Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Crumbs from Wisdom's Table

Two teachable moments over the past couple of days, both related to spelling and presentation. My earthy and erudite colleague GH demonstrated the importance of apostrophes with an illustration from his local animal emporium. Apparently a carrying case for cats etc. is a voyageur. A sign for 'Pets Voyageur' might slightly irk an anglophone, but in French it means more: 'pets voyageur' is quite literally a travelling (drifting?) fart (hence the old musical act Le Petomane, a chap who performed popular songs and La Marseillaise from his bottom).

The second moment came today when I marked a forum on Shakespeare's sonnets. One unfortunate and otherwise commendable student alighted upon these lines from Sonnet 17

Who will believe my verse in time to come
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Not knowing the difference between 'desert' and 'dessert', she gave an interesting and imaginative reading based on the significance of Pudding in Shakespeare. Of course, we old hands know that pudding appears only in Henry IV Part I ('that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly') as part of an insult – though 'cakes and ale' make an appearance too. But I really felt for the student: a basic weakness led her far astray, and the scansion didn't help either: the metre and rhyme scheme encourage identical pronunciation between the two possibilities.

Students: do check your spelling.

Meanwhile, I've a lot on: 2 new lectures to write ready for next week, 2 MA dissertations and 2 undergrad ones to read, and a journal article to shorten, proof and submit by Friday. Plus a trip to have a tooth extracted, an MA interview. Oh, and two funerals next week.

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