Friday, March 10, 2006

School words

Every so often I'll hear a word on NPR or television news that rings a school bell with me. You know the words I mean - the ones that were used a lot in the classroom pertaining to specific areas of studies or behavior that you never run across in real life unless you're a rocket scientist or farmer or prissy old crone (and there's nothing to say you can't be all three at the same time).

Here are some of the school words I've heard lately:
  1. Integer. Oh, come on. Real people in real life call 'em numbers, but in math class they had to be called "integers."
  2. Potash. I'm not really sure what this is - I have an image of rich, ashy dirt, but I'm not willing to stake my life on it or Google it. Remember all those geography lessons about potash and anthracite and soy beans?
  3. Mischievous. It was used a lot with me as a child. (Guess I'm doomed on that background check, hm?). Except that here in the South, it was pronounced "mis-chee-vee-us," which sounds much more wicked, don't you think? But no one really uses the word, rightly or wrongly, today. Definite school word.
  4. Permanent Record. Boy, they had us quaking in our Buster Browns over that thing. "Too many absences will go on you permanent record and you'll never get a job." "This behavior will be noted on your permanent record and you'll never get a job." "These grades will be entered in red ink on your permanent record and you'll never get a job." I asked my boss at Turner Broadcasting once if he'd checked my permanent record before hiring me, and he laughed his arse off. A few years ago I tried to track down my elementary school/junior high/high school permanent record, to no avail. I think once you made it to college, said record was thrown into the pits of Hell. Permanent, indeed. Good luck on that one, background-checkers!
  5. Tardy. Late, you mean? Can you imagine a red-faced, angry boss or client screaming as some poor schmuck gets to a meeting five minutes after the start time, "You're tardy!" Ooooh! How threatening! But schoolteachers and principals do love 'em some "tardy."

Got hundreds of 'em, but those are five that I've heard in the past few days. Any old school words lurking around in your brain?


petercmoore said...

"Permanent Record". He he - that's a great way to keep the kids in line. Think of all the collusion that teachers had to do to keep that myth real all through your schooldays.

We didn't have anything like that over here. But we did have regular school reports:

Facetious: The one word that I remember cropping up on more than one occasion when describing me. Funny that I never grew out of it. Seems that I didn't take it for the negative trait that the teachers thought it was.

petercmoore said...


I just looked-up "facetious" (for the first time in my life) and it has the following meanings:

Jolly; humourous; light-hearted.

The word comes from the Latin (via French) meaning "witty".

The dictionary gives it no negative connotations whatsoever.

So why do teachers invest it with negativity. Do they really think that 13- or 14-year old boys are better off being serious and glum than humorous and witty?

MaryB said...

Yes! Facetious! My dear 6th grade teacher - now good friend and practically a family member - was the first one to call me facetious when I was 11 or 12. She wouldn't tell me what it meant, and in typical school-marm fashion told me to look it up. Well, the way she pronounced it sounded like it started with a "v" and not an "f" so it took me forever to track it down. But like you, PT, I never saw anything wrong with being facetious. Why, I wear the label proudly, my friend. I must remember to ask Marilyn how she meant it, if she even remembers calling me facetious. (Dewey, if you're reading this, ask her for me!)

A definite school word. (And I suspect PT and I would get along like a house afire, two facetious folks that we be.)

Chris said...

'Tardy' was the answer to clues in two seperate crossword puzzles that I did this weekend. Wow!!