When I walked into the office kitchen yesterday, I overheard some of my software developer comrades discussing Language Log. As I made my way to the coffee machine, one of them asked me “Hey, are you the one mentioned in that Language Log post about ‘Every Little Helps’?”
Completely caught off-guard, I sputtered “uhm, yeah.”, thinking back to the day that I brought the topic up with a lecturer after class, and he posted about it on Language Log to find out what it was all about.
“I KNEW it!” he exclaimed in response. “Though I’m sure there are only so many American undergrads named Denise Wood studying Linguistics in the UK… Cool!” I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if this is the single greatest moment for me in the field of Linguistics, a name-check on Language Log. Instead of an Erdös number, I’ve got a Language Log number of 2 — Though I’ve never posted (not even replied), I was written about by a poster on language Log.
The discussion around the coffee machine then went on to discussing syntax, until another programmer walked into the kitchen and we realised we’d been standing there far too long and rushed back to our desks.
I’m OK with the fact that I’m not really pursuing a career in academia, where I can say “I am a Linguist” when people ask what I do for a living. I’m a technical writer, I work with software programmers. I still get to spend all day thinking about language and how we use it, though. I also get to have these beautiful moments when I realise that the polymath is not a thing of the past — my programmer friends read my favourite blog and can discuss linguistics with as much comfort as they discuss maths, chemistry, and code.