Josna Rege

397. Why Should Not Old Women Be Mad?

In Education, Stories, Teaching, Words & phrases, Work on April 28, 2017 at 10:21 pm

St. Trinians girls (Ronald Searle)

I’m so old that when I was in secondary school in England, the teachers still addressed the boys by their last names, as if, anachronistically, we were in some sort of Monty Python sketch. (I’m so old that I was in secondary school before the advent of Monty Python.)

I’m so old that I become enraged by fundraising emails that address me by my first name.

I’m so old that students sending me their late essays via cell phone infuriate me, not by their lateness, or by the fact that I am forced to print them out, but by their failure to include a cover note.

I’m so old that when a student sends me an email message without a cover note, I reply with a cold (and to them, bewildering), “Were you addressing me?” or “Excuse me, but did you intend to send that message to me?”

I am so impossibly old that when, in their essays, students call eminent scholars like Edward Said “Edward,” or Martin Luther King, Jr. “Martin,” I say, with withering sarcasm, “Oh, I didn’t know you were on a first-name basis with him.” (It goes right over their heads.)

It’s contradictory, I know, that in email messages to my students I sign off with my first name, but have the urge to (cyber)slap them if they dare to address me as such. Although to tell you the truth, I am grateful when they address me at all. Nowadays one is lucky if a message from a student starts with a “Hey!”

By the way, while I’m giving vent to righteous indignation, Woe Betide any student who makes any of the following cardinal slip-ups, whether orally or in writing:

Pakistan is in the Middle East;
India is in Southeast Asia; or
the Mahatma’s name is spelled G-h-a-n-d-i.
Not!

I’m not done yet: on the subject of names, if you are giving an oral presentation on an eminent writer or scholar from Elsewhere, you are responsible for finding out how to pronounce his or her name beforehand. S-a-i-d is pronounced with two syllables; it emphatically does not rhyme with ‘head’. Why is it that you can do Dostoevsky without hesitation, but—like the British—balk at Bandopadhyay? Stay after class and repeat “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak” as many times as it takes to get it right.

By the way, I’m so old that in my day they still sent the boys to the Headmaster to be caned. Just sayin’.

Mr. Quelch and Billy Bunter

All right; I’m done now.

With apologies to William Butler Yeats: Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

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  1. Good for you, Josna! And I am even older than you. 🙂

    • Thank you, Linda! It’s good to feel supported by my generation! And by friends who allow me to indulge in a little rant from time to time. 😉

  2. This made me almost snort like an old man, so many statements were recognisable.

    And I’m so old that I was beaten when at my English grammar school — except that it was with a leather strap, not a cane, consisting of several layers sewn together and swung with ominous creaking by creaking masters, all with the air of “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

    They lied.

    You’ve gotta laugh. 😀

    • I love the thoughts that words on a virtual page can evoke snorts of recognition or outright laughter across cyber-space! Ouch–that strap sounds like an instrument of torture–I feel for you. And yes, they knew what they were doing, and what it felt like, probably because it had been done to them. But I see they failed to break your spirit, and I hope that our generation has succeeded in breaking that cycle of violence. I may rant, but my bark is worse than my bite! Thank you, as always, for your response.

  3. Why must one be old to insist on saving our language and our manners? These are pet peeves of mine as well! Stick to your guns, Jojo we depend on you to teach this generation how to respect others as well as themselves by taking care to pronounce and spell names
    correctly.

    • Yes, Ma’am! You’re right–there’s no need for self-deprecation; teaching and learning the art of respectful communication is important, period. It shouldn’t be dismissed as the irrelevant rantings of a pedantic old woman. Nevertheless I often feel as if the wind is blowing away my words (title of a Doris Lessing book) . . . x J

  4. Ha ha ha. That “hey” at the start of student emails infuriates me too but these days the lack of knowledge of geography makes me more sad than angry because it’s becoming more and more clear that the complacency which prompts the lack of this knowledge is not going to serve these kids well as the power centers are shifting. . . they’ll be too old when they realize that. . .

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