Being a linguistics major is truly one-of-a-kind, mostly because of the intrigue that surrounds the field to those who aren't involved in it—or, at least aren't aware of its fundamental purpose. However, there are some things ling majors experience that other majors just don't have the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your stance!) of experiencing.
1. "Oh, so you speak a lot of languages, right?"Giphy
Honestly, it does make sense why someone would think this. If anything, most people only know that linguistics is about languages, and if that's not the case, the word sounds like "languages," so can you really blame them?
This could be avoided, though, if linguistics got a little more recognition in general. For as expansive of a discipline it is, you'd think it would get more.
2. One of your many talents includes being able to write letters upside down and backwards. On purpose.Giphy
Remember back in kindergarten and early elementary school, when they gave you the notebook paper with really big lines and a dotted line in the middle, to ensure you were making your letters as clear and as perfectly as possible?
Now, here we are, writing our E's and R's upside-down and our C's backward, so that we can get a degree in language and understand it better. The longer you think about it, the more ironic it gets.
3. A linguist's favorite drink is an IPA.Giphy
And, because you study the many nuances of human language, you become well-versed in some extremely corny jokes, such as the example above; ask a linguist for an IPA, and you'll most likely get handed the International Phonetic Alphabet, rather than the expected India Pale Ale.
4. You've muttered "I hate linguistics" to yourself at least once or twenty times.
Perhaps it was phonological rules, or maybe it was the morphological rules; either way, there is definitely something that has fueled each and every aspiring linguist with unfathomable frustration at some point. (For me, it was absolutely the phonological rules.
5. At some point in a conversation, you find yourself more focused on the person's accent, rather then what they have to say.Giphy
For me, at least, I always feel a little bit guilty when I find that I absolutely zero clue what the person is saying to me, but that I've successfully curated a mental list of how they pronounce certain sounds in different instances and thus created a second list of their potential birthplaces. Silver lining: at least if you don't know that person well, you can try to make up an excuse of your lack of focus. Second silver lining: this is your chance to ask them where they're from and see if you're correct.
Pro tip: This is when the "smile, nod, and hope they didn't say anything too jarring" thing comes in handy.
6. You have an unusually strong and unwavering opinion on how children acquire language.Giphy
You also have an even stronger desire to debate with anyone and everyone else who believes differently than you. Maybe you side with Chomsky and believe people have the innate ability to learn language, or you side with Piaget and the idea that language acquisition corresponds to their logical thinking and reasoning skills at a particular age.
In either case, you certainly are not about to be convinced otherwise.
7. You become very accustomed to listening to the same speech sample for hours on end, transcribing it, and listening to it again.Giphy
While you're listening to you the newest hits, we're listening to a guy say "bah, pah, kah, tah, sah" for the next 4 hours, but for linguists, this is the newest hit.
8. Old English will make you either cry out of excitement or cry out of terror.
Speaking from personal experience, it's kind of mind-blowing to be reading something in the language you currently speak, but having it be completely unintelligible to you because of how much it's changed, but it's pretty unique to know how to say something that was used 1,000 years ago and has since been completely phased out and is currently useless and obsolete.
But, you could speak it to other linguists and have your own code language. Now THAT is what I call cool, my friends.
9. You know very specific and nuanced details about languages that you otherwise know nothing about....Giphy
Mandarin Chinese has 4 different meanings for the syllable "ma" depending on the type of tone you put on it, meaning that if you aren't extremely careful, you could totally end up calling your mom a horse. I wouldn't know this tidbit if it weren't for linguistics, and there are plenty more I could tell you. The possibilities are endless.
10. ....and, when presented with the opportunity, you will word-vomit these to anyone with a semblance of interest.Giphy
You know that, deep in your heart, you are enriching this person's life with your fountain of fantastic language knowledge.
11. Some people like palm trees. Others like pine trees. You? Syntax trees.
There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing how you've successfully grouped the noun, verb, or prepositional phrases together. Speaking from personal experience, I really think these have helped me gain a better understanding of why we say things the way we do and how grammar is vital to conveying your ideas well.
12. Introduction to the almighty Wug is a rite of passage.
Ah, yes. The Wug test was used to measure the acquisition of plural noun formation as well as other rules of grammar.
We aren't quite sure what the Wug is supposed to be, but let's be honest; if you know about the wug, you are officially a bona fide linguist, and it's your favorite animal.
13. Having your hand on your throat, blowing on your hand, and holding a mirror up to your mouth are all commonplace.Giphy
Need to know if that sound is voiced? No problem! Just stick your hand on your throat. We've done it all. We've stuck are hands in front of our face to see if their sound was aspirated, and even stuck a little hand mirror up to our mouth to figure out places of articulation, and we've strangely chanted "pah! pah! pah!" to ourselves during an exam to see if the 'p' is voiced or voiceless.
At that point, nothing you can do during class is really all that weird.
14. You definitely have at least one thing with a linguistics reference on it.
Shoutout to my parents for getting me this awesome shirt! If you're like me, you probably have some way of letting everyone in the world know that you are in fact a linguist, and always manages to pique the interest of someone else. I love when people ask about my "Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously" sticker, because then I get to rope them into a discussion of whether or not sentence grammaticality and semantic value are mutually reliant on each other, or when people ask what my shirt says, and then get to explain what IPA is.
To be honest, though, we probably all have these more for the sole purpose of getting asked what they mean.
15. You can't help but smile when someone asks what your major is.Giphy
This is when you know, without a doubt in your mind, that all the work you've put in and all the work you've yet to put in are worth it. Undoubtedly you've said to yourself how much you can't stand it at times, but you know that there is no other field you'd rather be studying.
Live. Love. Linguistics. That's all there is to it for us linguistics majors; there's no other field we'd rather be involved in.