Things English Majors Say
I've been collecting this list for awhile, which means that I've actually had to pay attention in class. Let me preface this by admitting to having used all of these words, and all of them incorrectly. I only say them because I get lots of nods and "Mmhmmms" and then I feel the glimmer of victory and acceptance. Anywho, this list is meant as no disrespect to my fellow English majorians; there are just, you know, certain words that we all end up using over...and over...and over again.
Paradox: "All wisdom ends in paradox," quotes my professor multiple times. Jeffrey Eugenides knows what that means, but the only time I successfully use this word is when I talk about time-traveling. So paradox = weird things that happen when Hermione uses the Time-Turner. Or, when the end conclusion contradicts the beginning and yet is true...wait...I'm grasping it...NO! Lost it. Someone tell me what a paradox is.
Dichotomy: *WARNING* Everything has a dichotomy in an English class. It's what separates two opposite things. This is how I typically hear it used: "There's an interesting dichotomy between Harry and Voldemort..." or more accurately, "The dichotomy between the representations of good versus evil causes a paradoxical climactic procedural antithesis of a micro-cosmic velocity." Or something like that.
Juxtapose: I get this word mixed up with dichotomy. But the dichotomy is what we call the difference between the two things, while we juxtapose two things in order to achieve a dichotomy. So I'm going to juxtapose Harry's reaction to Dumbledore's death with Voldy's reaction to Dumbledore's death and examine the dichotomy between them.
Antithesis: This word sounds much cooler when people pronounce it like "an-tih-thih-sis" rather than "an-tee-thee-sis." I stumble over both pronunciations, so instead I just say, "Voldemort is the epitome of the opposite of Dumbledore," because that's basically what antithesis means. Love is the antithesis of hate. Mayonnaise is the antithesis of Cool Whip. You get the picture.
Arbitrary: When something is done arbitrarily, life falls to pieces! Or it means there is something we English majors can analyze, for why would Tom Riddle arbitrarily choose the name "Voldemort"? Unless "Voldemort" isn't arbitrary and actually has meaning, in which case we might assess where the name came from and whether it's an anagram for something else. But that would just be silly.
Implication: Implications are like ants. They're not there until you start looking for them, and suddenly you realize you've been standing in an anthill for fifteen minutes. Implications sort of exist to defy arbitrariness. For instance: there are no implications of the fact that the Dursleys live at Number Four, Privet Drive. That is, until we think about the fact that four people live in their house, and the fact that "Privet" sounds a lot like "private," and the Dursleys are very private about the fact that Harry is a wizard. ("I'm a what??!") Then we start to wonder what Rowling really meant, and suddenly there are so many implications of the fact that Harry grew up at Number Four, Privet Drive, and the next thing you know, Rowling has a sick obsession with the number four and Harry was only able to kill Voldy because of where the Dursleys live. (Ever notice there are four wizarding houses, four founders of the Marauder's Map, four Triwizard contestants, four Ministers for Magic, four house elves, four letters in Lily's name...?)
Assume: We're always assuming things. Or the narrator assumes we know things, or the protagonist assumes the narrator assumes that we assume that the protagonist doesn't realize the narrator exists. And we all know that assuming makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me," so DON'T DO IT. Unless you can back it up, and you better have made up lots and lots of implications of your assumption.
Precludes: For some reason, I want to twirl my much yearned for French mustache when I say this word. "Hmm hmmm, preclusion, you say?" *smokes pipe* (Because only the French have mustaches and smoke pipes.) When Harry destroys the Horcruxes, he precludes Voldemort's ability to live forever. Yay.
Context: It's all about the context! The story cannot exist outside of it. We can't read a book about a skinny boy with knobbly knees (whatever "knobbly" means) without viewing him in the proper context. Namely, part-time student, full-time wizard, and lover of Butterbeer. And that's basically all you need to know about Harry Potter.
Freud: The word used to explain strange and/or sexual things, or the word used to assign strange and/or sexual meaning to things that are either arbitrary or downright not creepy at all but simply normal. Harry has a particular connection with his mother. Couldn't possibly be because, you know, she gave birth to him and died to save him so he loves her a lot. It's probably Freud.
There are plenty, plenty more, but these words will have to placate you for now. Also, I realized that I say "the fact" a lot. Guess that's another thing English majors say. So.
The Fact: Filler words used to demonstrate something in an unnecessarily lengthy way.
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