December 14, 2010

So That's What You Meant...Right?

One of the joys of teaching high school English is reading student writing. While many teachers in other disciplines recoil in horror at the amount of reading and grading English teachers do, we tend to enjoy it because it is in student writing that we see their progress and share their epiphanies, their sudden bursts of insight and understanding. On the other hand, we also experience the kind of linguistic pile-ups that can leave a sentence, a paragraph, even an entire essay battered and bleeding.

Over the years, I’ve taken to collecting the bruised victims of those collisions, and rather than patching them up, I cruelly allow them to live as written for the mirth and merriment of others. Sometimes, I can infer what a student actually meant. Often, well, there’s just no telling. You’ll see what I mean.

For your Christmas merriment, enjoy the small gift of these sixty examples of good intentions, yet bizarre accomplishments, from my students!


(1) I’m Glad You Clarified That: “There was some dialogue when the characters spoke.”

(2) I’m Not Sure If I’m Glad You Clarified That: “From start to finish, the entire story had action. It was like having a climax the entire book.”

(3) So That Explains It: “When Charles Dickens was around, people did not have much of an imagination due to not having televisions.”

(4) He Can?: “Charles Dickens’ way of writing is unique because he can turn a sentence into a paragraph.”

(5) Starring As What?!: “The Princess Bride is a movie directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman. It starred Cary Elwes as Wesley, Robin Wright as Buttcup...”

(6) That’s A Good Thing: “When Mark Twain wrote this book he had the attention to write it the way he wrote the book.”

(7) Aren’t You More Or Less Born That Way?: “In the end she [Elizabeth Proctor] was saved and watched her husband become hung.”

(8) Uh, OK...: “The confusing was confusing and a let down in the happy ending department.”

(9) So That’s What Good Art Is!: “The work had good art like the contents of his stomach in the back seat.”

(10) Adventures In Gender Confusion: “This poem is called “The Truth The Dead Know” and the speaker is a mid-age man who has lost her husband in a tragic death.”

(11) I’d Like That Too: “This story was very good. I would like to finish the story some time.”

(12) Uh, I’m Not Sure You Got The Point...: “You could see the whole story in your head when Mr. McDaniel described the snot coming out of his mouth.”

(13) So That’s What Students Are Waiting For!: “When Mr. McDaniel was reading this piece of work it held the reader’s attention because the reader wanted to know if he was going to kill himself.”

(14) He Did? They Did?: “There were special effects with people coming out of the screen, and with the same person talking to each other...”

(15) They Are?: “The theme of ‘Roxanne’ is that someone that you are in love with might be cute, but the real people that love you are the ugliest person in the world.”

(16) You Do?: “The theme [of Cyrano DeBergerac] is a good plot of what might happen in life except the fact you may have a huge nose.”

(17) I’m Glad You Clarified That: “If I were to read it [a book] myself it probably would have had the same impact on me as if I were to read it myself. . . .”


(18) Well, Of Course!: “Yes, it is well composed because the composer (Mozart) knew what he was doing otherwise people wouldn’t have hired him to compose a Mozart piece.”

(19) She Was?!: “’Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive’” was very short and her voice was loud.”

(20) Well, Of Course! II: “The music totally enhanced the film to a new level because when no one was talking, it would have been silence.”

(21) Well, That Explains It: “The music was pretty loud but so was the lyrics. That is why this is pop music.”

(22) Images We Can Live Without #237: “It [an a capella piece of music] made ones back hairs stand up, and that’s neat when it happens.”

(23) Decisive Choices Department: “This music isn’t breaking new ground, but it isn’t innovative either. It’s right in the middle of both breaking new ground and innovative.”


(24) Standing Ovations For Shakespeare: “Perhaps we will never know why Shakespeare wrote the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet the way that he did. It will remain a mystery to the world. But I know one thing, if he did go out in public, tomorrow, and pull his pants down, people would applaud.”

(25) So That’s What Makes It Good!: “But overall the play [“Julius Caesar”] has a good theme, only because a lot of people die.”

(26) Fun With Shakespearean Cooking: “But on the good side of him [Brutus] he did stick to his pan...”

(27) It Has?!: “Julius Caesar was killed by his best friend, Brutus. This sort of thing has happened to me.”

(28) How To Win Friends And Influence People: “Mark Antony is a good friend basically because he stabbed one of his good friends...”


(29) Epic Greek Poem By A Ninth Grader: “Clever, quick and cunning, Leia got into Jabba’s palace. Her enemas is slow yet powerful. . . .”

(30) Greek Confusion #1: “The women in the Odyssey were treated vary badly because when they would sing the men would plug there ears. . . .”

(31) She Did What Where?!: “Since he [Odysseus] was gone for 20 years. . .his wife tested him on the bed that he made.”

(32) Greek Confusion #2:“The ancient Greeks were the first to develop a way of life.”

(33) That’s My Favorite Too: “My favorite part is where king Creon and Antigone were arguing and he sentenced her to death. I would like to do more of these plays.”


(34) I Knew Cape Cod Was Different, But...: “When the pressure came on he turned his back and ran to Cape Cod, to relieve himself.”

(35) This Is Either Really Insightful Or Amazingly Dense...: “America should fight to gain world peace. . .”

(36) Student Responding To A Teacher Request To Read Newspaper Editorials: “I tried reading some but it didn’t work.”

(37) That’s A Good First Step Alright: “Yet the facts are there that one major concern before teens consider an abortion is, “Am I Pregnant?”

(38) They Are? They Do?: “Humanities are called ‘sea cows’ that swim, and most of them die because of the boaters.”

(39) Are You Sure That Will Improve Your Grades?: “Now I am going to do a lot more studding, so my grades improve.”

(40) He Did?: “A mad scientist whose name we cannot mention, admitted that after seeing the movie he began experimenting to bring his own dead body back to life.”

(41) Who?: “Lovell had to travel to the moon with his crew, something that had only been accomplished once before by Lance Armstrong and his crew.”

(42) Why, Indeed?: “Why do you have to put such big words in this English book?”

(43) It Is?: “This technique [catching one by punishing all] is called a Buckwheat and is used by the Mafio.”

(44) She Did?: “Lilly ended up marring the second prince and she was the next queen.”

(45) It Was?: “He saw a woman taking a bath that was very, very pretty.”

(46) Sounds Like A Good Idea To Me: “I was privileged to be able to attend a Kendo class. It was a very enlightening experience. This was the only class that I was allowed to hit the teacher. There should be more classes like this.”

(47) So That’s Where It’s Done!: “Women today can do more because of feminine rights activists. They can vote and hold jobs and go out in public, which is done a lot in the mall.”

(48) I Guess We’re All Potential Victims...: “Good art leaves you feeling pleasant or in disbelief. If this ever happens, you have been a victim of good art.”

(49) I Hate It When That Happens!: “Satire is holding up individuales to riticual by the hyperboles.”

(50) It’s Good To Have Certainty...: “We have a strict definition for everything--mostly.”


(51) In Depth Scholarship Department: “In order to tell you about this religion or belief, I had to do a whole bunch of research, stretching over a long period of time; a week and a half.”

(52) He Had A Dream: “The father of the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther King.”

(53) I Really Hate It When That Happens: “The freedom of religion is best cuz you ain’t forced to believe in something that you believe is right.”

(54) Profiles In Religious Persistence #2049: “Jesus is the best example of courage. Even though he had it the hardest, he still hung in there.”

(55) Well, That Explains A Lot...: “Today, Utah remains the main place for Morons to worship freely. . .”


(56) I’m Glad To Hear That: “I learned that I am a better person than I who I am being am.”

(57) Are You Sure?: “ can find it in many books...around here...somewhere...”

(58) The Horror...: “Police and firefighters [were] helping people. That was terrible.”

(59) Uh...What?: “Then in 8th grade, I got on the A [volleyball] team and I was the only white girl. I loved it.”

(60) Limited Experience Department: “It is not only the only Latin piece I have heard, it is the best Latin piece I have heard.”

Posted by MikeM at December 14, 2010 12:30 AM

Thank you SO much for sharing this! Tears of laughter.

And loss.

This is the kind of thing my Dad and I used to share. It's nearing the 3rd anniversary of his passing, and I still miss him dearly.

I choose to see your post as a bit of a "shout out" from Dad. Your lovely turn of phrase in the intro, and the utterly WRONG turns by the students. The kids of the future may only be semi-literate, but at least they amuse us!

Posted by: Less at December 14, 2010 02:16 AM

We would live in a better world if people would just take the time to proofread. Not as funny maybe, but still better.

Posted by: Walt at December 14, 2010 05:18 AM

Keep laughing. Someday the kids who read with comprehension and write well will all be reporting to adults who write like the kids in these post. Their reports will come back rewritten in this fractured English with the arrogant red ink of "leaders" who have never found it convenient, much less necessary, to learn to write.

Posted by: Jim at December 14, 2010 08:15 AM

Thank you for posting this!! Lots of laughter! Sent it to my high school english teacher and several HS friends who now write for a living . . .

Posted by: Nina at December 14, 2010 09:18 AM

“Charles Dickens’ way of writing is unique because he can turn a sentence into a paragraph.”

I have to agree with the student's opinion. Dickens was paid by the word, wasn't he?

Posted by: Rob at December 15, 2010 09:42 AM

About #7,

Just when, exactly, did "hung" become so filthy? Weren't stockings once hung by chimneys with care? Why did we let "hung" become a dirty word, and isn't it about time we took it back and used it as it is properly used?

"Bob was hung by the neck until dead, which result only Crazy Tim found in any way salacious."

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at December 16, 2010 09:44 PM