail:

I’m sorry to bother you at a busy time of the year, but I wondered if you’d be interested in taking part in a really very short Twitter interview? I run the language/linguistics Twitter/Facebook pages for UCLan (http://fb.com/LangLingUCLan and http://twitter.com/LangLingUCLan) and for 2013, I’m starting a monthly Mini Bios feature where I ask a famous linguist three questions and tweet the answers. If you are interested, there is one catch: due to the limitations of Twitter, each answer would need to be around fifty words, maximum.

Something of a nightmare prospect for me. Not just an interview, but one with extraordinarily tight space limitations. I do have a Twitter account, but have never used it, so that’s a graceful way out of this exercise.

First, the e-mail came with an address at uclan.ac.uk. The ac.uk eliminated some of the parsings (branches of the University of California, in particular UCLA, were not involved), but then I was taken down the garden path by the ucl part, which automatically calls up University College London for me (but what about the an?). The version with caps, UCLan, didn’t eliminate the temptations of UCL. In the end I just had to track it down: the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston (founded 1828, I learn from the website).

Second, the three questions, which I’ll give with my correspondent’s entertaining sample answers:

1. How would you describe yourself/your field/your research? If you can squeeze in one interesting non-work fact too, that’d be nice (but it’s definitely not obligatory!) e.g.

I’d describe myself as a corpus/forensic linguist who specialises in online deception, aggression, and manipulation. I also LOVE cheesecake.

2. What publication of yours (or someone else’s if you prefer) would you recommend and, if you have room, why that one? (If you send me a link to it, I can also tweet that too.)… e.g.

Anyone interested in this area should read my 20xx book “Amazing Book”. It’s a good intro to the topic. www.amazon.co.uk/amazingbook

3. What are your research plans in the (near or distant) future? e.g.

I’m currently writing up a presentation for the ABC conference in Sunnyville. I also have a book coming out in 20xx entitled ___, and I’m part of an ESRC project looking at ___. Results come out August 2014!

Totally daunting. But then, the sting in the tail for a procrastinator, the chance to put off the task for months:

I’m scheduling one Mini Bio for the final Friday of each month, and January, February, and March have already gone, so it would come out somewhere between April and December. If you have a particular month you’d like your twinterview to come out (e.g. to coincide with, say, a publication or conference or what have you), just let me know and with luck I should be able to accommodate it.

The portmanteau twinterview (and its variant twitterview) were discussed on ADS-L 7/20/09 by Larry Horn and Ben Zimmer.

As for “famous linguist”, well, I tell people that I’m really famous in a really really small world. The only living linguist who’s famous famous is Noam Chomsky, and then there are the (at least moderately) well-known public faces of linguistics, like (again, among the living) Geoff Nunberg, Ben Zimmer, Mark Liberman, and Geoff Pullum. I’m a third-tier guy.


3 Responses to “Fear of Twitter”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    I wouldn’t agree with the Tierage, necessarily, but I do agree with the famosity groupings. Note, however, that none of the others you mention are past presidents of the LSA. For instance. Nor is there a Law named for them in the lore (though, to be fair, there is also no “Zwicky-Adjunction”, either).

  2. Chris Says:

    Also Steven Pinker and George Lakoff.

  3. LangLingUCLan Says:

    Steven Pinker just went… 🙂

    (I didn’t think of George Lakoff though. Excellent idea!)

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