Gleason developed the WUG Test in 1958:
This is a WUG. Now there is another one. There are two of them. There are two
This man zibs. A man who zibs is a _______.
The children made the pseudowords follow the rules that happen on the edge of knowing rule as she knew they would. Others believed that grownups handed down chunks of language—ice scattering down into the dark after sun hit the surface. But Gleason saw through the reflective glare of children’s speech to this:
We goed to the park.
He throwed the cup.
In the store, we put some oranges in the basket, and then greenages
Wrong made the grammar flesh. Grammar as the right of the brain to wrong meaning into patterns. Grammar: The smell of a fourth dimension. The verb form of proliferation. The second tallest hill1. The fence that became incorporated into the bark. It’s resilient as I bash it against the stones. It fits us to the rules that rule what can fit as we rule them.
1 The tallest hill is “Mother Tongue.”
Jennifer Kronovet is the author of the poetry collection Awayward. She co-translated The Acrobat, the selected poems of experimental Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Bomb, Boston Review, Fence, The Nation, A Public Space, and elsewhere. She has taught at Beijing Normal University, Columbia University, and Washington University in St. Louis, and she currently lives in Guangzhou, China.
“Jean Berko Gleason” was originally published in Scenester (TLR Early Summer 2013)