Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is this a University class or a Literature Club?

Yesterday's class was cool. We spent much of it bantering amongst ourselves in open discussion. Quite literally, it felt like I was a member of a book club, not a student in a formal classroom.

With the exception of a mini-lecture on Chaucer, the bulk of the class was dedicated to discussing what we'd been assigned to read:

The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

There's something about my prof. that I absolutely love. She makes me laugh. She's a stickler for all things good like grammar, spelling and proper pronunciation. Also, you'd be best in her class to choose your words carefully BEFORE you open your mouth. She's forever stopping a student, drawing attention to what they've just said and asking them point blank if there's a better way to say it.

This kills me.

I get such a charge out of it!

Call me crazy, but I'm quite literally entertained by that!

The many examples from last night's class escape me except for one... because it was mine. At the beginning of the class, dear Professor M. asked if we all felt we were in the "right" class.

"Is there anyone here who doesn't recognize this room? Are you in the right class?"

She'd realized that there were a couple faces unfamiliar to her - hence the question.

I put up my hand.

She looked puzzled.

"David, you're in the right class, you've been here from the beginning."

"Yes," I said, "but I have a better word."

"A better word?", she inquired.

"Than 'right'", I said. "How about... 'correct'?"

Oh boy. Did I start a discussion!

"Is David right? Is David correct? Which is better?", she queried the class.

She looks to me, "Explain, please."

"Well, 'Are you in the correct classroom?', to my way of thinking is more... precise because 'right' could also be confused with direction." , I said, rather proud of my quick response - which I really didn't have enough time to comfortably formulate before spitting it out! (Once a Turtle, always a Turtle...)

After much debate (and I seriously didn't intend to open a Pandora's Tool Box of Speech) we came to the conclusion that 'right' was perfectly correct as she had used it.

The arguments were flying left, right and centre, and I was a little foggy when the dust had finally settled. From what I remember, the reason she was correct in using the word 'right' is that there is a hair to be split here. Could I remember? Nope.

This morning, I emailed M. to get the straight goods.

DAVID: "...I was reflecting on our discussion from last night regarding the use of the words 'right' and 'correct'. I was trying to sort through by memory all the different arguments that floated about over the course of this discussion. I can't for the life of me remember accurately the conclusion we came to on the difference between 'right' and 'correct' (in the context of "Are you in the 'right' (or 'correct') room?".) Could you jog my memory for me, please? I seem to recall something of "societal" VS.. "permission"? Perhaps I'm still in a fog. I need tea..."

PROF. M.: "...'Right' has, in addition to the usage which is synonymous with 'correct', a moral connotation that 'correct' lacks.

Correctness is about facts, it seems to me, whereas rightness is about being properly (another synonym!) located, morally & ethically.

All this, of course, is semantics!"

So there you have it: one of the things that makes the English language unique and far from dead. Also a fine motivator for all things good... like tea and coffee.


Anvilcloud said...

Isn't everyhting in Alberta somewhat to The Right? ;)

Badoozie said...

splitting hairs is an understatement. hmmmm
all things could say, all things well. or all things proper...or all things to the right...or all things ...ok nevermind

Misty said...

I would have agreed with Prof. M on this one...being in the proper class (location) that you have enrolled in is important, but at the same time there are a lot of students who enroll in classes that do not suit them, which is factored into the "right" argument.

If someone were not in the "right" class, then ultimately they would be wasting their time and that of the professor's because they likely would not be invested into the education behind the class.

Turtle Guy said...

A/C - Aren't you clever!

Susie - Thanks for the chuckle!

Misty - So you're saying there's a moral obligation attached to being in the correct class room?

oshee said...

I would enjoy your professor very much I think. I have the need to find the best word for each circumstance. It drives my husband nuts when I apply it to his speech as well.

ipodmomma said...

ahhhh tea.....

Misty said...

TG - Nothing said about a moral obligation, just a question to pose whether or not a class suits one's genuine interests.

I acknowledge that there are "mandatory" courses with any degree one is applying for, so even less than desirable courses that you "must" take to meet requirements, can fall into that category of "interest" simply because it supports your overall goal, giving that added incentive to work hard and do one's best.

nolikeysushi said...

I agree with misty here. When I started ready your post I immediately thought to one being in the right class in terms of suitablity. As in, well sir, maybe this just isn't the right career for you. Might be another thought to toss up during class.

Sounds like a great prof to have. Glad you read you're enjoying the class so much.

Expat Traveler said...

LOL - geeze .... Ok you know that it seems really cool, but once someone explains it once and goes on (like more than what you've written), for me I'd tune out and get bored!

Oh well - maybe that's why I'm not back in school again (yet).

wthenrest said...

I am with expat... and susi... who cares..."Get the hell out of the class if you don't want to be here." How about that. I think that is the clearest, no?
I am all for this a semantics class? I though it was a lit class. Yes, I understand words! I love words! I love different words! but really that would drive me over to the right!

Sarah Elaine said...

You know... If you keep going on like this, soon you'll be an English *major*; then one day... an English *professor*! ;-)

(Don't laugh. That's how these things start, you know!)

smiley said...

Your class sounds pretty interesting. To be honest I wouldn't have really known the differnce.

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English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.