Quarter-life crisis: The Brown-isms I hate now but will miss when I graduate

1980s alternative day

After 3.5 years in college, I’ve been accustomed to hearing the same phrases semester after semester. Some phrases I’ve gotten used to without affect, other phrases just suck. I thought about the many clichés and redundant sayings I’ve heard on college and realized that while I find them annoying now and perhaps have taken them for granted, they’re a part of the student experience. After leaving Brown, I know I’ll miss not hearing them in the same context; outside of the Brunonian realm, these sayings take an whole new meanings. Here are the winners for the question, statement, and word I hate now, but will miss after college.

Stupid Question: “What’s your concentration?”

Hate it now: As college students, we have a whole palette of conversation starters. We have the constant cyborg-like questions like “how are you?” and “sup?” Similarly, “how was your break?” and “which classes are you taking?” are both questions which fortunately have grace periods. Questions like these don’t bother me, because they don’t downplay our intelligence, memories, and interests in our fellow students to the extent that “what’s your concentration?” does.

“What’s your concentration?” is the question that deserves the least repetition in asking, yet requires the most. If you are a freshman or an undeclared sophomore, it’s tolerable, and you naively think people care about genuinely care about your academic interests. To everyone else, this question blows. Think of the myriad of students who have asked you this question. Most of them are repeat offenders. For some reason, no one remembers anyone’s concentration. Forget about acquaintances—even roommates may not know their other roommates’ concentrations. Maybe few people actually care about the answer. Unless you have the same concentration as person who asked, both parties will forget what either is studying.

We all have acquaintances who have asked us what we’re studying multiple times. If they didn’t remember the first 12 times, they won’t remember on try 13. If a person wants to feign politeness, they will say, “What’s your concentration, again?” It’s ironic that the question regarding concentration, garners no such thing.

Miss it later: The very fact that we say “concentration.” In the real world, people will ask us what our “majors” are. I will just ignore them and walk away.

Stupid Statement: “That’s a good question.”

Hate it now: When a teacher responds to a student’s inquiry by saying, “That’s a good question,” you might as well kiss your arbitrary 5% participation grade goodbye. In truth, teachers hate the “good question.” In teacher talk, “That’s a good question, Billy” translates to “Fuck you, Billy.” Teachers describe a question as good when they don’t know the answer and as such, his/her lack of knowledge about an academic topic he/she lives for has been exploited. “That’s a good question” is sort of a cover up for “I don’t know” but with saving face in front of the students. The student equivalent to this is when we ask a professor a question only to tune out the teacher’s ten-minute response, to which he asks, “Do you understand?” and not knowing what the fuck he just said, we respond saying with a “yes.”

Trust me, teachers don’t want the good questions, they want the shitty questions. It’s the shitty questions that maintain the flow of the class, remind students who Mr. or Mrs. Bossman is, and allow the professor not to lose sleep over trivial facts that jeopardize their impeccable knowledge. Remember, teachers live off paradox: they’ll take off a letter grade at 3:01 p.m. if the paper has a 3 p.m. deadline, yet take three weeks to insert a few scantrons in that scantron-vagina machine. In the bassackwards world of teachers, a good question is not so.

Miss it later: If my boss replied to me, “That’s a good question,” there’s a likely chance I’ll be cleaning out my desk shortly.

Stupid Word: Interesting

Hate it now: Let’s face it – everything is interesting! The class is interesting; the reading is interesting; the experiment is interesting. If people describe something as interesting, they aren’t giving you any valuable insight. Interesting can describe anything. Think of the least interesting man in the entire world; living in Wagadoogo, sitting on his couch, wearing only boxers, and eating a can of Kalkalash while watching The Drew Carey Show. He sounds so uninteresting, yet I’m so interested in how he became so damn uninteresting.

“Interesting” is to objects as “nice” is to people. There might be a person you think is selfish, insincere, and just plain sucks. If a stranger asks what you think of the person, you might politely describe him as “nice.” The word “interesting” is also a cover-up about how you might feel about something, or it demonstrates that you don’t have an opinion on the topic at all. If it were up to me, I’d eliminate “interesting” from the dictionary.

Miss it later: “Interesting” is a staple word for any student who didn’t do the assigned reading, but has to bullshit what they thought about it. Isn’t that what MCM and college are all about?

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