I’ve been teaching English literature and writing at the college level for a long, long time; and, like most of my tribe, I have over the years amassed an impressive collection of, what? student bloopers… horrors… howlers… “fizzies,” as colleagues at one school term them…

Confronted with my corrections, comments, questions, many students respond, “But you knew what I meant!” Ah, usually I did—that’s why I found the originals so funny.

And what masochistic fun it is to share them. That’s one of the intentions of this blog.

The other intention is to think seriously about them, because no student in my experience ever intended to turn in a paper offering illiteracies and bizarre misprisions—despite the stumbles, the writer does “mean .” As Mina Shaughnessy wrote years ago, behind the error is the writer’s expectation, a belief that he or she has said something.

Long before Prof. Shaughnessy,  T.S. Eliot wrote

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow…

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow…

The intention of this blog is to examine the shadow—not only the shadow that comes between the writer’s intention and the actual utterance, but also the distracting shadow-pictures that dance between the mind of the reader and the text.

For a longer discussion of my motives and methods, see my first post, “This should be one of the easier tests to do, because there is nothing involved, but thinking.”

Your comments, and your contributions from your own collection, are welcome.

24 responses to “About

  • yearstricken

    Hi RAB,

    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award because I enjoy and admire your blog. There are some rules that go with it. I broke one of them, but I don’t think anyone will notice. If you have done this before or it’s not something you really want to do, file it away. I understand.

    Here are the rules:

    1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
Share 7 things about yourself.

    3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.

    4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

    Thank you for all your great posts.

  • yearstricken

    It took me about a week.

    Congratulations on your show — how exciting. I need to check out your director’s blog.

  • Pat

    Thought of you this morning when I read the following headline on the news:
    “Indianna toddler found in field after tornadoes taken off life support.”
    I guess we’ve finally found a way to disable a tornado! Hooray for us!

    • RAB

      Oh them misplaced modifiers!

      • RAB

        A sad follow-up on this story is headlined, in Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast,” as “Baby Found After Tornado Dies.” Does the verb belong to “baby” or “tornado”? On first read, the obvious meaning is that a baby was found after a tornado died down. Only the re-reading provides mental hyphens to show what the headline writer meant: “Baby-found-after-tornado dies.” I tell my students my job is to MISunderstand them when possible (just like my occasional job as a copy editor!). Why didn’t the Daily Beast copy editor catch this? I presume publishers still use copy editors….

  • tranquilspace

    You really should hear my husband. He seems to ‘feel’ language, but quite often either makes words up or gets them terribly wrong. It is utterly beautiful and frequently hilarious.

  • funnyphilosopher

    I taught philosophy as an adjunct for less than 3 years. I wish I had saved some of the written bloopers and odd statements. Off the top of my head, 2 come to mind:
    1) “Philosophy: Many meanings, none of them true.”
    2) “Hume believed that morality was based on sediment.” (“Sediment” was used repeatedly.)

    • RAB

      Either morality is murky, then, or it’s heavy. Well, perhaps not that bad a word choice, albeit I’ll bet not what the writer meant to say. I wish you’d saved more of them, too! Somewhere in this blog I believe I’ve got the literature equivalent to that cri-de-coeur definition of Philosophy: “Poetry is when you don’t say what you mean.” Thanks for posting!

  • Khaula Nazir

    One beautiful blog!

  • kokkieh

    I’ve never looked at The Hollow Men in this way. I taught high school English for a few years to learners who did not speak it as first language, but their errors were more frustrating than entertaining. I think you have an excellent idea here.

  • Stuck

    I think I’m going to like it here. Thanks for the amusement and learning!

  • Hakan Guzhan

    Hi ,

    I landed on your web page while I was surfing on the internet.
    Thanks for the helpful articles.
    I liked reading them.

    I am running the I.A.C – Inscribink Authors’ Circle. We are a developing website with 10K+ followers on Facebook.

    Would you be interested in sharing one of your articles on our website, with as many links as you wish in it?

    Or, would you be interested in being one of the writers on our new website project?

    Thanks for considering. Let me know if you have any questions.
    P.S. (Your article must be not be published before.)


    Hawk G.
    Founder of I.A.C

    • RAB

      Hi. These sound like interesting possibilities–can you send more information? I went to inscribink and didn’t see anything quite like what I do….

      • Hakan Guzhan

        Hi there again!
        Thanks for the prompt reply…

        Inscribink is a community where various genres and niches come together and blend into one magazine paper.

        Please check our link for the guest posts below:


        If you still have questions, please feel free to contact me.

        Inscribink community will be looking forward to read your posts…


        Hawk G.

      • Hawk G.

        Hello again RAB,

        We have literature section, too, where we love sharing short stories and even series of stories. Also, we love publishing literature critics.

        Whenever you feel like, you can email me your articles to info@inscribink.com, along with your name/author bio/author photo/social links(Facebook-twitter) to be added in your author info section below the article.

        I shall be looking forward to see your article on Inscribink.com

        Hawk G.
        Editor, Inscribink.com

  • Humanities vs Science: is writing a dying art? – Ecology is not a dirty word

    […] academic disciplines have a very active blogging culture – Jeremy names economics as one; but literarians, historians, antiquities/classics researchers, sociologists and archaeologists are all over the […]

  • synergynow66

    Well you have me in a ‘sweat’?

  • Emily

    This is a great blog. I look forward to reading more!

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