No, it's my genius.
My genius really shines when I teach The Great Gatsby. I love, love, love this novel. Even before Baz Luhrmann. There's something about handsome, filthy rich, charming, and delusional men . . .
I focus heavily on character analysis with this novel. For the character of Tom Buchanan, my approached is to view him through the lens of his women: his wife, Daisy and his mistress, Myrtle. While going over the difference between Daisy and Myrtle, my students showed me they do understand the importance of spelling.
Yes, you read correctly. The importance of spelling.
|Mia Farrow and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan|
I find their difference in size relevant to character, but trepidation over my students translating "surplus flesh" into "fat" and therefore "ugly" tricks me into drawing attention to that particular detail as an attempt to divert the fat label.
"She is not fat," I always emphasize, with my hands planted firmly on my surplus hips. "She is what we call curvy or voluptuous."
Recently, a student, Isabel, added, "You mean she's thick?"
"Is that fat?"
"No, it means," Isabel looked to her neighbor, also a female, "how do you say it? She's just . . . thick."
"Is she thick because of fat or muscle?"
|Neither Karen Black nor Isla Fisher have Myrtle Wilson's "surplus flesh"|
"It's two Cs," several students said. "T-H-I-C-C."
"Why two Cs?"
They look at each other and shrug.
"There must be a reason, otherwise why not just spell it T-H-I-C-K?"
No one seems to know. Or care.
I changed the spelling on the board to T-H-I-C-C. When I turned back around to face the class, I see Isabel curving the fingers of each hand to form the letter C. She whispered something to her neighbor who does the same with her hands and then they both burst out laughing.
"Figure something out back there?" I asked them.
Isabel holds up her Cs again, raising one hand higher than the other: "Boobs," she said about the higher C and "Butt" about the lower C.
Okay, so T-H-I-C-C isn't related to muscle but more the quantity of TNA (Tits and Ass, not Talula National Athletics clothing brand, nor Total Nonstop Action wrestling alliance, nor Texas Nurses Association).
I was satisfied with the two-Cs-symbol-for-TNA explanation for the spelling, but then one girl piped up: "We spell it that way, so it is ours. So that the definition belongs to our generation." Crossing her arms, she gave me a sharp nod to indicate the discussion was over.
Can we all say progeny? Reincarnated linguist? Reason I can retire? Her indignation at my academic approach only reinforced an academic approach. Paradox aside, I couldn't help but get goosebumps watching my students try to figure out language. It is one of the reasons I "beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (Fitzgerald).