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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

No Dichotomy

There is an evil, an ugly ferret-faced disease plaguing this campus. Most are frightfully unaware of it; only a few enlightened investigators have been able to uncover the rotten maw of this gaping decline of civilization. What, you may ask, could be such a threat to humanity? It is this, my children: the death of simple language.

No more do people say what they mean (as for meaning what they say, that concept has prior been long dead). Instead, they feel the need to inflate their words with ostentatious pomposity. They use what my friend Ariel likes to call "ten cent words": those that are plentiful in syllables and obscurity but rather empty in meaning. By the "they" using such words, I mean professors (obviously), but also certain students who have already begun to rise to the top of their linguistic gorge. These latter are those who will someday don their own jackets with patches on the elbows and decry the decline of structuralism. We will examine the habits of professors first.

First, this hideous word "dichotomy." Where the hell did it come from? Why must EVERYONE use it? Before Dartmouth, I had never heard this word, and I dare say I ran with at least half-way intelligent crowds. I got along fine without it. Then I came here, and all of the sudden it was everywhere. "Well, I think there's a dichotomy between fantasy and reality." Thank you. Without the benefit of an Ivy League education I may never have come to this epiphany. "There's an interesting dichotomy there." No! No dichotomy is interesting. It is impossible for something laden down with such a ponderous word to be considered interesting. Anything saddled with "dichotomy" automatically becomes coated with the allergenic dust of haut-academia. I hear it all around me. This term, I decided to listen especially for it in my three classes. First I heard it in Japanese class. Then I heard it in English class. Finally, at the peak of absurdity, I heard it in French class: "Il y a une dichotomie"! I nearly screamed international curses on the spot.

If dichotomy were the only offender in the area, I could handle it. I could challenge it to a showdown at high noon: I with my pistol-quick wit, it with the club of heavy-handedness. I would unwind it and send it spiraling into an unraveled pile of verbiage. But no there are far too many challengers in this parsimonious thicket. Listen for "inculcated." When did people start saying this? Whatever happened to a lovely little word like "ingrained"? In-cul-cate: the two hard c's are displeasing to the ear. There's a reason why "cacophony" has two hard c's, after all. Or unpleasant words like "coconut", "calculate", "Coca-Cola", or "ka-ka." Another fetid word rampant in professorial discourse: "hermeneutic." It sounds either kinky or surgical: both inappropriate for scholastic dissertation. Then there's "liminality." This is something that somebody made up at some point, and some of his buddies thought it was cool and thus made it popular. "Man right now I'm feeling sort of liminal." "That sounds phat, let's write it down." I personally lead a liminal life, but I never call it such a thing. Microsoft Word doesn't even recognize that one. How about "Vis--vis"? I actually heard a fellow student say this term in her answer to a professor's question. I promptly struck her in the head, of course. Why needlessly steal from the French?

And why are there these confederates among the ranks, so to speak? Some students sound as if they're trying to earn their "incomprehensible professor" badge early. They want to take concepts "to the next level." What's the matter with this level? These people are nothing but ingratiating sycophants, not pursuers of true erudition. I tell them to analyze hermeneutically the dichotomy between the level of my boot and the level of their ass.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a negative person. Perhaps I rail with maledictions against the decerebrate word choices that people are making these days. But I believe everyone is capable of change, even the most rhetoric-bound sophisticates. Instead of specimens of the impenetrable and uncomely, I propose a virtual parnassian panoply of scholastic words to be created. We will appreciate words for their beauty and usefulness, not for the measure of intimidation that they create in their hearers. We will shed supernal light on the driest academic treatises. Are you a lover of beauty and an enemy of the overblown? Join my crusade.