When people learn that I’m a professor in an English department, they frequently say things like, “I better watch my grammar around you.” Or they ask me how to spell things. It demonstrates to me how little people tend to understand about what I do for a living. I’m not a linguist. Everything I know about grammar I know because I shared an office with a linguist for nine years. Everything I know about spelling is nothing. I would’ve misspelled “grammar” in that first sentence if not for the wiggly red line below my first attempt.
Assuming, though, that I focus on grammar and spelling is like meeting a stand-up comedian and assuming that he wears face paint, a red nose, and big floppy shoes. Sure, the stand-up comedian you met when you were in the third grade dressed like a clown. Things are a little different when we’re adults.
Anyway, I’ve often thought about writing an article that explains not so much what I do, but why I do it. Luckily, a professor from Notre Dame wrote that article for me. I read it in the New York Times this morning.
If you’ve ever wondered why you had to take a class in the humanities, or why I do what I do professionally, I recommend it. Here’s the link: “Why Do I Teach?” by Gary Guttting.