Mordini: You’re an English major? Go fish

Jessie Markovetz

Call me Ishmael.

Wait, don’t. That’s the kind of nickname that might stick, like George “W.” Bush or Brad “Arm” Pitt.

Nonetheless, that sentence about Ishmael, which opens a famous tale about fishing – “The Old Man and the Sea,” I think – illustrates today’s Column Topic, which is: Biblical Persons You Should Not Name Your Child After, Because They Will Be Made Fun of Throughout School and Soon Afterwards Imprison You in a Nursing Home.

No, seriously, it’s high time we talk about the importance of English as a major. This is a very deep, intricate topic, so to make it easier for all the kids in the business school, who can only handle bits of information presented in bullet form, I will use the “Q and A,” or “Socratic,” format of writing.

Q.: What can the letters of “Socratic” be rearranged to spell?A.: No, no, I’m talking about being an English major today.

Q.: Sorry. Why would anyone want to be an English major?A.: After graduation, most people who major in English have lucrative careers to look forward to, such as serving up french fries at Burger King, whereas communication majors are stuck cleaning them off the floor.

No, seriously, English majors use their finely-honed skills to lead the field in many areas of society and are constantly “taking up the charge” to provide unique insight into the fields of medicine, engineering, astrophysics, law, home improvement and bicycle repair, among others. Most of these charges end up in failure or scandal, though, as was the case in 1953 when two English majors, named James Watson and Francis Crick, effectively got themselves credited with demystifying the DNA double helix by plagiarizing the work of their colleagues and rivals.

Q.: So why aren’t there more English majors out there?A lot of would-be English majors are turned off by the negative attitude surrounding the major. The myth of the English major drearily poring over volumes of work while writing mountains of papers is a lie perpetuated mostly by business majors, who will graduate and go on to get jobs as meaningless paper-pushers whose only duties are filling out spreadsheets and forwarding memos. In reality, English majors are a fun-loving bunch skilled at combining the arts of reading, writing and binge drinking, which makes for an interesting, if not necessarily profitable, career.

Also, many non-English majors are frightened by course requirements involving writers like Shakespeare, who to the uninitiated represents the Holy Terror of Writers. But once you realize that his name can be rearranged to spell both “Ask Sheep Ear” and “Seek Ape Rash,” you understand that he’s not such a bad guy.

Q.: I’ve heard a lot of negative things said about the professors of the English department. What are your thoughts on that?A.: All I can say is that these sorts of lies are the worst kinds of filth that tarnish the sterling reputation of our fine department and university. I would happily cross swords with anyone who has an unkind thing to say about our fine professors. And let me add, in a voice of sincerity rarely heard these days, that I think the English professors I have this semester are tops above all others. And I hope you are all reading this.

Q.: Is it true that, when you told your father that you were going to major in English, he said, “And what are you going to do with that?”A.: Yes.

Q.: If the men’s basketball team qualifies for the Sweet 16, are you really going to gouge your eyes out with an ice cream scoop and tell everyone that “the Wildcat got you”?A.: Of course. But I’m not too worried.

Q.: So what are you going to do with your degree? Teach?A.: Absolutely not. Like many English majors, I find this question offensive, as though the only thing we’re good for is education. I myself plan on going fishing, or maybe whaling.

Maybe I can write about the experience.