Dr Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveler’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations

15 11 2007

“One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can’t cope with…

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveler’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term “Future Perfect” has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.”

– D. Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, pp145-309 (213) of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide (New York: Wings Books, 1996).




3 responses

15 11 2007

I thought this was brilliant when I was my mother but now I have to agree
that there is no perfect future only a perfect past. Oh for those good old days!!!!

15 11 2007
Simon Holloway

Or, as one of Lobes’ teachers used to say, “If the present’s tense you’ll make the future imperfect”. Or something like that. And he was the fellow, incidentally, who wrote the provocative graffiti that could always be seen in the corners of Ginger Meggs comic strips.

14 12 2007
Daniel Lowbeer

Slander and discombobulation! The teacher who said “imperfect past makes future tense” was a different teacher to the one who wrote the Ginger Meggs badinage (thanks, thesaurus.com!). The Ginger Meggs teacher died while I was still in school, but that’s a- whole -nother story.

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