Category: Language & Words

Uh… Uhm… Title

| Toronto, ON, Canada | Language & Words, Lazy/Unhelpful, Students, Technology

(This story takes place in the class “Programming I”, where we are learning how to code in the programming language known as C#. I am typing away at my work, when I hear a faint “uhm” come from a fellow student seated beside me. I turn over, and see them looking my way, pointing at their screen. For clarification, this person is very clear and fluent in English… when not focused on work.)

Student #1: “Could you… uh… check… code…?”

Me: “Sure. What’s wrong?”

(Leaning over, I start to analyze their code. I don’t see anything wrong, and no errors pop up when they run the program.)

Me: “What is the problem?”

Student #1: *waving their hand around aimlessly in front the screen* “Code. The uh… you… the… euh… ehh.”

Me: “Pardon?”

Student #1: *pointing at the now running program* “Just… eugh… ehhelp…”

(Confused, I test the program a few times, eventually realizing that the two possible results are mixed up. Note, this can be VERY EASILY SOLVED by changing a single character.)

Me: “Oh, the results are switched around! You just have to switch them out for one another, or change the ‘greater than’ symbol with the ‘lesser than’ symbol!”

Student #1: *continuing to wave hands about and point at the screen in arbitrary place* “Huuuh? But… no… the… hu… eeh… euhh… mmmmh…”

Me: “Everything else is fine. I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is!”

(After trying to reword what I mean several times, they eventually go silent and flat out ignore me. After getting back to my work, they call over Student #2, and speak in the same slurred way.)

Student #2: “What’s the problem?”

Student #1: “Could you…” *points at screen* “…the…”

(Student #2 then goes through every single line Student #1 made, mumbling to himself about what each piece of code does. Student #1 sits back and blankly stares as Student #2 works it out.)

Student #2: “You just need to switch the two around.” *turns around and walks away*

Student #1: “Okay, good. Thank you! That helps.”

(Screaming internally, I continued to work on my own programs. For the rest of class, Student #1 just stared at the screen, didn’t actually change anything, and eventually procrastinated on their phone.)

Guess Who Can’t Read

| GA, USA | Children, Language & Words

(I’m mentoring a little girl at one of the local elementary schools. She just turned five years old. We’re playing the game Guess Who and I just figured out what person it was.)

Me: “Is the person Tony?”

Little Girl: “Hmmm… what letter does Tony start with?”

Me: “[Little Girl], can you read?”

Little Girl: “No.”

Laissez-Faire Translations

| GA, USA | Bizarre/Silly, Language & Words, Teachers

(It’s the first day of economics class, and my teacher begins by telling us about some of the topics we will cover over the course of the semester.)

Teacher: “…and we’ll be learning about laissez-faire capitalism, which is Latin for ‘let the buyer beware.’”

Me: *in my head* “Okay, stop listening to anything he has to say and just read the textbook.”

Makes You Wish You Could Just Vi

| TX, USA | Language & Words

(I am not a communications major, but as part of an elective class I take, I get to work at the student-run campus radio station. Yeah, it is a class requirement and it is work, but it can also be a lot of fun. One assignment I have is as a news reader: I am paired with another student, and when the time for a news break comes we alternate reading current news story printouts pulled off of a wire service. I am paired with student who has told me he wants to be a TV journalist and is going to be “the next high-profile TV newsman.” No doubt he has ambition, but he effortlessly embodies every stereotype of the airheaded blond. After many on-air stumbles, this final incident confirms to me that he won’t get far in his chosen profession. I have just finished reading a story, and he starts in on his. It is about the campus Air Force ROTC holding a 24-hour vigil at a prominent flagpole in honor of fallen military members. Two things quickly became clear as he begins to read: (1) He had not read through the story beforehand — a big no-no — and (2) he has never before seen or heard the word “vigil.” He begins:)

Student: “Cadets from the Air Force ROTC will be holding a 24-hour…” *five-second pause here* “…VIE-jul at the flagpole in front of the administration building…”

(Appalled, I scanned down the news copy he was holding and saw that there were three or four more occurrences of “vigil” in the story. And he said every one the same way. It may be possible he achieved success in broadcasting, but I never heard anything more about him after college.)

This Bee Is Banananas!

| IL, USA | Language & Words

(My son was one of the fourth-grade representatives for the All-School Spelling Bee. I attended the Bee, which had student classroom winners from first-eighth grade on the stage. This gem happens in the first round:)

Announcer: “[Eighth-grade student], your word is…’banana’.”

Eighth-Grade Student: “Banana. B-A-N…” *pause* “…N-A-N-A. Banana.”

(Immediately, the school audience gasped… and several people shook their heads in surprise. Meanwhile, the speller turned several shades of red as he realized what he had just done. He was the first contestant to sit down. The ultimate kicker: A SECOND-GRADER won the School Bee — with the word “oddity”!)

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