Two-and-a-half-years ago, the hardworking staff posted this:
Rhyme-onymsPosted on March 29, 2010
First: I yield to no man in my respect and affection for my students at Boston University.
Second: During my five years as a mass communication professor at BU, I’ve noticed a grammatical phenomenon in the writing of said students.
Very often in their papers, students use the wrong word – but it rhymes with the right word [or closely approximates it].
astutely aware for acutely aware
consul for counsel
conscious for conscience
dribble for drivel
reticule for ridicule (despite what you’re thinking, reticule is actually a word. It means “a woman’s drawstring handbag”)
menial for minimal
safety belt for safety net
captain for caption (couldn’t figure out if that was just a typo until – oops – it appeared for a second time)
My theory: the students have never read these words and phrases. They’ve only heard them.
And then their ears fail them.
Fast-forward to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Opinion page, which featured this by former Western Illinois University professor James E. Courter:
Teaching ‘Taco Bell’s Canon’
Today’s students don’t read. As a result, they have sometimes hilarious notions of how the written language represents what they hear.
Is it true that college students today are unprepared and unmotivated? That generalization does injustice to the numerous bright exceptions I saw in my 25 years of teaching composition to university freshmen. But in other cases the characterization is all too accurate.
One big problem is that so few students are readers. As an unfortunate result, they have erroneous, and sometimes hilarious, notions of how the written language represents what they hear. What emerged in their papers and emails was a sort of literary subgenre that I’ve come to think of as stream of unconsciousness.
What follows closely resembles the hardworking staff’s rhyme-onyms, with some truly poetic examples:
• A female student, in describing an argument over her roommate’s smelling up their room with cheap perfume, referred to getting in her “two scents’ worth.”
• Some find you can’t go home again. After several weeks at school, one coed returned to her childhood house only to find life there “homedrum.”
• Some learn the price of intimacy the hard way, like the coed who referred to becoming pregnant on “that fetal night.”
Welcome to the working weak, WSJ.