Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.)
If a stranger ever approaches you on the street and asks you to teach English there are several things you must do.
First, ask the stranger to clarify his request, is it English Literature or English Language he wants you to teach?
If it is literature, immediately comply and sign the contract then and there, in blood if at all possible in order to ensure it is binding. If you become a literature teacher you are instantaneously seen as intellectual, introspective, and capable of effectuating every scene of Much Ado About Nothing on a whim, while not actually having to be or do any of these. Nothing is trendier or, as a teacher, more likely to get your story turned into a Hollywood film about how you helped an inner city kid become this century’s Twain than to be an English Literature teacher.
If, however, the stranger informs you he wants you to teach the English language, immediately spit in his eye, both if you have an abundance of saliva, and walk away, quickly.
Nothing you face in this world will be more complex, baffling, or make you feel like your brain is being pummeled by the Whomping Willow than teaching the logic-bashing English language.
Because in English these sentences are grammatically correct:
- All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life.
- The rat the cat the dog chased killed ate the malt.
- Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
- Will Will Smith smith?
English has borrowed, cheated, and stolen its way through linguistic history. English hears a fascinating word from a different, more established, and reputable language and slyly slips the word into his pocket where it bumps against all the other pilfered diction. By the time English spreads the thieved goods onto his chipped table underneath the bare luminescence of a single, hanging lightbulb, their original meaning and part of speech have been muddled.
Shrugging, while taking a long drag on his cigarette, English scraps it all and uses the stolen words whenever and however he pleases. Nouns function as verbs while verbs flirt with adjectives and determiners become possessive.
In short, chaos ensues. Shirking the advice of older, more established languages to create consistent rules that follow logic, English dips out the back door to loot more lexicon.
English is a scoundrel language.
English is a pompous, semi-frantic teenager with a zit of a problem.
Imagine a zit on your forehead the dermatologists and moms of the world instruct you not to pop because it will only damage your skin, become more inflamed, and reproduce at a velocity to lure jealousy from Hydra. But they don’t know anything and they definitely don’t know that Chad in fourth period has made eye contact with you twice in the last week and you really think this time he’ll ask you out but ONLY if you don’t have a zit the size of Mt. St. Helens (pre-eruption) smack dab in the middle of your forehead, so you pop it regardless of mom and Dr. dermatologist.
Twenty seconds later you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake. You try to un-pop the zit, which you realize is imbecilic but you’re desperate. The resulting pustule is so titanic that you have to go to school wearing a Band-Aid and Chad ends up going on date with Clare Clearskin from the dance squad. You soberly (because you’re fifteen) acknowledge that you’ll die alone, dateless, and pockmarked all because you didn’t adhere to the straightforward, logical advice from those who’ve gone before you.
That, dear reader, is the state of the English language: alone, dateless, and pockmarked.
So again, if a stranger approaches you and requests you to teach English, there are several things you must do. Check if he is alone, inquire about the existence of his dating life, and scan his skin for pockmarks. If the evidence is still hazy, have him turn out his pockets. If so much as a one word drops out, run.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.