OTTAWA—Ever since Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis released their smash hit The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?), academics have been working hard to answer the question. At Carleton University, the subject has spurred a heated debate.
“It all started back in early September, when my teenage daughter played the song over and over,” said Dr. Ian Sherman, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. “I understood by the way Amy and her friends were laughing that this song is meant to mock the animal kingdom. Everybody knows a fox doesn’t say ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding. But it got me thinking, from a biological perspective, what sound represents a fox?”
Across campus at the School of Linguistics and Language Studies, Dr. Angela Brown was wondering the same thing. “Figurative language, or the description of something via comparison to another thing, includes onomatopoeia. And onomatopoeia holds the answer to what the fox says. Clearly, this is a question our department should be studying.” Brown added with a smirk, “Let the biologists figure out what the fox eats.”
The dispute over ownership of The Fox’s Voice, as the project has been dubbed, reached a boiling point last month. Carleton University President Roseann O’Reilly Runte explained.
“Every fall, the University awards funds for a research project with a pop culture perspective. It’s our effort to support the lighter side of academia in a research intensive environment. We call it the Scrunchie Award – a tip of the hat to its 1986 origin. Grant submissions are due the last day of October.”
In years past, bickering over proposals on the same pop culture subject resulted in furious campaigning from rival departments. In 2001, a tug-of-war over the novel Life of Pi was waged between professors in Philosophy and English. The RCMP had to issue a restraining order against several faculty members on behalf of author Yann Martel.
The Scrunchie Award will be handed out November 15. As per tradition, the good news is revealed in a self-referential way. Last year, a Ben Affleck impersonator delivered a briefcase to the Department of Political Science. The proposal, spearheaded by Dr. Thomas Flurry, led to one of the University’s most popular first year courses: Was Argo Accurate? GPOL 1000Argo.
“This year, we’re considering a flash mob,” said Research Administrator Gayle Sayid. “But the trial run left us less than hopeful. Carleton University isn’t known for its dance moves.”