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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Forbidden Words

I told my undergraduate class not to use the words interesante, diferente, importante, and cosa. Four words that they just had to do without. I wrote this in capital letter in English on the assignment sheet. JUST DO NOT USE ANY OF THESE WORDS. It might seem an arbitrary constraint, but it forces them to look for other, more varied vocabulary items rather than relying on the four favorite words of undergraduate Spanish students. The list is short on purpose: I wanted to concentrate on a few to begin with. I could have prohibited bueno, malo, personas, etc...

Of course, I got papers using these words in abundance. I guess I should have used caps, bold-face, and 16-point type for my warning, with some obscentiies thrown in.

Scholars should have forbidden words too. Problematize is a good one to start with.

2 comments:

Clarissa said...

Oh, what I great idea! I'm sick and tired of reading yet another essay saying that "Don Quijote es una obra interesante." Next time I will try this strategy for sure.

At this point, I'm struggling with the word "cuento." For some reason, everything is "un cuento" to the students: a novel, an essay, and even a poem. I also explained the difference ad nauseam but with no result. I even told them to forget it and just use the word "obra" if they can't keep track. Still, there are quite a few people who informed me that El libro de buen amor is "un cuento."

Jonathan said...

Even some of the best students still are writing cuento when they mean historia or novela. I'm putting that in the style guide for the next assignment, along with these four forbidden words.