Friday, December 07, 2007

Things I Said in Anglo-Saxon Literature

One of my students in Anglo-Saxon Literature this semester kept a list of things I said that he found amusing. Maybe you will as well.

On false impressions of the Middle Ages) Well, you tell Prof. Mulholland [specialist in 18th-C] that everyone in the Eighteenth Century had syphilis.

(In Yoda voice): Told you I did. Listen you did not. Now screwed we all shall be. There. I just showed you why natural languages don't use VSO order and summarized the Star Wars I-III.

The Finnish language looks like someone threw some vowels on a plate and shook it real hard.

I went through grammar school in the 70's and 80's when they didn't teach us any actual content--we just expressed ourselves all the time.

(On bloodletting) You get a nice slash from a dirty lancet, and you'll feet better--until you get festering gangrene.

It's a happy day when you have vowels. Otherwise it's like speaking Eastern European languages that only have consonants.

I definitely get the impression that Dutch and Finnish used up all the vowels and so there were none left when the other languages got to pick.

(On the wolf in The Passion of St. Edmund) "I am in ur woodz, garding ma haid."

(On circumcision and conversion) "I have to cut off what? I'll stay pagan, thanks."

(On why Athelstan's not having children does not mean he was gay) There were plenty of European rulers who were gay and had children... they just closed their eyes and thought of England for a few minutes.

I've always said that Beowulf should have beaten Grendel with the arm after he ripped it off while yelling at the monster "Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself, huh?" -- Yes, I have a little brother. Why do you ask?

If you want to know what a gusla sounds like, imagine a cat being fed through a wood-chipper.

(Repeatedly) We in medieval studies often make a fuss about how intellectually studly we are.

Unless you are Nathaniel Hawthorne, you don't need to use the word "sepulcher." And if you are Nathaniel Hawthorne, you use it every six lines.

It's always good to have a talk about cannibalism. Plus, it's in the Vercelli Book, so Score! I'm all set.

Athelthryth -- I can't imagine why that name hasn't made a comeback.

Anglo-Saxon fun: "Let's go drink a lot. And: let's bring weapons!"

My Anglo-Saxon class this year is more intelligent and motivated than my Anglo-Saxon class eight years ago. Don't pat yourself on the back -- I'm still going to make you suffer.


John Cowan said...

Umm, say what? VSO? Celtic? Older Semitic? Much of Austronesian, the largest language family on Earth?

Anyhow, Yoda-ese is more like OSV, though none of your examples show that ("When 900 years old you reach" does, though). VOS is rare, certainly, but not undocumented. A few languages of Brazil use it as the basic order.

And according to Wikipedia, Sardinians often use it when speaking Italian, and it's certainly common in Yiddish and Yiddish-influenced English ("Two tickets to her concert I should buy??!")

Dr. Virago said...

You're hilarious! I have a feeling I say odd/funny things throughout the semester, but no one ever bothers to write them down, darnit.

I'm going to have to remember your comeback to the 18th-centurist. *Love* it.

As for Aethelthryth...well, there are a few Audreys around, aren't there? Although, as I mused to *my* class, when *we* were doing the Life of Aethelthryth, "Hm. Audrey isn't one of the old-fashioned names to make a comeback yet. Maybe it's because people are worried about their daughter being called 'tawdry Audrey' on the playground. Hm, but how many grade schoolers know the word 'tawdry'? Maybe they're worried about high school mockery." To which one of my students replied, "That's some serious planning ahead." Hee.

Sheryl McDonald said...

john cowan you took the words right out of my mouth. thank you!

bathtoaster said...

yes, but are they HALF as endearing as we were? After all, they made a video of us.

Debbie G said...

Those are wonderful! My only (in)famous teaching moments were when I used the word "cunt" when teaching Donne and comparing the Romantic Poets to sex (Shelley is foreplay, Keats is the moment right before orgasm, Wordsworth is the cigarette afterwards. Byron watches through the keyhole.)

highlyeccentric said...

eeeehe! you are quite the humourous lecturer...

Hrothulf said...

....natural languages don't use VSO order....

According to traditional grammar, insular Celtic has VSO. However, Celtic does have an unnatural feel to it, and according to some newfangled generative grammar theory there is some "extended projection principle" that implies that VSO is not the real structure in those languages which show it.

Anonymous said...

Bwaaah! That made me laugh until I cried. Thanks.

Also, BTW, thanks for your lecture series on CD (_Rings, ..._ etc. ), which I enjoyed listening to this summer, and thanks for the _Tolkien Encyclopedia_, which I couldn't afford, though I did convince my school library to buy a copy.

Anyway -- keep up the good work!


Another Damned Medievalist said...

Oh, I so needed to see this today! Fantastic!