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Academic Bullsh*t

January 28, 2013

Everyone who teaches a class in my department eventually leaves a paper or two in the faculty lunch room, hoping either to draw laughter or ridicule, or to instill awe. One linguistics prof who believes that he invented language and who sponsors the biggest jerks from his ONE undergraduate class for a scholarship and a graduate assistantship occasionally lays a student’s paper on the table. Those whom he catches reading it are usually subject to examination regarding the quality of his star student’s rhetoric. For this reason, most of us try not to be caught reading any of his students’ papers. The last one that I read contained a passage quite similar to this:

               “…So far, the earlier discussion of deviance delimits an important distinction in    language use. Thus a subset of English sentences interesting on quite independent grounds can be defined in such a way as to impose problems of phonemic and morphological analysis…”

Translation: Drivel. That’s all it is. It’s nonsensical crap.This is how academics think they should write. Perhaps this is how they should speak as well so we know who they are and avoid them. This prof, generally, has little good to say about students’ work unless it resembles this kind of drivel. Well-written academic, nonpseudointellectual prose is regarded with scorn. This began to occur well-before the invention of the bullshit generator.

I invented a student and printed out (from an online bullsh*t generator) what appeared to be part of a paper and laid it on the table in the faculty lunch room:

So far, the earlier discussion of deviance delimits an important distinction in language use. Thus a subset of English sentences interesting on quite independent grounds can be defined in such a way as to impose problems of phonemic and morphological analysis. We will bring evidence in favor of the following thesis: an important property of these three types of EC is, apparently, determined by a parasitic gap construction. Of course, the systematic use of complex symbols does not readily tolerate nondistinctness in the sense of distinctive feature theory. Clearly, the descriptive power of the base component is to be regarded as irrelevant intervening contexts in selectional rules.

I stood and listened to a few oohs and aahs as some of the faculty read it during breaks. I also heard a lot of “Who is this student ‘Prater’? Is it a boy or a girl?” and “Did a student from this department write this?”

Soon, the search was on. Coincidentally, there had been a Prater enrolled in the university but she was a prelaw major who graduated the previous semester, so she had slipped through the department’s hands and escaped the ignoble fate of being lured into becoming an English major.

 

 

 

 

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