Friday, March 08, 2019

In Life

I've found a few videos online that have pretty good instructions on how to pass the lamentable waste of time and effort known as the NY State English Regents. Clearly the teacher who prepared the videos has devoted more thought and time to this topic than I have, and her instructions are simpler and more effective than the ones I've been giving.

I'm therefore going to use her videos for my class. I showed one today. The students seemed to follow and understand, and even if they didn't I can reinforce and break down these instructions. There was just one thing that really bothered me. The presenter said the main idea ought to be presented with an "in life" statement.

In life, people need to treat one another with respect.

In life, men and women deserve equal opportunity.

I don't think those were the ideas her "in life" statements embraced, but it doesn't matter. I don't see what the words "in life" add to these statements, other than two extra words. I mean, perhaps if you were consorting with vampires and needed to contrast your situation with the undead, it would be useful to mention you were among the living. Vampires are not big nowadays though, so that's unlikely.

Now it could well be you find yourself in the midst of a zombie plague, and if the zombies were Walking Dead style, differentiation would be important. On the other hand, I've seen a show called iZombie where this pretty young blond woman eats brains and Sriracha sauce with chopsticks. You can barely tell she's a zombie. So you might not even need to use "in life" there. Nonetheless, it seems altogether redundant and unnecessary everywhere else.

My students have a habit of writing about humans. "When you walk down Main Street, there are always a lot of humans there." Personally, I'd say "people" instead. Of course my students are not native English speakers, so they have an excuse. There are exceptions, though.

For example, we were writing about shark attacks, and saying "humans" seemed plausible when we were being contrasted with marine animals. Also, if you were writing about another planet populated by, say, Klingons, you might want to specify that you were talking about humans. After all, Klingons are people too, even if they wear those ridiculous masks.
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