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On my way from my last phonology class of the semester—last week of classes!—the music was my  first intimation that something was different. I came around the corner, musing that the music from the gift shop had gotten surprisingly lifelike; the only difference was the volume. Then I turned the corner, and the volume caught up with the tune.

Only then did I catch sight of the black-gowned winter graduates, with their red or blue mantles, flowing slowly from the most distinguished building on our side of campus.*

Bagpipes are great harbingers of life change. Many’s the time I came home to our place in Boston to the sound of bagpipes sounding off the last great journey for some soul— (there was a Catholic church and a funeral home not far away). One of the few touches of grandeur I insisted on for our wedding was a piper, partly because my grandfather would have gotten a kick out of it. I’ve even got a soft spot for the poor guy who pipes in front of the National Gallery, who, every time I pass, gets stuck posing for photos with at least one tourist.

Clearly, the lesson here is this: Every major milestone in life should be hailed with bagpipes.

It makes them harder to miss.


* The law school building, with its thick tunnel entrance and courtyard, is pretty darn impressive, but the law students have already staked their claim. Edinburgh has been churning out lawyers since before Linguistics was a field.