The Visiting Linguist - Poem by Len Webster
He was judged by the old university to be
A man about whom nothing bad could be said
And all of his colleagues were certain that he
Knew enough about words to deserve a degree
To prove he had so much there in his head.
Mainstream written discourses were people-like, he said,
Moving on to what he thought you should dream about in bed:
About metastructure content gloss and positive evaluation,
About semantics and pragmatics and of course reformulation.
He'd categorised and analysed and split open bits of words,
He'd even written articles on the cries of suffering Kurds.
He knew about transitives and ergatives and goals
But he never really understood why The Sun had used 'coal-holes'.
He'd never been across the yard to fill the scuttle up
Or hidden in the coal-hole among the lovely muck
And imagined that the Germans were knocking at the door
And shivered there all morning, avoiding all the gore.
So he couldn't know the coal-hole hid a million childhood schemes.
He was too busy with his lexis and his dogma and his rhemes,
Too busy with the many words that buzzed inside his head
To notice that his audience had either nodded off or fled.
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