Date: Tue, 6 Dec 1994 21:40:58 -0500 From: AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM Subject: The ADS crystal ball My dear ADS colleagues: It is heartening to see the electrons of ADS-L at last beginning to tingle with contemplation of where we should go for the Annual Meeting. Two months ago, I found it odd that the ad hoc committee's recommendation, to boldly go where no ADS annual meeting had ever gone, published prominently (p. 2 - that's the hot-news place) in the ADS newsletter, met with - just about perfect nonresponse. The s-mail writers remain almost 100% silent, but those who are fortunate enough to be Internetworked are at last giving the proposal a working over. Qui tacet consentit, could be argued by those who approve the committee's proposal. But now the silence is being broken, and it is much better to break the eggs before cooking the omelet. Mirabile dictu, we are also having a civilized conversation, though I know the various sentiments are strong. I know because, having conducted last year's poll of all members, I know that our strongest advocates, as well as our more moderate ones, are almost exactly divided between those in favor of MLA and those in favor of LSA. The number of those who wanted something else is much smaller. So the committee went against the sentiments of the membership. I came a day late to the committee meeting last summer and was myself amazed to be told of their conclusion. I believed them when they said they hadn't come to the meeting with the April alternative in mind. Rather, it began to emerge the more they considered the serious disadvantages of deciding on either one or the other of the midwinter meetings. So it could be said that the April choice was for negative reasons - to avoid dissing nearly half our membership, as we now do by meeting with MLA, and as we would (with a different half) if we switched to LSA. But as the committee considered the April alternative further, it began to seem not a last resort but an opportunity. And as ADS-L is now beginning to replicate conversations the committee had, let me take this opportunity to explain the opportunity. The opportunity is to make something significant of the ADS annual meeting. As I try to think about it now, I think we have always had a sense that the ADS annual meeting wasn't much; it was an adjunct to something else, whether MLA, or MLA plus LSA (remember the years when both of them met in the same city at the same time?), or DSNA (in the summer), or Methods, or even NWAV (in 1978, in Washington). In every case the other meeting was larger, and the sense was that people came for the other meeting and then took time for ADS. Even now, for example, we have a day and a half of ADS sessions, while MLA (and even the Name Society) goes on for three or four days. And it's not as if we've selected just a few papers from a heap of proposals. We get only a handful of abstracts every year, and accept almost all that look reasonable. This, by the way, can give outsiders the impression that we favor an in-group that gives papers year after year. In fact, the program chairs have made efforts to encourage newcomers (as in this year's special session on Spanish and English), and still there is plenty of room even in a short program for repeaters. As I read the arguments for going with LSA or continuing with MLA, they seem in essence to say: I need to go to LSA/MLA, and am able to take some time for ADS if it's there; perhaps if it's there, it will attract other like-minded LSA/MLA attendees. That's a fine principle, but it doesn't seem to work, mainly because LSA/MLA has so much else going on, including sessions in our areas of interest. It could be argued that this is true for MLA but wouldn't be for LSA; but consider that ADS did meet in the same city and place with LSA as recently as 1986 (NYC), 1987 (S.F.), 1988 (New Orleans), and 1989 (Washington DC); the latter three years in independent hotels, so we weren't favoring MLA; and our attendance was pretty much the same as it is now, in fact very much the same. The only thing that has notably increased attendance is "New Words of the Year," which now gets about 70, compared with 30 - 50 for other sessions. And I think we've been busy enough with the MLA/LSA meetings at the time of ADS that we've let the ADS meeting coast along. Frankly, I question whether ADS needs an annual meeting at all. And I think that's the thought in most of our minds, that ADS by itself isn't worth a meeting. It's just a nice adjunct. But suppose we look on the April meeting as an opportunity: not to aggrandize ADS for aggrandizement sake, but to contribute significantly to the study of the English language in North America & other languages as they relate to it. What comes to mind as a model for this is the conference on Language Variation in the South, that brought together linguistic geographers and variationists and lexicographers and - well, people who regularly go to MLA, to LSA, to DSNA, to NWAV - they all got together, met each other, exchanged insights. That's the potential for an independent ADS meeting. It would *require* active planning, and probably a different theme, each year. Perhaps each year, in addition to the supervising vice president/program chair, there should be a special-topic organizer, chosen at least a couple of years in advance - who would organize the ADS meeting almost as a special conference. The Council could call for topic proposals, appoint organizers, announce topics in the Newsletter and in kindred forums; and make a significant contribution to a particular topic. What could such topics be? Well, we might consider other places, e.g. Heartland English or New York City speech; we might revisit the Linguistic Atlas of New England; we might ponder slang with Jonathan Lighter; wonder about innovation in AAVE; review the neologisms of the 20th century. Pick keynote speakers and organize panels early; seek grants; perhaps publish proceedings. That would give ADS something distinctive to do. You who have read thus far, thanks for your patience. I will not weigh down your e-mail boxes so heavily again. But this is a crucial decision, and a crucial opportunity. - Allan Metcalf