English 345: The Strangest Hour in My Day

College inevitably breeds pseudo-intellectualism, and almost as inevitably is that single annoying student in your English class. Caitlin Boersma endures five of these ignoramuses in one class.

History of the English Language generally proves to be the most interesting hour of my day, not because of the content of the class–although the morphological changes of Middle English are absolutely riveting–but because of the diversity of students who attend the class.

A quick rundown of classmates include:

  • Stoner
    I don’t know if he actually smokes or not, but he always looks high. He also does not own one pair of pants that are a) clean or b) not cut off at the knees. Stoner often nods off in class and then wakes up periodically to grin at the professor as though he enjoys the lesson. He also participates more than I do.
  • Hair Lisp
    This guy has his hair in the shape of a little girl’s “bob.” He also has a lisp. Hair Lisp knows a lot, I’ll give him that, but he interrupts the class to tell us irrelevant facts.
  • Classics Major
    So he knows the Latin stem of every word we talk about. Shut up, Classics. I’ve tried and failed miserably to learn Spanish, Latin, and Japanese. I already know how to speak and write English fluently. Don’t make this more complicated than it has to be. Classics also nods vigorously at nothing in particular throughout each lecture. I’m not sure whether he just agrees with the professor’s lesson or if he’s trying to show he already knows the lesson. He sure giggles a lot.
  • Lanky Girl
    I only noticed her because she always wears skirts that are super short for how tall she is. And she is lanky.
  • Theater Major
    I have never come across someone less self-aware than Theater Major. She makes the most inappropriate statements, following everything with an obnoxious laugh that lingers long after the discussion has moved to an unrelated topic. I’m embarrassed for her, and I look down at my notebook every time she begins to speak. Profanity usually doesn’t bother me, but I dislike it when students use crass language when speaking to a professor in a classroom setting. At any rate, I think I can argue that one should not refer to the professor’s colleague as “a tool” in his presence.

English 345 is typically uneventful. I watch Hair Lisp talk and Classics nod while Theater Major finds new ways to make me intensely uncomfortable. Last week’s class, however, turned into a lively discussion.

We were deciding whether good English meant correct grammar or good usage. For example, would it be better to say “I like the people I hang out with” or “I like the people out with whom I hang?” You decide.

Well, Lanky Girl and Classics Major got in a heated debate over whether “their” could be used as a singular possessive in a sentence like “Each student did their homework.” Lanky Girl argued that we should use it because she liked the gender equality that it offered without using the awkward phrase “Each student did his or her homework.”

At this point Classics started gesticulating wildly and his voice was high as he gasped, “But the distinction between singular and plural possessives is one of the only things we have left!”

I enjoy a good discussion about English grammar just as much as the next person, but Classics and I diverge at the level of severity we afford the topic. If anything, this class has taught me that English can be entertaining with its diverse pronunciations, uses, and complicated history, but it’s nothing to have an aneurysm over. I mean, it’s nothing over which I would have an aneurysm.

If anything kills me, it will be Theater Major.

Caitlin Boersma is studying political science and English, but spends most of her time analyzing pop culture. Her premise for a new reality TV show, Killing Andy Milonakis, has yet to be picked up by VH1. She is notorious for spending a week’s wages on a ticket to see Morrissey live.