Saturday, May 23, 2015

Being Interesting

My Doctor:  "Well, everything looks good.  Do you have any concerns?"

Me:  "I did hear about this thing called a thundershirt, and I wondered if they make them for people."

My Doctor:  "What is a thundershirt?"

Me:  "It's this shirt that you put on dogs to make them less anxious during thunderstorms.  Ever since the giant poplar tree fell on my house, I get very upset during thunderstorms.  So I am thinking that I could use a shirt like that."

My Doctor:  "There are meds you can take, but unless this is causing genuine panic attacks..."

Me:  "No, no!  I want a thundershirt.  It's supposed to reduce anxiety without meds, plus I could yell at the sky and say, 'You can't get me!  I'm wearing a thundershirt!'"

My Doctor:  "Why don't you just take an old t-shirt and write thundershirt on it with a sharpie?  Then you can shout all you like."

Me:  "You know, that is not a bad idea at all.  You're a better doctor than I thought you were."

My Doctor:  "You are a very interesting patient.  Very interesting."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Grumpity and Spiteful List of Words

Ah, gentle readers, today I am feeling...hmmm...grumpity.  Yes, grumpity is the word, and a lovely, cute-yet-rugged word it is, in my opinion.  Which is what matters.  On this blog, anyway.

Many things have made me grumpity, from lack of sleep, to people whining on the internet, to a bird building a nest and laying eggs in my work boots, and so I have decided to share my grumpitiness with you, precious ones, in the form of a list of words that get my dander up.  My justifications for disliking these words are entirely arbitrary and somewhat spiteful, so I'm not trying to make a political statement with my list.  It's just a grumpity, spiteful list.  I thoroughly expect you to ignore it and persist in abusing the English language in your own special ways.

Words That I Hate and Make Me Feel Grumpity and Spiteful

  1. Webinar.  If I get an email with the word webinar in it, I will delete it automatically.  I cannot control this reaction.  It's like swatting a fly.
  2. Reference (used as a verb).  There are two perfectly good verbs for what you need: refer (which is apparently really difficult to use as it requires a preposition) and allude.  Try them out.  Please.
  3. Basic (when used as an insult to describe someone's clothes or style).  When you use this word, you make me feel old and grumpity because no matter how many times I look it up in the urban dictionary, I still can't figure out what you mean.
  4. Matchy.  Or worse yet, matchy-matchy.  Look, if the clothes do not actually clash with one another, then they're fine.  I cannot deal with the idea that they must neither clash nor match; that's obviously insane.
  5. Da real mvp.  Because I know damned well that you're not even a baseball fan.  Cut it out.
  6. Talk to meaning "have sex with."  Okay, what is wrong with you all?  Talking to people is good.  You're supposed to talk to people.  It's how you form a community.  When you start freaking out because your boyfriend talked to another girl (or boy), I start wondering what kind of creepy relationship you're expecting.  And that makes me confused and grumpity.  Let's find another euphemism--how about scrump?  "I can't believe my girlfriend scrumped another guy!" is a much more powerful and effective sentence, don't you agree?  Good.  I'm glad we had this little talk.
  7. Target pronounced "tar-jhay."  I don't believe I need to explain this one.  It's like calling U.P.S. "ups." If you are in the habit of doing either of these things, I hope that squirrels bite off all of your fingernails.
  8. Breasteses.  You appear to have some extra s's; lend them to me for Words with Friends, and I won't have my minions strangle you in your sleep.
  9. Butthurt.  I think this is intended to dismiss the fact that someone has actually had his feelings hurt.  Or that he actually has feelings.  Either way, it's sexist, homophobic, and contains too many t's.
  10. Mouthfeel.  I don't know, and I don't want to know.

Words That Make My Friends, Aquaintences and Random Readers
 of this Blog Grumpity

I am adding this section, beloved readers, because you all have begun to post, email and shout other objectionable words at me, and, well, I agree with every single one of them.  So here are your grumpity-making words, plus my spiteful comments upon them.

  1. Cray-cray.  My brilliant and insightful friend Michelle protests this word, asking, "What is the infantile fascination with reduplication lately?"  I do not know the answer to that, Michelle, but I share your dismay.
  2. Mouthgasm.  Also suggested by that Michelle.  Please imagine me covering my eyes and turning away in terror.
  3. Relatable.  Submitted by my brand new friend and fellow Whovian, Cate.  Obviously, everything in the universe relates to everything else, rendering this word nonsense on both a macroscopic and a subatomic level. 
  4. Retarded, et al.  My friend and former student Brian suggests that retarded, gay, bipolar, and other words of that ilk make him cringe, as, indeed, they do all civilized people who prefer not to denigrate entire groups of people to get a laugh or use outmoded semi-scientific language to describe other human beings.  Now, of course, that Brian does not mean that one ought not say, "By the way, I am gay" or "feeding the cat beer retarded his growth," so do not inundate me with protests of that nature.  Just stop using words that make you sound like an asshat, and we won't conclude that you're an asshat--deal?
  5. Impact(ful). My friend Brandi claims that the abuse of impact makes her grumpity. Meteorites have an impact, and wisdom teeth become impacted. Pretty much everything else affects something, has an effect, or is affected by something. I will admit that impact does not make me particularly grumpity, but the word impactful makes me bleed from eyes and ears alike.
  6. Takeaway.  Beloved Amelia submits takeaway which should only be used when talking about buying food and eating it elsewhere or when referring to a sporting play.  This means that my takeaway from a boring seminar is usually a bad cup of coffee, not whatever appeared on a badly conceived powerpoint slide.
  7. Onboarding.  Liz suggests this horror of a word which, as Amelia suggests, sounds like a new sort of torture, probably introduced by a Certain Airline Company which is definitely not called Alpha or Beta.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Song for the Hills of Kalamazoo

Well, beloved readers, another Kalamazoo has come and gone.  I myself am left packing up the detritus of another congress while I wait to fly home to South Carolina tomorrow, where it will technically be warmer, but not as warm as my room in the Valley I dorm.

As I ponder the intellectual stimulation and affectionate bonding I enjoyed this week, it occurs to me that there is one thing, my friends, that I have neglected to mention about our annual gathering:  the hills.  Ah, the hills!  For the International Medieval Congress, she is vertical!  And to be a medievalist means to embrace this geographic challenge--or impatiently wait for the shuttles to ferry you to your destination.

Therefore, I thought it fitting to compose a little song in honor of the hills of Western Michigan University, intended to be sung to the tune of the fine classic "Rawhide":

A Song for the Hills of Kalamazoo

Climbin’, climbin’, climbin’,
Climbin’, climbin’, climbin’,
You can’t get to Fetzer
Unless you climb much faster
Medievalists are climbin’
Hah! Hah!

Keep climbin’, climbin’, climbin’
Though thighs and knees are cryin’,
Medievalists keep movin’ along!
Through rain and wind and weather,
Hell bent for a session,
Wonderin’ how to get to Bernhard on time!
All the talks we’re missin',
Because the swans are hissin’,
They ate another grad student
This year!

Climb the steps, climb the hill,
Climb the hill, don’t fall down.
Don’t fall down, step it up:
That’s WMU!
Climb the steps, climb the hill,
Climb the hill, don’t fall down.
Don’t fall down, step it up:
Welcome to

Movin', movin', movin',
You’ve missed another shuttle,
Keep them feets a’movin', that’s right!
Don't try to find a shortcut,
You got to walk that wine off.
Soon we'll be restin’ at the open bar!
My mind’s calculatin'
That Victorianists couldn’t take it,
And modern poets couldn’t climb to Valley I!

Climb the steps, climb the hill,
Climb the hill, don’t fall down.
Don’t fall down, step it up:
That’s WMU!
Climb the steps, climb the hill,
Climb the hill, don’t fall down.
Don’t fall down, step it up:
Welcome to

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Real Conversation with Mom: Mother's Day Gifts

Me:  So what would you like for Mother's Day?

Mom:  A strand of real pearls.

Me:  What would you like for Mother's Day that I will actually get for you?

Mom:  A hot naked man...yum, yum!

Me:  I've asked you not to do that.

Mom:  I don't know what's wrong with you.

Me:  What would you like for Mother's Day that I will actually get for you and that will not embarrass me if we are overheard?

Mom:  Well, that's no fun.  You've taken out almost everything I want!

Me:  That is a darned shame.

Mom:  I guess I could use a blender to make my smoothies.  Or some pretty t-shirts. Pretty ones, not ugly ones that are all busy or with flowers or something.  Pretty!  Do you know pretty?

Me:   This you care what brand it is?

Mom:  No, but it should be pretty too.  A pink one.  Or yellow.  That would be pretty.  Yes!  A yellow or a pink blender!

Me:  I don't think there is such a thing, Mom.

Mom: This is my day!  I will have a pretty blender or heads will roll!

Me:  Maybe I can find a naked man.

Mom:  He must also be pretty.  And rich!

Me:  You're just setting me up for failure, aren't you?

Mom:  Well, maybe.  But now you will know how your students feel.

Update:  Okay, thanks everyone. I concede that both pink and yellow blenders exist.  Lots of them.  Everywhere.

Really, you can stop sending me pictures of them now. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thirteen Ways of Looking at End of Semester Grading

I bring to you, precious readers, another sad parody of a wonderful poem, suitable for  the end of the semester:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at End of Semester Grading

Among twenty stacked bluebooks,   
The only moving thing   
Were the empty pages left unfilled.   

I was of weary mind,   
Like a sentence
In which there are three clichés,
But no content.   

The thesis floated across the page.   
It was but a small part of the essay.   

A pen and a professor
Are one.   
A pen and a professor and an exam  
Are one.   

I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of assessment   
Or the beauty of completion,   
Turning in the grades
Or just after.   

Tension filled the long hallway
With desperate requests.   
The footsteps of the students
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in flipflops
An indecipherable plea.   

O wise professors of English,   
Why do you imagine published work?   
Do you not see how the essays
Lurk around in stacks
By the coffee mugs surrounding you?   

I know noble efforts
And lucid, surprising arguments;   
But I know, too,   
That the red pen is involved   
In what I know.   

When the exam paper blew out of the window,   
It marked the end
Of one of many courses.   

At the sight of a sad dash
Filling a place meant for a comma,   
Even the teachers of poetry
Would cry out sharply.   

He drove over to campus
In a used Camry.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook
The bulge in his briefcase
For ungraded exams.   

The registrar is calling.   
The final grades must be overdue.   

It was evening all afternoon.   
It was raining
And it was going to rain.   
The professor sat   
Still grading.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Oddities on Office Doors

This is a brief post, lovely readers, and like all-too-few committee reports, it will consist mostly of pictures instead of words.

I have posted in the past about my door hangers and how I have gotten completely out of control with them, and as a result, one of you queried me about the office doors of my colleagues.  So today, desperate to ease my aching limbs from the rigors of grading, I slouched up and down the hallways of my building, snapping illicit photographs of my colleagues' doors.  I do not know what you will conclude about said colleagues from these images, but I myself will resist the urge to extrapolate their meanings.

I do believe that there are two hands at work here, one responding saucily to the other

This beast is unnamed, yet strangely familiar

This warning adorns the entrance to the realm of a renaissance scholar

For what, we do not know.
Who, indeed, is not?