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Duel enrollment, large rolls and participation grapes

If you caught the last episode of “Call the Midwife” you might recall that Fred, the Nonnatus House gardener and handyman was worried he might have “prostrate cancer” and that Dr. Turner gently reminded him it is “prostate cancer,” For those of us who follow the show, it was a relief to find out that Fred did not have cancer, prostate or otherwise.

Today’s column is dedicated to a new round of bloopers, humorous mispronunciations, typos and even perhaps fossilized errors. Many of this column’s examples are from student papers.

One student wrote recently “My friends will go out and I will be couped up in the library studying” which makes it entertainingly easy to imagine him/her sitting in a small sports coup nestled among the library study carrels (sometimes referred to as study carols by the current college generation).

Another student used the verb hinder as in things that can hinder people from finding their path in life. He went on to describe various hindernesses (translation hindrances) confronting people who were trying to make something of their lives. I like this one very much. We already have kindness, tenderness and happiness. Why not add hinderness to this list as in beware the hindernesses of an unexamined life.

A third student blooper that wasn’t quite so felicitously phonological misused the verb matriculate, which means to be enrolled (officially on the list and paid for) in classes. This third sample went something like this “Adams, having matriculated through medical school, and now in his specialty, had to make a sacrifice,” a sentence that leaves one with the feeling that poor Adams spent his time endlessly enrolling in class as if stuck in a matriculation groundhog’s day.

And then there was the paper in which someone wrote about the large roll his grandfather plays in his life, an undoubtedly sincere sentiment that left me thinking Parker House or Kaiser? The winner, however, goes to the creator of the word “benefiticial” (I’m guessing the source is benefit + beneficial) used as follows: This researcher created a tool that is benefiticial to the field of medicine. It’s the closest linguistic resemblance I have seen yet to a word that works a bit like a Swiss army knife.

Some in the younger generation talk about rout memory in a unique combination of two different phrases: short-term memory and rote memorization. One student wrote “Factual knowledge is more or less the rout memory of specific facts.” This sentence was followed by the very perceptive observation that “teachers and students may well be wary of rout memorization.” My colleague in chemistry, Dr. Herb Sipe, chuckled when he told me that in the chem lab courses there are many student references to expirements, viles and chemical trails, as in Trail 1, Trail 2 and Trail 3. He also shared a recent blooper he’d read when a student described his credits as duel enrollment. It conjures up images of quarreling educational institutions proclaiming “Those are our credits! To which the other institution replies “They are not your credits. They are our credits and you have besmirched our honor. Pistols at dawn!”

Students are not the only ones who produce bloopers. A high ranking administrator of a local institution of higher education sent out a memo this year explaining what employees were to do in case of inclimate weather while another administrative type left a group of committee members wondering about a meeting agenda that he described as strait forward. This left the distinct impression that the meeting might involve a straitjacket and lots of forward movement. There was also a recently advertised dinner that promised on sight barbecue. I’ll leave you to your own imagination with that one. And finally, a colleague of mine, typing quickly, wrote an email about her students’ participation grapes that she hoped would reflect a reasonable curve. What a nice image – student grades that cluster like grapes on a vine resulting perhaps in delectable wine, filling the empty glass of a very tired teacher.

JULIA PALMER can be reached at jpalmer@hsc.edu.