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    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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In a word

Sometime I should sit down and write down the funny things my students consistently say, like calling the track/soccer field the “playground” or the circular grassy area in the center of our campus with an asphalt path around it the “garden.”  Despite my best attempts to wipe this word from their vocabulary, my 16-year old students still say that they “played” with their classmates over the weekend.  They will always called their Chinese rice alcohol “white wine,” despite the fact that it isn’t made from grapes.

If I keep going, I would be making good on that list.

One particular pet peeve of mine in my students’ writing is that they love the phrase “in a word.”  A student will use this phrase, after which you are expecting, well, a word.  But no.  This may be followed by a sentence or perhaps several summarization sentences.

I was reading G0d At The Dock tonight by C. S. Lewis and he gasp! used the dreaded phrase.

“In a word, it is always either doing, or at least repenting with shame for not having done, all the things which secular humanitarianism enjoins.” — page 147

So what do you think?  Must “in a word” be followed by a single word, or is an entire phrase allowable?

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One Response

  1. I remember discovering the exact same horror in Lewis’ writing one night. Lisa and I were appalled. I think it may have given me a degree of forgiveness towards my students though 🙂

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