Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Manevolent Horst

Well, last week was rough draft week.  I must say, my students took the rough draft very seriously this time around, and by that I mean they took the word ‘rough’ seriously and made sure to not even READ their essays before hitting print and slapping their dreck on my desk with so much disdain.   For your amusement, here are some of my favorite spelling/word usage errors from this week’s batch:


That’s right, amung, not among.  It actually took me more effort to keep the misspelled word in this sentence because when I typed ‘amung’ Word automatically changed it to ‘among’ for me.  I actually had to go back and make the extra effort to suck at spelling, which leads me to believe that either a) This student uses some kind of sketch-mode, black market word processor he bought from the car trunk of a guy named Mixtape in the parking lot of a Fas-Chek – or b)This student was especially committed to this particular misspelling – like he thought the word processor was out to get him by changing the word, and he said “Nuh-uh! Not today, motherf*cker.  I know what I’m about.  It’s among.  Damnit, Stop changing it!  Amung! Amung!”

I don’t even know how a person makes it through at least 12 years of school without knowing how to spell such basic words.



Not malevolence.

According to Urban Dictionary, the foremost authority on ‘shit you hear those youths talking about in their rapping songs and their Justin Biebers,’ a manevolent person is “a person who is apt to change from a good person to an evil person (combination of benevolent and malevolent).”

Trust me, I’m all for portmanteaus.  I can chillax with the best of ‘em.  I’m a fan of the “Jabberwocky.”  (I do, however, have an irrational dislike for the word skort.  It’s just – ew.  Skort.  Ugh.  I don’t know why.  I also hate the word ‘slacks’ in reference to pants, although that’s not a portmanteau, so I digress.)  Unfortunately, though, I don’t think this student was trying to be linguistically clever.

This Maleficent drag queen is my best approximation of ‘manevolence.’


Paul Bearer.

This one is understandable, but still amusing.  Apparently there was a professional wrestling manager who went by the stage name Paul Bearer, and he looked like this

So. . .

Strike and Pose/Case and Point.

I get these.  A simple slip of the tongue is enough to drop that d and phonetically misunderstand how to spell these common expressions.

However, since I grew up being bored out of my mind every Thursday night as I watched my dad throw a heavy ball at some pins along with the other members of his bowling league, the word ‘strike’ inevitably makes me think of bowling, so when I think of ‘strike’ and ‘pose’ together, I think of this:


Finally, le pièce de résistance. . .


Can you guess what this student was trying to spell?

Take a minute.

Think about.

Nope, it wasn’t horse or hoarse.  This wasn’t a simple keystroke error replacing an ‘e’ with a ‘t.’

It wasn’t hurts.

Here’s the sentence:

They loaded his coffin up into the back of the horst.

That’s right, the student was trying to spell hearse and bastardized it so magnificently that context was the only way to determine what he actually meant to spell.

My only way to rationalize this is that the student read about Patty Hearst somewhere (remember her?  1970’s Stockholm Syndrome bank robbing lady?) and somehow believed that her last name was the same word used to describe the vehicle in which coffins are transported, but the ‘ea’ was lost in translation and turned into an ‘o’ giving us ‘horst.’

Here’s a horse-drawn hearse for you.  A ‘horst’ if you will.

I also received my fair share of papers that were syntactically competent but disheartening nonetheless.  Here’s what a student had to say about homeless people:

“What can be said is that they have a choice to engage in the capitalist economy just like anyone else in this country. They have the freedom to clean up their act and become a welcomed member of society, or they can sit on the steps and inconvenience people who are trying hard to make their way through life.”

I can’t even get past the sheer myopia.  I have never been homeless, but I somehow felt personally offended by this.  Ugh.

Oh, also, I had a student who TOOK OUT HER TEETH to explain to my why she would be missing our next class.  She came up before class, held up a piece of paper and before I could protest, she yanked those suckers out to reveal brown nubs that I can only assume were eaten away by copious amounts of methamphetamine.

And oh dear lord, whatever you do, DON’T do a Google image search for ‘meth teeth.’  Just. Don’t.

The next time she returned to class after missing another class session, she came up to my podium and, breath reeking of the dankest weed ever, explained that she’d been absent because she had to get her son admitted to a psych ward for a psych evaluation after he stabbed some other kid with a pencil.

I imagine this is her kid:

Finally, I’m still dealing with a student from last semester who re-used old essays from a previous English class.  The first time he did it, I told him that he needed to produce original work for each class.  I warned him not to do it again.  I also gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him rewrite that paper – I mean, the rule isn’t necessarily self-evident, and the university policy on academic dishonesty doesn’t explicitly address it.  It’s his original work – he’s not plagiarizing someone else – so why shouldn’t he think he could use his essay as he saw fit?  I could see how he might have just made an honest mistake.  He assured me that this was the case – that he simply didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to do that and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Well it did, on his last essay, so I gave him a 0 for the essay and he failed the class (NOTE:  this is the second time he has failed English 101, since the essays he re-used were from the English class he took and failed in the Fall semester).

I consulted my department chair, and she advised me to report him to the dean.

Now the kid is e-mailing me with his daddy cc’d asking me why he failed, claiming he doesn’t understand.  It’s seriously stressing me out because I just don’t want to deal with it right now.  I just don’t.

What if this kid appeals his grade?  What if I have to endure some messy hearing in which my every action is scrutinized?  In situations like this, I always second guess myself:  “Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough.  Maybe he really didn’t understand and this is all my fault.  Maybe I’m a terrible teacher.  Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job.”

Mostly I know this is not true, although situations like this do make me dream wistfully of other jobs – I could be a carnie.  I mean, I was very direct with him the first time this happened, and I even reiterated my point to him during finals week when he came by my office to talk about his rewrite; I warned him that if he re-used old essays in his future classes, some professors might not even give him a second chance and would simply fail him automatically.  If he didn’t understand my stance on this practice, then he’s hopelessly dim and perhaps that’s why he can’t seem to pass this class.

But still, I hated having to fail him, and I almost didn’t do it because of the potential for a messy fallout.  Yes, I actually considered passing him as I stared at the originality report telling me that, despite my multiple warnings to him, he actually resubmitted another essay from the same former English class.  Again.

I actually considered passing him because, honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it (I know that sounds awful, and I obviously talked myself out of it).  It would have been so much easier to just give him a C and move on.

It also doesn’t help that he’s a likeable kid.  He always participated in class, always smiled, was always courteous and friendly.  I hate to say that it would have been easier to fail him if I didn’t like him, but it’s true.  Despite the fact that it would have been easier, despite the fact that I like this kid, I did what I felt was right and I failed him. . .and now I feel depressed.

It doesn’t add up.

Why am I letting this kid’s poor decision-making skills, his laziness, fill me with such dread for the potential repercussions of my rightful actions?

Has anyone else ever had to deal with this?  What’s your stance on re-using essays from former classes?  Any words of wisdom out there?  Right now I just want to avoid my inbox like the plague and become a temporary Luddite.


One response »

  1. I’ve never (to my knowledge) had a student simply turn in a paper from a previous class. I HAVE occasionally had students ASK if they could submit a paper they’d written before, and my answer has evolved to “I don’t know. Why don’t you bring it to my office and we’ll see if there’s something there you can salvage. Of course, MY assignment isn’t identical with the old one, so the paper would at least have to be rewritten to respond to the assignment.” Only two students took me up on this, and the conference was actually pretty interesting and productive. I KNOW my assignments are different from other people’s assignments because I work to make them quirky. If your student was trying to resubmit a paper he’d written for YOU before, this approach might work, but better is to say “If I didn’t like it last time, what makes you think I’d like it this time?”
    On the subject of the errors, may I invite you to visit my blog?

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