Friday, January 25, 2008

$285 At The Campus Bookstore

Six months after leaving the classroom, I've discovered something new about my former students at the University of Airplanes, and what made them so... them. You see, I was forever begging them to avoid the second person in formal writing... to never, ever, engage in comma abuse... to avoid cliches and any phrase one might hear in a commencement address, particularly any variation of "Since the beginning of time." And on every turn-in date I'd sit down with my red pen and my former will to live and feel very, very sad, and then go back the next day and throw some F's around and yell about thesis statements again.

Well. I picked up one of Josh The Pilot's former piloting textbooks, and read the following verbatim...thing. In the first paragraph.

You are about to embark on an journey of exploration, and discovery. Throughout history, we have dreamed about achieving the freedom and power of flight... One of history's creative geniuses was Leonardo daVinci; an artist, scientist, and dreamer who was fascinated with flight.
I required medical assistance in the wake of this--raw opium, and a morphine drip. I mean, not that my own writing requires enshrinement in nitrogen sealed, National Archive-controlled document cases, but no wonder these people couldn't seem to semicolon their respective ways out of a flight bag. Their own textbooks were 400-page assaults on the English language.

At least most English majors don't try to, you know, pilot stuff. "Folks, if you'll look out of the right side of the airplane, you'll see the fundamental and universal annihilation themes present in discourses of man versus machine."

learning experience at:


WiserlemmingAZ said...


As a third grade teacher, I feel your pain. I have several student in my class who are very fond of writing (and actually saying out loud) phrases such as this: "My friend, he....."

I know there's a name for this sort of abuse of the English language, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is. It is enough to make me say "I GIVE UP!!!" on an almost daily basis.
I usually manage to hold off until the buses have pulled away from the school before I launch into such a tirade. After all, these poor children are victims of their own childhoods.

These are children who learned what text message icons stood for before they could identify letters of the alphabet. They have learned to write e-mail, but have no idea how to properly construct an actual letter. I literally have 8 and 9 year-olds in my classroom who possess their own cell phones, complete with GPS capability, cameras included, and walkie-talkie capability. That's to say nothing of the texts they send back and forth to their friends, parents, and who knows who else.

Given all that, it's no wonder the English language is so consistently misused. But a college textbook? That's just beyond the pale. Over the line. Technical foul. Something. I think there should be some sort of punishment imposed on the authors and editors of such a poorly written, pseudo-educational text. Something along the lines of being forced to read and transcribe books written in classical English---with lots of thee and thou and shalt's thrown in for good measure.

What do you think? Too harsh?

ps: I just finished your book, which I ordered by doing that clicky thing from the blog. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life!!!!!! For awhile, I was in counseling with one of the nuns at SMC. I can't remember her name. The office was in a little one-story building that looked rather like a house. I remember a white water tower. Does that sound familiar at all? I remember driving by some rather large buildings to get to it. They looked like dorms, but could have been something else.

I was also wondering if you would sign my book. I remember JTP posting an address, but I didn't write it down.

MB said...

wiserlemming, I am most grateful for your kind words and book purchase. I'm so glad you liked it. If you would do me the honor of emailing me your first name and last initial, I will, with your permission, see to it that it is included on the "Drunken Ravings" page over at Speaking of, I'd be more than happy to sign your copy for you. All the information you need, including the address, is on the FAQ page of the book site.

When you were on campus at The Womb, it seems as if you were in the Riedinger House, which was originally built in 1939 as (get this) a model home for students who were home ec majors when there was such a thing as home ec majors. As I understand it, the senior majors lived there in the final semester, for their final consisted of properly running the house.

If this was indeed the building you were in, then you were very close to my freshman home, Regina. There is a water tower quite nearby. The large buildings you drove past were LeMans Hall, our gorgeously towered administrative building and my senior year home, and Holy Cross Hall, my sophomore home and site of Health Services, where the infamous tonsil abscess took place.

Red Pill Junkie said...

"Folks, if you'll look out of the right side of the airplane, you'll see the fundamental and universal annihilation themes present in discourses of man versus machine."

...A wing? :-)

wiserlemmingaz, you hang on there. And if you need any encouragement of why you have to put up with the mental abuse of your students' writings, just rent the movie "Idiocracy" and think that were it not for brave people like you, your students and their childrens' children would end up like that!

Zoe said...

As an editor of books written by technical people for technical people, let me plead not to be consigned to any more awful ring of hell than absolutely necessary. I'm an English and Writing double major with a master's degree in language and communication, and I know these books can be painful. But you can't have English majors writing these books--- it just doesn't work because they don't have the technical skills to make it work. So you push the authors as hard as you reasonably can and you let go of the rest. My authors don't write for a living--- they run successful, number-heavy businesses, so I move their writing as far as I can toward readable, decent, clear English. My job doesn't come with a magic wand--- sometimes you have to accept less than perfect in one area to help someone with something worthy to say get their message out.

MB said...

Zoe, thanks for commenting. You have a good point there. I don't expect Poe from an engineer, and I didn't from my students. But come on, in a *textbook*, the grammar and mechanics should at least be correct.

Zoe said...

No argument about grammar and mechanics, just a plea for mercy when my fellow editors and I can't get them to forgo the tired allusion or strike every last cliche. It's an uphill battle most days, and you have to let some of it go.

Carrie Beth said...

Have you read Lynne Truss' book "Talk to the Hand"? If not, you must. I read it at an airport/on the plane and got tons of awesome funny looks, I was laughing so hard.

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