Monday, August 24, 2009

Prescriptive Linquistics

Back at the job again -- first day of the new semester. As I told mr. delagar this morning, Sisyphus is a happy man.

"Happier than Prometheus," he said, "getting his liver torn out right about now."

An excellent point.

I just finished teaching my first HEL class (History of the English Language), where I explain to them that no, their way of speaking English (Arkansas speech) is not inferior or lazy or hill-talk, that "proper" English is not, in fact, some sort of morally superior dialect, that the only reason white guys at Princeton own the language is because they have the money and the power. "So why," I then ask, "do English teachers, like me, force you to learn to speak like white guys from Princeton?"

It's always an enlightening class.

But what I really wanted to talk about was my kid's fourth grade class last year. They were studying Spanish, and of course the 5th grade boys were obsessed with gayness. They had been obsessed with gayness all year. Everything was gay. The hamster was gay. The muffins were gay. Someone's backpack was gay. You know the drill.

So the Spanish teacher was teaching them this song about butterflies, and apparently the word for butterfly is close to the word for gay. Teach us the Spanish word for gay! Teach us! Teach us! She's young and cool, this Spanish teacher, so she did.

Back in the main classroom, their teacher sternly said to the class, but what does gay really mean?


My kid glances around, and then says, "Homosexual."

Everyone bursts out laughing.

"No," the teacher says. "What does it really mean?"

"That is what it really means," my kid says.

"It actually means," the teacher informs her, "happy and merry."

Okay, then.


dorki said...

When I read your line "...teaching my first HEL class..." I first thought "They are teaching High Energy Laser classes in Arkansas"? A background in tech does bias one's thoughts.

On the "gay" thing - I keep remembering a childhood diddy:

I'd like to be happy,
I'd like to be gay,
But how the heck
Do I get that way?"

Anonymous said...

Don't forget -- not all the guys up here at Princeton are rich guys who talk GOOD. (ha ha.) Hope ya'll are all good. -- (Your friend at Princeton.)