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What's your pleasure?

At Johnson, R.L.G. invites readers to suggest what he should blog about. It would be unworthy to suggest that he does this to spark some reader-generated content on a day when inspiration flags.

But that’s precisely the case with me. I’m happy to make the same offer. Some of you are already in the habit of sending me links, questions, suggestions, alarums. So I’ll always take requests.

I make that offer partly out of apprehension that I go on too much about the same things. That is why I suggest that if you are upset about Wikipedia’s being unavailable today during the protest against SOPA, you could give a try at consulting reputable sources. But I’m not going to fulminate about the unreliability of Wikipedia as I have so often in the past.


Reminder: What with the holiday and the delayed posting, and then the first day of classes* followed by making all those paragraphs yesterday, I’ve neglected to remind you that your word of the week is available. It’s pleonasm. Cozen is already cued up for next week, but we needn’t get ahead of ourselves.


*Those young people worry me. If they are just going to sit there staring at me for the next twelve weeks of classes, it’s going to be a long slog. There is, however, one who appears to recognize jokes, which is faintly encouraging.



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:15 PM | | Comments (8)


hi John,
Do we perhaps need an explanation of why some newspapers follow Times style on "who" vs. "whom"? Check out Lingua Franca for a lively discussion of this topic:

How about this?

OK, sure. How about sports writers doing things like, "The Kings have beat the Canucks twice" ?

If it's OK, must I say that I have see this before and I have give it lots of thought?

Error? Exception? Advance scout for a wave of changes?

Thanks for the invitation. I for one would enjoy your takes on life in and around Baltimore City.

Mr. McIntryre,
I've read your blog for quite some time without commenting, but your worry about "those young people" in today's post is one I share. My chemistry students filed in on Monday and in one class I was delighted that two of the nearly forty seemed to recognize my attempts at humor. Perhaps their classmates will pick up on it. In the other class, sadly, there's work to be done or it will indeed be a long slog.

What's cause for consternation is if they laugh, but you weren't joking.

I don't reckon these days that the average college undergrad's sense of humor is any more, or less lacking than the next guy's; but I could see where sleep deprivation induced by perhaps too much late-night extracurricular 'activity' (I don't have to spell it out) might deaden the slightly brain-dead student's laugh-out-loud response to a lecturer's valiant attempt at humor, particularly in those very early morning lectures.

Just staying awake and half-focused on the lecture material at-hand could be a challenge for many, let alone picking up, and then responding to the prof's occasional attempts at jocularity.

My adjunct professor girlfriend teaching human/ political geography at Cal State University Long Beach for the past several years finds those early-morning, large freshman classes particularly challenging in terms of keeping her sea of students from lapsing into apparent catatonia, staring blankly ahead like startled deer in the head lights, or like wayward somnambulists faking that they're actually awake.

She tells me she sometimes resorts to light self-deprecating humor to stir her more moribund students, but that tactic can only go so far before one's basic self-respect becomes somewhat compromised. HA!

Of course, there are always those disruptive students who are either chronically late for class, or those that just get up and leave the lecture hall like they have more pressing issues to attend to. And then they grouse, and plead for mercy at end-of-semester when they've received a "D-" on their final term paper.

Alas, such are some of the seeming universal challenges of teaching at the college level.
For many a veteran lecturer it's often that rare handful of clearly highly focused, motivated, proactive, and engaged, not-humor-challenged youngsters who show up each semester and immediately get-with-the-program, so to speak, that can make teaching at the highest level such a rewarding , fulfilling, and indeed, noble life's calling.

Ofttimes that 'enlightened', engaged handful of first-year students fails to show up EVERY semester, and that's when the professor/ lecturer really earns their teaching stripes. Where, as blogger Bryan earlier stated, "it will be a long slog". (And that's no JOKE.)

I wish all you teaching academics out there a fine, rewarding winter/ spring semester, and that you can tickle at least a few young funny-bones out there. A little humor CAN go a long way.


My technique is to tell the students - after I make my first joke that garners absolutely no response - "It's polite to laugh when I think I'm being funny." This actually works.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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