“If You Get My Drift”

As a teacher of writing, my life is full of unexpected chortles; sometimes, I get to chortle when students with visible thongs and bra straps complain about not being taken seriously. Other times, I get to chortle because students write crap without thinking about what they’re putting on the paper.

I’ve documented this phenomenon in a previous post, but them students, they just keep coughing up new gems for me. And now that I’ve been on summer break for a few weeks, I’ve gotten all melancholy and find myself pining for some crap writing (y’all bloggers aren’t doing the job for me, so tone down the polished rhetoric, would you?). At such junctures, I breathe deeply, do a couple yoga poses, and then take a look at the cover of my gradebook, which is littered with phrases from student papers, jotted down as I wipe tears of chortle from my eyes.

For your edification, then, I offer up three student dookies:

On a final exam, one fine young 17-year-old wrote: “My grandpa is Norwegian, married to a woman who is half-Norwegian, so every Christmas we have lutefisk and Swedish meatballs…”

Shall we presume she thinks Norwegians are Swedish? Even further, I’ll bet she thinks Canadians are Americans who live in a region with better beer and more talented improv comedians.

Final exams also yielded this unproofread delight:

“I spent a lot of time in my swimming suite…”

…leaving me certain that I have been rooked my whole life; I mean, every time I’ve gone swimming, there has been only one measly pool–okay, maybe with a hot tub on the side (aka Bacteria Stew)–but a whole suite of pools? With valet and room service and a minibar? And really fluffy towels? And thick Turkish robes? And 148 channels? And a blow dryer? And how dangerous and futile is that: blow drying one’s hair whilst in the pool? Can I just swim all night, from pool to pool, marveling at how the children are asleep in one pool, but I’m still awake and watching Weeds over in mine?

Lastly, I was sorry to read that the family of one of my students is imbued with a thread of obsequiousness:

“My uncle Roger is syncophantic.”

Interestingly, this student’s paper, up until this point, had been about her uncle’s struggle with hearing voices, suffering from depression, and waging a war with mental illness. But suddenly, with spell-checker plugging in its guess at how to spell something like “schizophrenic,” her uncle’s problem became more benign; at worst, he was crippled by the illness of being an overly-attentive “yes” man.

Ah, I’m feeling much better now, having reviewed those. It’s possible I might now find the heart to go outside and drink a mojito in the sunshine. And if I ever write about that experience in a composition class, I’ll be sure to tickle the instructor by typing about “how affective a German drink can be for relinquishing in a lounge chere.”



By Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."


  1. Oh those kind of things drive me crazy! Must be a joy to mark those papers! (but thanks for sharing so we can snicker away too!)

  2. Ah the joys of spell check! You know they do that just so you can have some entertainment from all those properly done papers.

    One more week of school for us!

  3. “I’ll bet she thinks Canadians are Americans who live in a region with better beer and more talented improv comedians.” – My beer is now coming out of my nose, as I try to stop laughing…It’s just too hard…I just can’t stop. Jocelyn, the Canadians can’t have more talented comedians, after all, the Americans have you.

  4. So what’s the stuff in the bucket?

    My fave was a pupil who submitted a leaflet on peer counselling for his GCSE coursework. It was about the importance of looking good and was entitled ‘Don’t Look a Twat. Just Look Good.’



  5. At least her uncle wasn’t syncopatic. My Uncle Charlie drove us nuts with his bizarre rhythms.

    I have a friend who take high school students on mission trips to Guatemala every year. When he comes back, people always ask him things like, “So, did you eat a lot of Mexican food?”

  6. Chelle–It’s a very particular kind of joy.

    Susan–Another week still? Eek.

    Hey, Puss–The stuff is lutefisk (the Nordic dish my student wrote about). It’s as awful as it looks.

    Diesel–Are you trying to tell me we didn’t eat good Mexican food when we went to Guatemala last Christmas? What is this craziness you talk?

  7. LOL, my husband taught special ed for 13 years (this year he became a shop teacher….i dunno what he teaches to all those shops but i guess it beats having classes made up of kids called ed who are particularly noteworthy for some reason). he had some real doozies in some of the work samples of his students. one of my favorites was the anatomy test where a student labelled the brain as the uterus. our entire family refers to chipmunks as ‘chipnapunks’ due to a repeated student error.

  8. One year, I volunteered to be a proofreader in the writing room at my kids’ highschool. It was sometimes quite difficult to keep from laughing at some of the stuff they wrote and merely tell them which words were spelled wrong and how to fix up the grammar.

  9. OK not fair, I call foul:
    that student’s grandmother’s other half could very well have been Swedish!!

    really, Carmen and Joan??
    you shoul start a summer tabloid, what’s the newest on Paris?

  10. Did you skip over me because my comment about you being the best comedian around offended you? I truly meant it as a complement, your posts always leave me laughing, and as far as I’m concerned being able to make other people laugh is one of the best gifts on Earth.

  11. You cannot make that stuff up. Keep collecting, and write a book someday! The elementary school kids write funny papers too, though more innocent I think. One student wrote a ‘book’ for me called “Things That Happened a Long Long Time Ago” filled with random historical facts about California. So cute! -and I actually kept it on my desk.

  12. I can’t snicker too hard, because I cannot spell worth a damn. I’ve seen spell check gag up some really strange words trying to figure out what I actually intented.

  13. I knew a woman who prefaced every remark with “MY consensus of opinion is” She WAS large, but still…

    One day, I met her at the beach with her camera, and she informed me that she was “taking candids of the ocean.”

    I never could get those rowdy waves to pose, either.

  14. My grandmother was Norwegian, and my mother was a half-breed Norwegian. I on the other hand am a half-breed Mexican. This is the result of nice protestant Norwegian girls from northern Minnesota being unable to resist the rich-skinned Mexican fellas and the opportunity to chagrin thier somewhat bigoted mothers when they migrate to California. None the less, I am only Norweigan enough to have fallen for eating lutefisk at Christmas one time. That was enough of my cultural heritage for a lifetime… Never again!

  15. Theresa–Oh, honey, I for sure did not skip over you on purpose. Let’s blame it on “The View,” a morning program I only get to watch about twice a year (I missed all the Rosie O’Donnell fireworks, even), so I wasn’t being too attentive when replying here. But really, really, YOU are my *favorite.* Don’t tell anyone, though, okay?

  16. Thanks for the explanation of syncophantic. I’m left feeling quite stupid after reading that post. You could always visit my blog for some crap writing, I will even throw in a whole lot of punctuation mistakes if you so desire.

  17. I bought a new bikini this year because I grew a butt. Next year, if I keep gaining weight, I’ll probably graduate to the tankini. Then, a skirted one piece. Eventually, I’ll be wearing a muumuu.

    Lord help me if I ever need to wear a swimming suite.

  18. I’ve gotten all melancholy and find myself pining for some crap writing

    Well, my friend, you came to the right place … the blogosphere!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Crap writing, huh? Makes me wonder if my teachers wrote footnotes about my writing pieces. Yikes. I did take a Written Communication class last year and wonder of wonders, she gave me an “A”. I need to work on my comma placement and punctuation, though. It’s getting better. (Now I wonder how many English teachers read blogs and laugh.)

  20. I’d post some coding boo boo’s in my blog but somehow I don’t think that my code reading bloopers would be half as entertaining.

    And all Canadians will be Americans once we establish that they are not allowing UN Weapons Inspectors do their jobs. I mean, the UN Weapons Inspectors aren’t actually asking to inspect right now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have WMD. You can’t not have nothing. See? Yahtzee!

  21. Maybe poor Uncle Roger finds it easier to deal with the voices if he just answers “yes” to them. Perhaps if he tells them “no” they transform into a bunch of 4 year olds with a chorus of “Why not?!?”

    Poor, poor Uncle Roger.

  22. Spell checker isn’t everyones friend. Well, anytime you want to chortle at unpolished rhetoric please drop by. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. My eight year old wrote that her sister was on a filled tripe, rather than the field trip….a much more evocative image and not that huge a spelling error when your eight!

  24. i love you. you in turn would have lurved the blather i turned out in my teenage angst.

    on a good day, this must be one of the highlights. on a bad day it must be maddeningly frustrating.

  25. I second Theresa’s comment….you’ll just have to be some sort of honourary Canadian. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Oh man, there is nothing worse than an obsequious uncle
    I quite enjoyed those little errors.
    The bad part is for every amusing one there are about 200 PAINFUL ones.
    But thank you for sharing just the highlights.

  27. One of my students recently wrote that his mother was hot. I thought it was a case of translating directly from Greek to English,in Greek “hot” means sociable. Imagine my surprise when after listening to me tell him that it doesn’t mean the same in English he said, “That isn’t what I meant my mum is sexy.”

  28. You have to stop making me laugh out loud. People in my family think I’m psychofrentic.

    Or, you know, whatever.

  29. Listen, Canada is so close I not only speak the language fluently, but I can spell it quite well to, eh! It is, after all, just two big spits to the north. Don’t try little spits or you’ll find yourself with a swarm of angry saliva covered Dutchment after you (not to be confused with Norwegians or Swedes) and sometimes your spit dribbles down your chin, which is also no fun. Although dribbles are better than angry Dutchmen.

    And it’s good to know that our blogs don’t quite cut the mustard for you, even if there are corny horsepower jokes…good golly, you must have been bored if that made you laugh!

  30. Those are good. I have some syncophantic patients, so I know where that student is coming from. But, umm – what’s in that bucket. Please tell me it’s not lard.

  31. Oh, it just occurred to me that somoen else my have asked about the bucket contents, so now I see it is fish. I think.

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