Friday, May 21, 2010

Thanks A Lot, English!

I'm not entirely sure I chose the right degree plan for myself. And since it took me six years to get out of college and it's been three years since I finished, I realize it's a little late to rethink it. But I've noticed lately the effect an English degree can have on a person. And it ain't pretty. Stuff that would go unnoticed to the average person, spits in the proverbial face of an English major. And what's worse is that I can't even help it. I think that every university secretly injects its English students with pretentiousness and arrogance when they're sleeping during Technical Writing 101 (horribly boring class). We have this innate false sense of grammatical superiority that we have to fend off.

A good example of this is my use of a little program called Microsoft Word. I sometimes boil with hatred and rage at this program, with its little passive-aggressive green squiggly underlining. (No, I don't want to use "which" instead of "that." You don't understand the context, you insolent, ill-informed, know-it-all program!) Then I have to count to 10 and take a deep breath, so I can realize the truth (there is no spoon)... that a program cannot be intuitive enough to understand every specific context for my word choices. And then I get embarrassed at myself for being so stupidly upset with a word-processing program.

But it doesn't end there. Probably the worst product of so many English classes is my awareness (and inevitable over-analyzing) of symbolism. Because I spent so many hours making up stuff about literature, I can't help but see it in the real world. In college, I could proclaim that a writer's motivation for a certain plot twist was to symbolize the fragility of life in 1920s America. And although I made it up on the spot, I could find a few examples to support it and write a paper on it. Then I'd get my B and move on. But doing that so many times can really skew your perceptions.

Last week, my son broke a model car that was mine when I was a kid. It was just a cheap metal model of a 1996 Dodge Viper with racing stripes (a.k.a. my dream car when I was 13). And I observed how appropriate it was that the representation of my financial success (the car) was destroyed by the main hindrance to my becoming rich (my kid). The rich symbolism of such a simple moment. Then I realized how stupid that was and superglued the steering wheel back onto the toy. Why couldn't I just study History?


Jill said...

I think he knew what he was doing. Sometimes kids don't have the words to express what they really want to say.

I Love Baby Quilts! said...

I hear ya. I am also a word and grammar Nazi. I get upset when people write "yeah!" when they mean "yay!". Isn't that dumb? Is yay even a word?

Your story reminded me of when I took a film noir class in grad school and I wrote about the three heartbeats in the room: the beat of the song on the jukebox, the main character's heartbeat and the heartbeat of her unborn child she didn't even know was inside of her. Wow, so deep.

Jen said...

I think you think too much.