“Their Morales are being boosted.”

Funny what a capital letter can do, no?

My student meant that Americans’ morale is “being boosted.” In that case, I have more of a problem with the passive “is being boosted,” since for me it conjures up a small kid being boosted over a wall by a larger kid, probably smack into some kid version of Trouble.

I don’t think I have ever pluralized “morale,” or have ever seen it pluralized. Webster’s particularly notes esprit de corps as one of the meanings, so clearly there’s no need to pluralize. My student seems to be doing her best, though, to keep everything plural, and the antecedent of “their,” in the previous sentence, is “Americans.” Many Americans, many morales, seems to be her reasoning. Okay, at least it’s reasoning, and at last she’s trying to apply a lesson to her actual work.

My second-biggest problem with the sentence is that capital letter. Capital letter on a word other than the first word of a sentence=proper noun. Ergo, Morales=name. I have had students whose surname was Morales. I have read about people whose surname is Morales. I used to like an actor whose surname was Morales. I recognize “Morales” as a surname; what’s more, I recognize it as a surname of Spanish origin. And so I revert to that mental picture of a kid being boosted over a wall, but now the kid is hispanic: his name is Morales. Okay, I guess if the verb is “are,” the noun should be “Moraleses”: a number of kids are going over that wall into Farmer Manzana’s apple orchard. Up and over, Up to No Good, bless them.

And now to reveal the biggest, most fundamental, Horror of this sentence. It is related, of course, to the ability (or lack thereof) of students to read and comprehend not only words but also tone, attitude, and relationship to reality.

My students had a Journal assignment that involved following in the news, for the semester, a topic of some controversy. They had to use multiple sources, seek multiple points of view. They had to collect the articles and then comment on them. My students really wind up liking this assignment, which culminates in their writing both a Letter to the Editor about one of their sources AND an argument about their topic using their Journal as their research. But sometimes their Journals reveal more than they are aware of.

In this case, I learned that some students do not know that The Onion is a satirical publication.

The article in question was a piece claiming that a recent fall in gasoline prices (at the pump) of several pennies per gallon had eclipsed or undone ALL our problems—including wars, global warming, unemployment, and the deficit—and made America #1 again, restoring everyone’s faith and pride in their country, the Leader of the Free World. The irony was heavy-handed, and I’d assume just about all the readers of The Onion got a good laugh or at least a knowing snicker out of it.

Not my student. Maybe for her, Morales is a cheerleader, and his fellow cheerleaders are boosting him to the top of their pyramid, where he will wave a little flag.

Luckily, the Journal itself is not writing that gets corrected. I did note in the margin “The Onion is SATIRE”; but then I moved on. What more of use could possibly be said?

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““Their Morales are being boosted.”

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