October 3rd, 2007

Linguistics in the 60s

I seem to be writing a short story about linguists in London in 1969. I know a fair amount about linguistics and about London, but the historical elements are tripping me up, and Google is failing me.

I am hypothetically setting the story in the Phonetics and General Linguistics departments of University College London. By this I mean a quasi-fictional university for which I will scavenge details from UCL and other London (or even UK) universities as it suits me. The story is set in an alternate universe, so I will probably feel okay calling the final product UCL, which seems to be the kind of setting I am looking for.

Questions:

-I am assuming that a phonetics department at this time would have some kind of recording lab. Where might this be situated? What kind of equipment would they have at the time? I need to describe the actual room(s) and their contents, so any and all likely descriptions would be nifty.

-Imagine that it is 1969, and you are a linguist. You have been given the opportunity to record, for the first time ever, a non-human being whose second language is English. You can only record him speaking English. What do you record? I'm assuming you would ask him to read a predetermined paragraph of the sort found at the Speech Accent Archive. Were there any standard paragraphs used in the 60s? You'd also probably want him to produce some sentences on his own. Would there be a set of standard questions that a linguist would use to get him to talk, or would they improvise? Is there anything else I'm missing? They're trying to get as much useful data as possible.

Google Searches: Lots of searches regarding the history of linguistic departments, the history of sound equipment, and the history of british linguistics.

I'll go bug the people over at linguaphiles if worst comes to worst, but I figured this was the best place to start. Thanks!

Hair and beard growth

This should be pretty straightforward. Guys, does your beard and the hair on your hair grow at the same rate? I've got a character whose head and face are completely shaved (except for the eyebrows), so will his beard or his head hair grow back first?

Legendary/Fictional Person -- Replacement or Continuous?

This question is pretty abstract and pretty unsearchable.

I need a historical/fictional/legendary person about whom there are debate/rumors about whether or not this position has been filled by several people who are chosen secretly, or by one immortal person. Perhaps I should explain my situation.

I have an original novel idea forming in my head which includes an assassin sort of person, who has been around for ~1000 years. Of course, it's been different girls, all looking vaguely similar, with a new one being chosen by a secret council every ten or so years. Of course, the general public is "supposed" to know it's been different girls, but I'd say they're split 50/50 about whether they actually believe this or if they think it's one immortal person, sort of a cover-up/conspiracy because the whole process is very secret and some probably don't even believe she really exists at all.

I'm looking for a "real" figure that fits this vague description (so that someone from "our world" can remark, "Oh, like ______?"). The closest I can come is something like the Pope (except it's very public that they are different ones and no one would ever think they were all the same guy, but it has the "secret choosing" aspect I want) or Santa Claus (except I've never heard any story about there being more than one Santa Claus unless you count Tim Allen). I feel as though I've heard *something* that fits this bill, if only because I'm not clever enough to have completely invented this story. Any help would be appreciated!