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Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: mrthuse
Date: November 20, 2008 09:02AM
As far as I know, this is the latest incarnation of fractured English to appear in print. It crossed my desk this morning. Apologies up front for the length, but it's just too good to edit down.

...from The Baltimore Examiner of 11/14/08

The Sad, Sad State of College English
By Michael Olesker

Some people collect sports memorabilia, or rare coins, or sea shells from
the beach at Ocean City. Wilson Watson collects sentences.

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped
gently into retirement. But his students' sentences trail behind him like
ship's anchors, evidence of the sinking of American writing skills.

Or, as one of Watson's scholars wrote so succinctly: "Some people use bad
language and is not even aware of the fact."

Or, another: "It's good I'm doing something with my self; Therefore, I can
do better in the foochure."

Or, "People who murder a lot of people are called masked murderers."

Some of this feels like masked murder of the English language — such as the
student who explained in a note, "I was absent on Monday because I was
stopped on the Beltway for erotic driving."

Watson taught English at Catonsville Community College — now the Catonsville
branch of the Community College of Baltimore County — and through the years
was occasionally amused and sometimes appalled at his students' writing.
Eventually, he started jotting down their sentences and holding onto them.

"Understand," he says, "this is not just Catonsville I'm talking about.
Through the years, I'd talk with colleagues all over the state. They all had
the same stories. We'd ask each other, 'What's happened to writing? What's
happened to language?'"

You want more examples? How about these beauties:

• "The person was an innocent by standard, who just happened to be the
victim of your friend's careless responsibility."
• "Society has moved toward cereal killers."
• "Romeo and Juliet exchanged their vowels."
• "Willie Loman put Biff on a petal stool."
• "Another effect of smoking is it may give you cancer of the thought."
• "The children of lesbian couples receive as much neutering as those of
other couples."

Or, when asked to use the past tense of "fly" in a sentence: "I flought to
Chicago."

Some sentences reflect a lack not only of basic thought, but also of
historical awareness. Such as:

• "Benjamin Franklin discovered America while fling a kite."
• "Christopher Columbus sailed all over the world until he found Ohio."
• "Many attempt to blame Kurt Schmoke for the decline in the population, yet
Donald Schaefer suffered the same oral deal."
• "Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sixteenth Chapel."

"All these sentences," Watson says, "were written by college students who
were not intending to be funny. But they don't read much any more, and they
haven't had much exposure to language. And it's gotten worse over the years.

"The thing that's really concerned many of us is the inability of many
students to think clearly. It's reflected in their writing. Some of it's
just gibberish. It reads as if written by someone for whom English is a
second language, with mixed-up phrases and ideas. You ask them what they
mean, and they can't tell you verbally, either."

The result is students saying things they clearly don't intend to say, or
spelling things that make their sentences take on entirely new meanings. For
example:

• "Keith helps me to have good self-a-steam."
• "For example, one homeless person lives under a bride in Lanham, Md."
• "Jogging on a woman's ovaries can be dangerous to her health."
• "Including snakes, most people consume six meals a day."
• "The French benefits of this job are good."
• "Christopher Columbus discovered America while sailing in Spain."

"Most students," says Watson, "make it clear that they don't like to read,
and they don't want to read. Many struggled tremendously with their reading.
So they just wouldn't do it. And yet it's so important.

"When you read, you get to see the language used correctly, and you're
exposed to a range of vocabulary far beyond your own. I listen to students
today, and the number of words they use is limited to slang and
colloquialisms.

"Also, we live in a culture where everything moves so quickly that you don't
have time to think about it. Reading lets you slow things down and think
about them. But, because they don't want to read, you get sentences like
these."

• "Jogging is excellent exercise anywhere, but I prefer to jog in a warm
climax."
• "My brother and I took a fairy across to Martha's Vineyard."
• "A very good thing for your health is the Arabic exercise."

"I should point out," says Watson, "that there are differences in students.
Adult students — of whom there are many — are very willing to do the kind of
work you need to do. They've had experience in the workplace and know what
it takes to succeed.

"And international students — from Russia, from Africa, from the Middle East
— they really, really work hard."
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: mikebw
Date: November 20, 2008 09:11AM
I don't appreciate your extraneous superfluousness.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: jardster
Date: November 20, 2008 09:17AM
yes, people are stupid. But MAYBE some of these are typos?

• "For example, one homeless person lives under a bride in Lanham, Md."



Just defending those of us who live in Maryland.



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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: Lux Interior
Date: November 20, 2008 09:32AM
Reading is fun for mentals!

Just don't take it for granite.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: billb
Date: November 20, 2008 09:47AM
gesundheit
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: November 20, 2008 11:09AM
I still think that the famous Professor Spooner had the best talent for malapropsmically mangling the Language.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: mikebw
Date: November 20, 2008 11:23AM
FRENCH BENEFITS!
I always wanted those at my job...
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: rgG
Date: November 20, 2008 12:10PM
My personal favorite: physical year.





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: bazookaman
Date: November 20, 2008 01:06PM
my friend (who is a teacher) used to send me these types of things all the time. It was hilarious.



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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: simonm
Date: November 20, 2008 04:06PM
I got two emails recently which made me cringe.
"I have an ask for all of you."

Maybe the best conclusion to draw is that I/we are getting to be nit-picking old grumps. Everything was better in the good old days.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: Article Accelerator
Date: November 20, 2008 04:13PM
Quote

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped
gently into retirement. But his students' sentences trail behind him like
ship's anchors

I'm not amused.

These examples are from community college! How did the perpetrators ever get beyond grade 5?
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: kj
Date: November 20, 2008 04:53PM
Quote
Article Accelerator
Quote

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped
gently into retirement. But his students' sentences trail behind him like
ship's anchors

I'm not amused.

These examples are from community college! How did the perpetrators ever get beyond grade 5?

Simple. If all the colleges/universities are going to be filled with students, they have to take dang near anyone. It's nothing more than business. kj.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: S.Taylor
Date: November 20, 2008 06:07PM
I've worked with many adolescents in the past several years in a treatment center, as a tutor, and as a substitute high school teacher; I also help my wife correct essays for her English classes. I have noticed that indeed, many if not most of them are apparently incapable of putting a coherent thought together, much less putting it in writing. Some of the examples given in the article probably are the result of a typo, or misuse of a spell check; but as the professor says, many kids seem to have trouble thinking deeply about anything.
While some of my friends were frustrated with my vocabulary ("why do you use such big words"?); I don't recall us having that much of a problem; but that may simply be geezer-itis.



This remote controlled tree is a must for the person who wants to be on the cutting edge of Christmas technology.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: blooz
Date: November 20, 2008 07:40PM
I never eat more than one snake a day.

My sister taught 8th grade English for 40 years. What I got, according to her stories, was that things got worse as time went on.

In her last years she had more complaints about parents than the kids. The kids were bad enough, bit they had parents who wanted their kids to get good grades but didn't do anything to make sure the kids worked for them.
Often she would go out shopping and some adult who had her for a class would come up to her and thank her for how she made him or her work in class. So it's not her teaching that was at fault.



And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.
—Friedrich Nietzsche
Western Massachusetts
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: rgG
Date: November 20, 2008 08:48PM
I will use this time to do a very small amount of bragging. My daughter is a senior in high school. I was very happy when she scored not only a 750 out of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT but also a 730 on the new writing section. Both scores are in the 98th percentile nationally. smiling smiley





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/20/2008 09:52PM by rgG.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: S.Taylor
Date: November 20, 2008 09:41PM
Genetics allows for a deep sense of smug satisfaction, doesn't it?



This remote controlled tree is a must for the person who wants to be on the cutting edge of Christmas technology.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: rgG
Date: November 20, 2008 09:58PM
Quote
S.Taylor
Genetics allows for a deep sense of smug satisfaction, doesn't it?

She probably has a predisposition for language, but her love of reading and the intense vocabulary building exercises her school has done, since the elementary grades, has no doubt helped a tremendous amount.





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: S.Taylor
Date: November 20, 2008 10:15PM
Quote
rgG
Quote
S.Taylor
Genetics allows for a deep sense of smug satisfaction, doesn't it?

She probably has a predisposition for language, but her love of reading and the intense vocabulary building exercises her school has done, since the elementary grades, has no doubt helped a tremendous amount.

I apparently forgot to include a grin. Here you go: :-)



This remote controlled tree is a must for the person who wants to be on the cutting edge of Christmas technology.
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: mikeylikesit
Date: November 21, 2008 01:26AM
Quote
rgG
Quote
S.Taylor
Genetics allows for a deep sense of smug satisfaction, doesn't it?

She probably has a predisposition for language, but her love of reading and the intense vocabulary building exercises her school has done, since the elementary grades, has no doubt helped a tremendous amount.

So she'll never grow up to govern Alaska?cartman smiley
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: Lux Interior
Date: November 21, 2008 01:28AM
Quote
rgG
I will use this time to do a very small amount of bragging. My daughter is a senior in high school. I was very happy when she scored not only a 750 out of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT but also a 730 on the new writing section. Both scores are in the 98th percentile nationally. smiling smiley

My illiterate can beat up your egghead! ;)
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: rgG
Date: November 21, 2008 05:51AM
Quote
S.Taylor
I apparently forgot to include a grin. Here you go: :-)

Thanks, but I already assumed you were kidding. big grin smiley





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)
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Re: Eschewing Obfuscation
Posted by: wurm
Date: November 21, 2008 06:48PM
This was the most depressing (although not surprising) sentence of the entire article.

"All these sentences," Watson says, "were written by college students."
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