Journalists and their names

Late last week, the Stanford Linguistic Department’s assistant e-mailed me about a phone call (for me) that had come into the department: a Mr. Ethics, representing a magazine, wanted to talk to me about a story he was working on, and left a New York City phone number.

I tried to check on this fellow Ethics, to no avail, until I realized that the assistant (who is very good at her job, but is not a native speaker of English) had almost surely gotten the name wrong. Eventually I figured out that the man’s name was Essex, not the unlikely Ethics. By then the day was over in New York City; in any case, I thought the phone call to my department was an ominous sign.

I’ve written before — on 4/5/11 — on journalists’ requests, with some frustration. They want to connect by phone, if possible, to get a fast, unguarded response. They often ask about subjects I have no special knowledge of; apparently, they just want a response from a Famous Linguist, especially one from, wow, Stanford. And they want it immediately; they are almost always at the end of a very short deadline.

I am not very sympathetic and am rarely willing to respond in the way they want.

But the next day I tried Essex by phone, offering to talk by e-mail, but I was shunted to his message service, and he never responded. I’m guessing the deadline had already passed. Now I’ll see if something by him related to linguistics appears in the magazine he represents (a general readership magazine I subscribe to).

Life as a (sort-of) famous academic…

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