The humanities can feel like the ugly duckling of the academy these days, but the problem may have less to do with branding and statistics than word choice. When people like Deleuze and Guattari start asking, “Why can’t we be the pink panther? The pink panther imitates nothing; it reproduces nothing, it paints the world its color, pink on pink; this is imperceptible itself, asignifying, making its rupture, its own line of flight,” it’s reasonable to think the whole field might be off its rocker. But then again, grandiose rhetoric-befuddling contradictions are the beauty of the discipline. So take a breath, relax, and relive the humanists at their linguistic bests.

“The 20th and 21st centuries have both gone very quickly and very slowly.” —French professor

“Some of those analytic philosophers do something that seems impossible: They make Nietzsche boring.” —History professor

“You’re Dante exploring the Inferno on your own.” — Literature professor lamenting undergraduates with no knowledge of the canon

“This writing would be awesome…if it were shorter and about something else.” —Workshop student

“I feel like I should offer a course on the fraud complex at Harvard.” —French professor

“What I like about sophism is you can make any claim as long as you have the example to support it.” —Literature professor

“Reading this is the next best thing to reading Hegel’s phenomenology. You can go pages and pages without spotting a concrete noun” —Literature professor on Rousseau

“There is no outside of the cave…that rocked your world.” —History professor on Plato

“All these words have names.” —Literature professor

“The images were so fun, but I had no idea where I was in either space or time.” —Workshop student

“Even at Harvard, the student population is part of the national population.” —Arts and Humanities administrator

“It’s just a fairytale dressed up as realism” —Literature professor disparaging “Pride and Prejudice”

“That’s the most vanilla ice cream interpretation in the whole book.” —Literature Professor on Freud analyzing his own dreams

“The term’s use has become quite promiscuous, but I guess that’s the fate of all terms.” —History Professor

“My interpretation is that the space he is in…is life…as in all the plays.” —English professor

“Looking back, I was trying to figure out why I was a water balloon filled up with sorrows.” —Creative Writing instructor

“You’re bringing in two extra dimensions now, and we’re already playing three dimensional chess.” —Literature professor

“Historians pay their dues by reading through freezing, massive archives. Ethnographers pay their dues by getting malaria.” —Literature professor

“For the sake of the conversation, let’s arbitrarily cut the baby in half.” —Workshop instructor

“In my sleep he shows up and talks to me. Not a lot. I’m not that crazy.” —English professor on Samuel Beckett

“The way a Buddhist might say ‘ohm,’ Lukács would say reflection of reality.” —Literature professor

“I can remember asking in elementary school, what about women? And they just laughed at me.” —French professor

“There’s a structure….there’s a phenomenon…oh god all my words are taboo now…there’s a thing…even that one!” —Panicked undergraduate

“There were a lot of long words like civilization and archaeology and sand.” —Workshop student concerned with loquacity