Come again?

I spend a great deal of time trying to get people to be exceedingly specific with language. Like many before me ( Stephen Carter, Mark Edmondson, Allan Bloom), I bewail how terms have lost their meanings due to indiscriminate usage.

For example, a student comes to my office and says , "For the paper where I have to pick an artist and explain how he or she is creative. I don't know who to do."

"The description says pick an individual. It says does not say the individual has to be an artist. You could pick an astronomer or a programmer."

"Yeah, whatever... but what artist should I pick?"

"No, no, not artist. The description doesn't say artist..."

Not only does she want to pick the topic of her paper ( who the hell can't think of ONE person in all of time and history who isn't creative?-I mean really), BUT she doesn't even acknowledge that an individual who is considered creative and an artist are not one and the same. ( Or is she even really listening to what I have to say-and this response comes after spending an entire month on the concept of "mindful learning.")

I spend all this time trying to be specific about my language. I tell people how I feel and who I am in very clear terms-I'm mean, I'm cruel, I'm undependable, and I'll hurt you. A lot. You'll most likely be crying in a basement somewhere using old copies of Newsweek as tissue paper inside of a month. And do they actually hear me? No, and therefore I get re-actions like this one:

I guess that when she said that I made her deeply uncomfortable by complimenting her and taking her seriously, she meant it.

Uh, yep. That's why I said it, on numerous occassions as clearly as humanly possible.

I spent several hours yesterday with students in my office who complained, despite the hours I put in writing detailed notes on essays and papers, that they couldn't understand what was wrong with their writing. Well, perhaps the fifteen times I wrote "pronoun" agreement in that paragraph might be a clue.

Eric often used be frustrated by tendency to repeat myself. I didn't before I got this job, but both students and colleagues seem to be physically incapable of listening to a statement and comprehending it. I have simply adjusted to saying everything five or six hundred times before it pierces even the first levels of awareness. My students tend not to understand a concept unless it is physically driven into the brain with a blowtorch and a sledgehammer. My colleagues often require even more forceful treatment. Luckily, I am more than happy to indulge in a little violence in the name of academic excellence.

No wonder I'm so tired all the time.

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