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The reintegration of syntactical certainty

As is probably true at any university, the one where I teach has more than a few faculty who think they are the smartest people in the room and want to make sure you know it.

Many years ago, I taught a writing course overseen by, but not part of, the English department, and I was at a year-end meeting of everyone who taught the course. During the discussion, one of the English department profs made a suggestion, to which another English prof immediately responded, "Why Joe, that's argumentum ad absurdum!"

Sadly, I didn't know enough Latin to come up with the appropriate retort, and besides, I'm not sure if there's a Latin translation of "you little punk-ass bitch."

Anyway: I later learned that anyone can sound like an academic, thanks to The Virtual Academic website: (Too much fun). The site description says, "The Virtual Academic generates random sentences from a list of phrases common in many academic fields." The random sentences are funnier than hell—they sound serious but actually say nothing at all.

I used the site just a few minutes ago, when I unsubscribed to email solicitations from a company that wants me to adopt their expensive textbooks for a course. Usually, when I unsubscribe from these sites, they ask why I'm doing so. Saying something like "Your books are way overpriced" doesn't sound academic enough, so I always consult The Virtual Academic to come up with a proper response—something like this, which I have tweaked so it sounds like a response to the question:

"Your textbook's apparently harmless jeu d'esprit concerning the relationship between the exploitation of normative value(s) and the linguistic construction of (self)referentiality will meet with a cool reception from my students."

Just goes to show that with a little help, this ex-newspaper guy (and you, too!) can sling academic bullshit with the best of them.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2015 04:52 am (UTC)
So much time has passed that I can't remember all the details, but:

When I went to San Francisco State University, I had a teacher (for what? can't remember) named Jose Arguello, who must have stood out in some way (damn, I wish I could remember) that was not good. On a visit home I talked with my old painting teacher, Joe Draegert, and Jose's name came up. Joe told me that when he had been a student at UC Davis, Arguello had been his teacher.

Back at UC Davis, Arguello had everyone convinced that he was some sort of spiritual leader person who could delve into your soul and inner workings, that kind of bullshit. So this class Joe was in was taught by Arguello and his wife, and they gave an assignment. They paired up all the students and instructed them to go out and do horrible things to each other - mock each other in public, push each other into mud puddles, that kind of thing. It was to test your reaction and your relationships or some nonsense, but Joe felt it was for Arguello's amusement (which is likely).

Joe was paired up with a woman who likewise thought this was bullshit. So when the day came for them to"turn in" the "results" of their assignment, Joe and this woman ran into the classroom and hit Arguello with many water balloons. Arguello's wife was aghast. "BAD KARMA! BAD KARMA!" she cried.

I just looked up Arguello online. He does karaoke Dj'ing in the Bay Area. Which is indeed karma.
Aug. 13th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC)
Great story. The part about his wife is classic. I'll bet it was of no small satisfaction to you to learn about his current life.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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