Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill"-- Buddha

If Buddha is correct, then I am doing my part to destroy the future minds of America.

Some of the funniest incidents come from misuse of words, and if you teach English to teenagers, you will find yourself giggling (or screaming) a lot.

Or, if I am your English teacher, you'll find yourself giggling (or screaming) on the way to your therapist.

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On the second day of the new school year, I used to teach students about the difference between Standard American English, slang, and dialects to help them understand why certain situations call for certain ways of speaking: you wouldn't use Standard American English when socializing with friends just as you wouldn't use slang with a teacher, employer, or anyone else not from your generation.

One year as I was transitioning from slang to dialects, I announced quite loudly: "Okay, now we are moving on to dicks." Immediately after I heard my diction faux pas, I threw my arms in the air like a referee signalling a touchdown and shouted, "Day two everybody!"

Forty pairs of wide eyes stared back at me.  That their teacher even knew what a dick was seemed to have stunned them.

Last year, while reading from "Narrative of Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson"--a horrific account of her imprisonment to the Native Americans in 1675--I managed to turn a scene of violence into a snuff narrative. After reading about "bowels being split open" and a nursing mother and her child being shot through, I concluded by saying, "the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon [the pilgrims] over their fornication."

I stopped. The last word was supposed to be "fortification." I pictured a bunch of pilgrims doing it doggy style while shooting up at the Indians on the roof.  I couldn't help sputtering a few Beavis and Butthead chuckles.

I know. There's something wrong with me.

Of course, I was the only one who laughed because the students had no idea what "fornication" meant, even though they probably engaged in it more than I did. So, instead of seeing this humor in my mispronunciation, they watched me giggle at the idea of innocent men, women, and children being slaughtered.

Then there was the time I told my students to "put away their notebooks because I was passing the testies out." I was trying to play off a persona that is so not me: cutesie and playfully condescending (I'm naturally sarcastically condescending).

And I often say fuck-tion instead of "function."

I could be on Law and Order Special Victims Unit. As myself.

I really threw out a good one the other night during the Advanced Composition class that I teach at the junior college during the summer. This class was dedicated to diction: denotation, connotation, phonetics and such.  I end the class with a lecture on the phonetics and purpose of profanity. Clearly, I cuss a lot during this lecture.

I had decided to give the students a break beforehand. As they were getting up to leave the room for a break, I overheard a student utter to another student a phrase that included the word "fuck" as a noun, adjective, and adverb. I smirked at the versatility of the word, which alerted the student that I could actually hear him. Embarrassed, he apologized for his language. To put him at ease I was going to say, "Don't worry about it, I'm going to say 'fuck' a lot after the break."

But, that's not what I said.

I forgot a word.

(drum roll while readers try to figure out what I did say)

Wait for it . . .

Wait for it . . .

Instead, I said, "Don't worry about it because I'm gonna fuck a lot after the break."

Let's just say no one was late coming back from the break.

And my second period seniors will not forget to turn in their composition notebooks on Wednesday. Why? Because when I reminding them, I said, "On Wednesday, I am going to start collecting your condoms."

From the silence, once small voice utters, "Well, we know Ms. Vance had a good weekend."



  1. You did not say that! Why are you so fucking awesome! I once told a student to use a condom instead of a comma. But whatever- they should practice safe sex.

  2. This post cracked me up!! Here's my latest verbal blunder: I started a new job recently, and one of the bigwigs there knows my husband from a previous job. My husband has always been quite dedicated to his fitness regimen, so this boss asked how my husband was and whether he was still running. My brilliant response? "He's great! In fact, he's doing triathletes now!" Yeah. Um, I mean triathlons?


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