Thursday, July 05, 2007

Of Students' Malapropisms and Other Humorous Writings

For a few years I gathered and preserved humorous and nonsensical statements students made in papers, exams, quizzes, etc. At some point, I suspended this practice for no particular reason as I recall. I regret that now. If I had continued my practice, perhaps I could have compiled the collection into a book as Professor Anders Hendriksson did when he published Non Campus Mentis (a typical student mishearing of non compos mentis).

I write this entry only because, as I was cleaning and rearranging my home study, I came upon Non Campus Mentis and sat down to read a few pages again. They are as humorous as the first time I read them. This is not the kind of book you sit and read from cover to cover. This is the kind of book you keep near at hand to read a few pages at a time when you either want or need a hearty laugh. The first page, which you can read here, illustrates this well.

Here are a few lines from some of the pages that I read yesterday, as I took a break from my domestic activities.

Concerning the latter decades of the Middle Ages:
Monks failed to practice morals between their prayers. The Council of Constance failed to solve this even though Constance herself tried very hard. Followers of Wyclif were known as Mallards.

John Huss refused to decant his ideas about the church and was therefore burned as a steak.

Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plague is a social disease in the sense that it can be transmitted by intercourse and other etceteras.

  • It was spread from port to port by inflected rats.
  • It was then passed around by midgets.
  • Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks.
  • Death rates exceeded one hundred percent in some
Concerning the Reformation:
The Catholic church sold indulgences as a form of remission control. Luthar was into reorientation mutation. An angry Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theocrats to a church door. The Pope's response was to declare Luther hereditary.

Lutherans began to meet in little churches with large morals painted on their walls. Martin Luther King stood for the priesthood of all relievers.

Calvin was born a generation after Luther and is sees as one of Luther's greatest predecessors. He accepted all Luther's ideas except that of birth.

  • Calvinists were the only ones who believed in pre-detonation. It is not surprising that their preaching consisted mainly of dogmatic explosions.
  • Most Prodesants objected to holy communication.
  • Anabaptist services tended to be migratory.
  • The Popes, of course, were usually Catholic.
One of my colleagues, who teaches in the History Department, tells of student generated malapropisms that he has collected throughout his career. On an exam, one student wrote an engrossing essay on the "Futile Croissant."

Someday, perhaps, I will dig out the file of preserved malapropisms and other humorous writing faux pas my students have submitted. One that I recall that I frequently encountered came in a spiritual formation course that I taught earlier in my career. Among the several short papers (1 to 2 pages) that I required was a brief account of the students' Christian conversion. Keep in mind that I teach at an evangelical Christian liberal arts college. Thus, "born again" is an expression that I frequently saw in these short papers. Yet, try to make sense of the following, which, with occasional exception, I did not read in a few of these papers: "I was born again when I excepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior at the age of _________." If my students actually meant what they said, there may be far fewer "born again" Christians than many people think. To offer some generous professorial assistance to my students, until my hand became weary and cramped, I would write something like the following in the margin next to the malapropism. "To except Jesus Christ is to exclude him. To accept Jesus Christ is to welcome him or to receive him. I trust that you intended the latter and not the former." As frequently as I encountered the malapropism, I should have had a stamp made to avoid hand cramps.

No comments: