On another blog about three years ago, I recalled my satirical column for my high school’s newspaper.  The column I called “Tlansrations.”  I had learned from MAD Magazine’s “What They Say / What They Mean” features that to deconstruct could be amusing and revealing.

I reprint my blog entry of three years ago below for reconsideration of the euphemisms and silliness of my campus’s discourse.

“The Senate has raised a technical objection.” tlansrates to“To invoke explicit rules is in poor taste and perhaps malicious.”

When apologists for campus rule-breakers thus dismiss violations of the Faculty Code or Bylaws, they go beyond Harry Callahan’s beliefs that rights and rules are for prisses. They explicitly or implicitly claim that rule-breakers have pursued higher justice by any means necessary. [Stop laughing! They are serious!] What is more, this “mere technicality” trope subtly incorporates the Confiden­tiality Con: if confidentiality permitted decision-makers to explain their actions, faculty of good will would understand and applaud but, alas, such accountability is not per­mitted by custom. By a remarkable, pithy sentence, then, practices warranted by no explicit authority overpower mandated rules. What the Faculty Code states in so many words becomes the merest trifle; decanal self-aggrandizement and/or committees’ evasions and delusions that contradict the explicit rules become controlling authority.
“This is getting personal.” tlansrates to “This may expose too much truth.”

In ordinary usage “personal” denotes what is private or individuated, but campus usage incorporates the connotation “inappropriately candid, open, or transparent.” When a person or side with whom a colleague identifies is being confronted by truths that hurt, the colleague may say that “this has gotten personal,” especially when the truths relate to governance and are vigorously being denied. “Personal issues” include matters elimi­nated from public discussion by decree or by confidentiality, no matter how crucial the matter to governance, understanding, or integrity. The variability of subtext that invoca­tions of “personal” permit boggles the mind, which is of course the political purpose be­hind the professed solicitude for feelings. “This is getting personal” tlansrates sometimes to “I do not care to answer,” sometimes to “I do not know what to say,” sometimes to “You are very rude to raise what I cannot plausibly deny,” sometimes to “I have a very small penis,” and on occasion to “How un­kind of you to respond in kind to my attacks on you.” In governance, “pursuing per­sonal agenda” or “for personal reasons” connotes that actions or arguments are not consis­tent with the personal agendas or motives of the speaker who deploys “personal.”

Although “personal” might be used in a sincere attempt to elevate discussion or de­bate, I know of no instance in which that usage has been employed on campus.
“Are we being rigorous enough?” tlansrates to “Are you as exacting and severe as I claim to be?”

It is well known across campus that a moment before his death, Goethe uttered, “More rigor!” “Rigor” combines common, straightforward understandings of scholarly virtue or virtues with presumptions about the scholarly superiority of whoever wields the Sword Rigor. This or that peer may from time to time exemplify rigor, especially if the peer bought the first round or a recent autobiographic anecdote, but the campus Wigger Pat­wol – those so busy es­pous­ing rigor that they leave themselves little energy for practicing rigor – epitomize rigor in their febrile fantasies. Such self-glorification is a common symp­tom of inferiority complex, so academe teems with variants on this demand that col­leagues’ prowess measure up to one’s own. That persons of actual prowess so seldom make such demands underscores the insidiousness of Wiggerspeak: no one can measure up to rigor that cannot be detected.

The examples above do not exhaust my trove of tlansrations. I shall note more in future postings and highlight those that I have incorporated in past postings. Watch this blog for such campus favorites as “mandated confidentiality” [what a decision-maker would just as soon not explain], “personal and professional characteristics” [respectable camouflage for why we really don’t like you], and, of course, “interdisciplinary” [matters covered by an existing discipline in which one has no competence or credentials].

However, we must remember that some tlansrations are so common in academia that campus usage and users merely follow longstanding fashion:

“We have decided to be prospective, not retrospective.” on many campuses tlansrates to “We have decided to minimize accountability and maximize chances of recurrence.”

“Let’s be proactive on this matter.” on many campuses tlansrates to “Let’s make sure that this does not happen to me or mine, but otherwise let’s avert our eyes.”

“Civility” on many campuses tlansrates to “Use ineffective argumentation that reinforces existing elites or authorities.” All too often, civility is a proper synonym for servility.

“Collegial” or “collegiality” on many campuses tlansrates to “Serving [my/our] greater good.”

“Culture of evidence” on many campuses tlansrates to “A cult worshipping spin.”

“That matter has been addressed by the appropriate body.” on many campuses tlansrates to “We have covered that matter up and would appreciate its staying buried.”



3 Responses to “Tlansrations”

  1. O. Says:

    “Rigor” desperately needs tlansration in the academic context. “Pretense” might work. It’s such a bludgeoned word in academia and especially liberal arts colleges that when I hear it or read it, I tend to wince. Too often its use signals that its user needs to pretend to be thought to be first-rate and isn’t, or signals that its user needs a justification to behave in an ornery way toward students, or both. I defer to your tlansrating expertise.

  2. O. Says:

    …That is, I seek a tlansration of the word rigor itself; your tlansration of “Are we being rigorous enough?” is sufficiently rigorous.

  3. wildbillhaltom Says:

    Does “rigor” tlansrate to “an idealized image that I sincerely mistake for my persona and practice and that others do not even perceive?”

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