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PROFESSOR-SPEAK IS UNGOOD

A summary of views, commentary and sometimes comedy.

By Daniel S. Aibel

All through the fall semester, professors were "unpacking" questions.

They were "speaking to issues." They were doing their damnedest to help us "get our minds around ideas."

College doesn't come with a dictionary, but maybe it should. With all the exotic turns of phrase that seem to be flying around Harvard's classrooms, all the words that seem to undergo definitional metamorphosis once inside the lecture hall I, for one, could use a course in the academic dialect.

Alas. I've checked the Linguistics section of Courses of Instruction, and found not one mention of academese, professor-speak or anything of the like. Among my most troubling questions: What does it mean to "inform the question"? I didn't know questions were the kinds of things that get informed. "Hey, there's an emergency, inform the doctor." "Quick, there's an answer, inform the question." That just doesn't seem right. Who decided that every concept, idea and notion was going to be either "somewhat intuitive" or "rather counter-intuitive?" As far as I can tell, these are just code words for "makes sense" and "completely absurd, but true anyway." But I may be mistaken.

Many of my professors have been concerned time and time again with having proven something "at the end of the day." This has been particularly disturbing, because all my classes have been in the morning.

All is not lost, however, I am making some headway: I've come to the conclusion that "I don't have a compelling story to tell about that," "maybe we could discuss that during my office hours," and "that question is outside the scope of the topic at hand," all translate roughly into "I don't have a clue."

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