Friday, June 01, 2007

The Insult-an-English-Teacher post

Illustration accompanying instructions (mercifully placed below the fold) on how to hold the body when preparing to deliver a speech, from The Young Gentleman and Lady's Monitor, and English Teacher's Assistant (1802), by John Hamilton Moore.

Perhaps it's the fact that, aside from whatever task I assign myself, pretty much every day this summer will feel like Saturday. Perhaps it's the fact that I've been known to engage in a bit of self-deprecation from time to time. But today seems like a good day for a bit of fun at the expense of my profession

This morning, via Acephalous, I read most of the extraordinarily-long comment thread for this thread, and somewhere in there the fellow responsible for a large portion of the witty repartee contained therein lets fly at Acephalous with this:

"Yr. another comma-correcting fraud on the state dole."

Not that I recommend it (unless you have far more time than even I do), but if you were to read that whole thread, you'd learn that apparently this fellow met with some vague academic misfortune while in grad school and now has it out for those engaged in advanced studies in the humanities, just, you know, in general. But never mind that. That particular line struck me not as offensive but as so hyperbolic as to be funny.

Another line that strikes a bit closer, though, because of the immense respect I hold for him, is this little quip attributed to Cormac McCarthy (though I haven't been able to find its source):
"He may be dead; or he may be teaching English."

Note, though: it didn't strike so close that it kept me from posting it on my office door at my previous institution. And now that I have an actual office at my present place of employ . . .

Anyway, here's an invitation to you to post examples of the genre of insults hurled at English teachers here in the comments section, either those of your own invention or read or overheard or read elsewhere. If you need inspiration, just go below the fold and imagine yourself a student of a disciple of Mr. Moore's. That should do it.

What follows, as well as instructions on how to position and pivot on the toes (but not the heels) as you deliver said speech, is from the chapter in Moore's book entitled "Elements of Gesture":
The first plate represents the attitude in which a boy should always place himself when he begins to speak. He should rest the whole weight of his body on the right leg; the other, just touching the ground, at the distance at which it would naturally fall, if lifted up to shew that the body does not bear upon it. The knees should be strait and braced, and the body, though perfectly strait, not perpendicular, but inclining as far to the right as a firm position on the right leg will permit. The right arm must then be held out with the palm open, the fingers straight and close, the thumb almost as distant from them as it will go, and the flat of the hand neither horizontal nor vertical, but exactly between both. The position of the arm perhaps will be best described by supposing an oblong hollow square, formed by the measure of four arms, as in plate the first, where the arm in its true position forms the diagonal of such an imaginary figure. So that, if lines were drawn at right angles from the shoulder, extending downwards, forwards, and sideways, the arm will form a& angle of forty-five degrees every way. When the pupil has pronounced one sentence in the position thus described, the hand, as if lifeless, must drop down to the side, the very moment the last accepted word is pronounced; and the body, without altering the place of the feet, poise itself on the left leg, while the left hand rises itself into exactly the same position as the right was before, and continues in this position till tine end of the next sentence, when it drops down on the side, as if dead; and the body poizing itself on the right leg as before, continues with the right arm extended, till the end of the succeeding sentence, and so on from right to left, and from left to right alternately, till the speech is ended.


Paul Decelles said...

How about a variant on certain old insult to all teachers:

Those who can, write. Those who can't teach English.


Pam said...

My brother (who is a dentist) says to never trust your dentistry to a dentist affiliated with a dental school: they are there because they couldn't support themselves as dentist. So, the same idea as the first commentors - those we can do, do, those who can't, teach. I get somewhat of the opposite from time-to-time. Since I teach very little and am primarily on a research appointment, so people always say 'oh, you're at a university, you must like teaching' to which I reply 'no, not really, I hardly teach at all but conduct research' and it almost invariably puzzles the person. With the academic community, folks consider me somewhat lucky to have less teaching responsibilities (the whole science thing) but outside of the academic community folks look at me like 'why the hell is she there? She doesn't teach! What could she possibly be doing with herself?'.

I suddenly feel paranoid about all of misplaced commas...

Oh - I have a student getting ready for a presentation - he'll get a kick out of Moore's instructions.

Pam said...

Hey, I need to proof before I submit a comment, don't ya think?