The perils of fieldwork

From Language Log:

A graduate student went to New Guinea to do research for his dissertation. He found a guide to take him to the remote village whose language he hoped to study. About noon on the second day they began to hear loud, continuous drumming. Disturbed, he asked the guide: “What are those drums?”. The guide replied: “Drums OK, but VERY BAD when they stop.”

The linguist calmed down a little at this, and things went along uneventfully for a while. Then, suddenly, the drums stopped! Worried, the linguist asked:

“The drums have stopped, What happens now?”

The guide crouched down, covered his head with his hands and said: “Bass solo”.


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