Introducing Indo-European Jones

It started on Twitter, as these things often do. I read a comment about linguists and lexicographers being to language ‘what grave robbers are to archeology’ (the context: hatred of the newly popular because X phrase), and I tweeted it with a raised eyebrow.

Jonathon Owen replied that he wished he’d been given a ‘leather jacket, bullwhip, and fedora’ upon graduation, James Callan said he wanted to see an ‘Indiana Jones pastiche focused on a linguist’, and I felt it was a meme waiting to happen. So without further ado, let me introduce Indo-European Jones (or Indy for short).

James got the giant boulder ball rolling (click on images to enlarge):

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - this belongs in the OED - James Callan

I jumped on the mine cart meme-wagon:

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - nothing shocks me - I'm a linguist

James added another:

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - this neologism is worthless - James Callan

Jonathon joined in:

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - meddling with foreign languages - Jonathon Owen

And more of mine follow, for silliness’ sake. Apologies to Jonathon for this next one – I think vowels works better as an echo of powers:

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - you're meddling with vowels you can't possibly comprehend


stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - X never ever marks the schwa


stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - why'd it have to be semantics


stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - grammar nazis - i hate these guys

These all refashion lines from the films, but if you take a notion to modify the meme some other way, please do. Here’s the blank image I used. (Font style: Calibri, white, engraved.)


Via Twitter, @ecormany offers: ‘we named the dog Indo-European…’; and @TSchnoebelen suggests: ‘I think it’s time to ask yourself…does your predicate presuppose the proposition it introduces is true?’

From @glossaria – because ‘Indy needs a partner’:

glossaria - indo-european jones meme - you go first

From @OisinCarey:

stan carey - Indo-European Jones meme - oddly attired for a linguist - oisin carey

Four more from @ChadNilep, with pics:

@JoeScience sends this one:

@JoeScience - Indo-European Jones meme - fortune and glory

Language Hat, after following up on this post, said his wife liked my first Indo-European Jones so much (Nothing shocks me… I’m a linguist), she put it up as a poster in the kitchen. Here’s a photo he sent:

stephen dodson 'nothing shocks me... i'm a linguist' poster

33 Responses to Introducing Indo-European Jones

  1. Brilliant! And no apology necessary—I felt like mine was a little clunky. I especially love the last two.

  2. John Cowan says:

    As Mark Liberman pointed out in 2007 with a little prodding from me, the real Indiana Jones (you know what I mean) actually studied linguistics at the Sorbonne in the early 1920s: Antoine Meillet would have been one of his professors, and Millman Parry a fellow student.

  3. Monroe Thomas Clewis says:



    Bottom quotation from “Last Crusade.”

  4. I was just wondering – have there been Bollywood films ripping off/spoofing/paying homage to the Indiana Jones genre?

  5. Stan says:

    Thanks, Jonathon. I still think yours works fine too.

    John, I thought about a reference to William Jones, blending the “common source” line with something from Indiana J., but nothing came to mind while I (hastily) put the post together. Thanks for the link; I hadn’t seen the Tome Reader cartoon!

    Good one, Monroe Thomas!

    I haven’t seen any, mistah charley, but here’s an action-packed trailer for one.


  7. […] Indo-European Jones, from Stan Carey et al: […]

  8. So, I like these, but I’m a tad confused. Linguists are like grave robbers because they steal things for their own profit? or because they’re dedicated to lost forms that have fallen into disuse. I love the images, but I’m definitely missing a chunk of the central premise.

  9. Jesse: Presumably because linguists study and thus profit from things like language change, which some people hold to be synonymous with language degeneration. They see our celebration of “because x” to be reveling in the destruction of the shared cultural heritage of our language.

  10. Stan says:

    Gerard: That works too – thanks!

    Jesse: What Jonathon said. Their disinterested stance “actively does damage”, apparently, but I don’t blame you for finding the analogy vague. By not condemning certain usages (typically the same usages censured by the doom-monger, funnily enough), descriptivists invite regular accusations of irresponsibility – as if the language needed minding. As Jonathon notes, some people seem to think language change implies its deterioration.

  11. Stan and Jonathon: Thanks guys, I figured it was something like that, but I couldn’t quite pin it down.

  12. Posted on my Fb page and on the Friends of the Linguistic Society of America Fb page. Thank you!!

  13. astraya says:

    x never marks the voiced velar fricative.

  14. Stan says:

    Thank you, David.

    Jesse: Sure. It was a bit of a stretch, and I didn’t want to provide any more context than necessary!

    Lise, thanks very much! I hope it goes down well among your colleagues.

    astraya: It’s true.

  15. thnidu says:

    I put it on my FB page. An exchange between 2 commenters:

    T: I like it, but I don’t understand it!
    W: It’s following the threads of language back in time, T! Cool!
    T: Maybe so, W. But I think it’s an excuse to be about the hat!
    W: Oh good grief!

    • Stan says:

      thnidu: Thanks! I thought about including brief explanatory notes, but felt that would undermine the humour. Anyway, T is right: it was all about the hat.

  16. Aura Burrows says:

    Love it! Esp. the ‘Grammar Nazis…I hate these guys!’

    If you could get the photo of Indy in Venice, as he *ahem* enjoys the lady (Ah, Venice!) then have the graphics”
    Conjugation…not just for verbs anymore.

  17. Who needs a Hollywood rip-off, when linguists own the original? Oriental Jones!

    • Stan says:

      You’re very welcome to Sentence first, Nicholas. I toyed with the idea of referring to William Jones, but decided against it in the end. Glad he’s been mentioned a couple of times in the comments, though!

  18. […] at Mind Your Language had some fun with collective nouns. Stan Carey introduced us to the awesome Indo-European Jones (“Grammar Nazis. I hate these guys”), and at Macmillan Dictionary blog, considered the […]

  19. tikitu says:

    A similar figure turned up in the webcomic “Narbonic” (ran 2000-2006): Antonio Smith, forensic linguist (he’s listed on the cast page:

    • Stan says:

      tikitu: Thanks! He sounds like quite a character, though the description (“defended justice and grammar everywhere”) and image (“my pals Strunk & White”) make me wonder if maybe he’s improbably prescriptive…

  20. zanyvicar says:

    Wow, my favorite movie character (not least because he’s a swashbuckling polyglot) combined with my favorite academic discipline: wonderful!

    Major Eaton: “We have top linguists working on it now.”
    Indy: “Who?”
    Major Eaton: “Top…linguists.”

  21. […] weird headlines, and linguistic humour. Have you met Indo-European Jones? […]

  22. Robert Moore says:

    So glad to have hit on this site, I-E Jones. I would argue that linguists are to language what archaeologists are to archaeology.

  23. […] should mention one scenario where I’ve used Grammar Nazi: in a pop culture/linguistics game. I’d add scare quotes if it didn’t spoil the […]

  24. […] – all of which belonged to the same language family. That’s crazy, I hear you say. Nothing shocks me, I […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: