The envy of academics
Mr. Rodricks, who has invited Mr. Payack to appear on his radio program three times, sprang to a qualified defense of his guest: “Payack is having fun and you can consider what he says with a grain of salt. (Several of my Midday listeners challenged the guy on his word-counting premises when he was on the air.) Some of what he says makes sense, some of it sounds like hyperbole. ...”
To that he adds, “It also appears that some academics are — oh, what's the word? — jealous of the celebrity Payack has enjoyed for presuming to count words.”
Geoffrey Pullum, Geoffrey Nunberg, Grant Barrett, and other linguists who find Mr. Payack’s claims preposterous have established reputations of their own. I doubt that they are turning green because Mr. Rodricks has invited Mr. Payack and neglected them.
The argument of envy is, I think, not the first arrow that ought to be plucked from the quiver. Suppose a gentleman came to you to display the skull of an australopithecine that he had dug up in his back yard. Suppose further that three or four established paleontologists assured you that the skull was in fact that of a calf. Would your first thought be that the paleontologists were motivated by envy of the discoverer?
Please be clear. I’m not disputing that Mr. Rodricks can invite anyone he likes to appear on his show; he even once had the serious lapse in judgment to invite me. Neither do I question his coming to the defense of his guest. But I think that the remark about jealousy is open to challenge.