Fiercely protective of his privacy, little is known of McShanus other than his backstreet contributions to linguistics. Adamant that the true essence of human spirit has been eroded by technological advancements and pasteurised milk, he advocated the adoption of barking as humanity’s universal language in his influential essay The Canine Way. After seeing the music video for Toxic by Britney Spears, McShanus re-evaluated his theory and concluded in The Canine Way Revisited Given the Existence of Britney Spears that English and Swahili are okay, but only if a lawyer is present and all speaking subjects are kept on a leather lead. He is currently thought to be working on a hybrid language which substitutes all vowels for imprecations and demands political discussions take place under the influence of a strong anaesthetic. He hopes that this will help elucidate the meaning of life and bring clarification to Jacques Derrida’s theory that it is unwise to blink while riding a horse. McShanus was also the first to discover that if you lock yourself in a zoo overnight and say the word “Amen” over and over again it actually means that your rent is due. This is regarded by some Swiss scholars as an interesting contribution to the field of pragmatics but they’re still not sure if it’s enough to justify getting involved in international conflicts.
Academically active for only two years between 2001 and 2003, Gina Goethe-King was the first scholar to offer an assured one-line answer to the question, “What is life?” Quite simply, she asserted; “good lighting and access to a reliable mirror at all times.” Dr. Chen N. Wilting from the University of Exeter took issue with her view however, writing in the useless yet universally acclaimed journal We're Clever Exeter Gents that the meaning of life is actually running around the Holy Land dressed as the devil and hitting pilgrims with a spicy burrito. After a series of embittered articles which Susan Sontag dubbed “the ugliest academic fist fight I’ve ever seen”, the pair agreed to a game of table tennis in order to settle the disagreement. Goethe-King won but, lacking purpose having already discovered the meaning of life, was left feeling depressed and craving crisps. She has since taken up video gaming and denounced academia as being “a bit boring”.
Thom Thomas Verpansky
Born to Russian peasants but named after a Welsh shepherd, Thom Thomas Verpasnsky was a child protégé. Capable of doing tax returns by the age of ten, he was adopted by the Moscow Travelling Circus to do the performer’s accounts and scout especially talented jugglers. It was during this period of his life (The Circus Years) that he first became acquainted with classical mechanics and in a daring experiment to prove Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation defunct, a tight rope walking clown fell to his death after Verpasnky’s insistence that the rope wasn’t actually necessary. Rocked not only by this tragedy but also by a tax evasion scandal in which Stalin’s nephew wound up in a car boot sale, the circus was forced to close and, disgraced, Verpansky returned to his parents who were distressed to find that their son had changed his first name to Gregorivich.
With no income and no option but to work the land, Verpansky spent the following five years fabricating crop circles and became briefly enthralled with agricultural ethics, however, was left demoralised upon discovering that his father was a racist. Bored with existence and seeking meaning, Verpansky swam the Bering Strait, cycled through Alaska and jogged his way through Canada before finally arriving in Manhattan having inadvertently set a new triathlon record. In the Big Apple, Verpansky took up lodgings with a trapeze artist whom he knew from his days in the Moscow Travelling Circus and it is said that during his first night in the city he was visited by three ghosts who warned him through the medium of song and dance that his life would be considered a failure unless he opened a Russian-themed takeaway restaurant in Chinatown. Convinced by their harmonies, he successfully held up a moving metro train the following morning to raise the necessary capital but after a poorly attended grand opening soon realised that no one knew what Russian cuisine consisted of and, thus, daren’t risk trying it.
Forced to reconsider his situation, Verpansky began riding elevators in an attempt to clear his head and achieve ontological clarity, however, while half way up the Chrysler Building decided it would probably be better if he just put his glasses back on. This proved to be a mistake when he saw a yellow cab run over a beaver in Times Square and, traumatised, spent the ensuing three years in Bellevue (The Bellevue Years). Here, as is generally accepted, Verpasnky became fascinated with the workings of the human mind and upon being discharged immediately applied to study psychology at University of New York where he was accepted on the condition he lose two stone.
While at NYU, Verpansky flourished as an academic, sleeping with at least two professors a day and developing the controversial notion of Psychological-Animaverto which is explored in his debut novella, The Mind Which is Not Necessarily Mine. Although shrouded in double-entendre, the theory suggests that pigeons govern the entirety of the unconscious human mind. This can be seen as the primary reason for why dreams in which one is on a plane that is about to crash are so common.
Still only twenty three years old and thought to be in his academic prime, Verpansky was last seen learning to drive on the Sabbath and getting thrown out of a Downtown strip club by Eddie Murphy.
Hubbert Keraffe was the first theologian to think and not pass out. According to his journals, after getting hit on the head by a boomerang while trying to spot famous people in Leicester Square he began to question the role of Moses in liberating the Israelites from persecution and slavery. Rather than parting the Red Sea for the sake of freedom, Keraffe argues that Moses had been caught throwing “good friends” off a pier the week before and by helping his people hoped to get back in their good books.
Keraffe’s career took a turn for the worse however when he confused Noam Chomsky with Nim Chimpsky on national television. He tried to cover up the mistake by pressing Chimpsky for an overview of transformational grammar while simultaneously stroking Chomsky’s hair and feeding him lettuce. Despite struggling for regular work since, he still owns an indoor pool.