Wednesday, October 10, 2007

teaching gaffes

It's often unwise to teach slang or more stilted forms of English because the students have a tendency to (1) overuse what they learn and (2) use it in the wrong context. I appear to have made this basic pedagogical mistake in my CNN English class: the first lesson I taught this semester came not from CNN, but from a Marmot's Hole article about a certain Jason Lee, a Korean-American who defended his Philadelphia diner from two robbers by shooting them: one was killed, the other injured. The blog post used the locution "popped a cap in his ass," which I explained was a slang term for "shot him." What I should have done, however, was impress upon my students the fact that they shouldn't be using such an expression when writing practice sentences. Here's the howler I got yesterday from a student practicing the verb "to gore," which came from a chapter in the CNN textbook about the yearly Running of the Bulls in Pamplona:

The bull wants to gore the hunter, but the hunter pops a cap in the bull's ass.

I'm at the office and trying like hell not to cackle like a mad scientist.



Sean said...

Yeah, whenever I teach idioms or slang (which is rare) I always preface it with a don't use this. It's only for comprehension followed by an exlanation of why.

But invariably someone will at a later time prove my point by pulling something like your example out of their ass.

Anonymous said...

This could make you a few hundred bucks if you send it in to Reader Digest.

Reminds me of a Japanese exchange student I knew as an undergrad who was always trying to perfect cursing in English. He’d be in the check-out line in Wal-Mart saying, “ho-oly f*cking sh*t!” (drawn out “holy”), trying to get it just right. Took me awhile to set him right.

Anonymous said...

That is hysterical.

Although when I first read the post title, I thought it said "teaching giraffes." And I was thinking, "Yeah, I can see how that might present some challenges."