Phrases That Have Been Getting On My Nerves

Disclaimer: my lecturers are, on the whole, fantastic. There are, however, a couple of things they say, independently of each other, but fairly regularly, that drive me round the fucking bend.

The minor gripe first:

*long and involved explanation of a concept*  “… and so, obviously…”

Well. If it were obvious, remind me why I come to your lectures?

I know that there are certain things that we’re meant to be able to get by now – so if you rearrange an equation from “x + 2 = 3” to “x=1” without doing the middle bit of “x = 3 – 2”, fair enough. We’ve had years of practice at that. And also, if we can’t count to 3, we shouldn’t be in the lecture. But that’s never what you do, is it?

It’s always something incomprehensible, like “…we have a relationship between sigma squared and S squared and so obviously, the student t-distribution has n-1 degrees of freedom attatched to it in this case…”

That’s many things, but one thing it certainly isn’t obvious. So there I am, scrabbling away like a flea-infested monkey at my notes, which have got increasingly scrawled and muddled as you correct yourself and go back and jump forward and… really, what?!

And there’s no point asking whether we have any questions, either. Do you know what I think when you say things like that? I think you are in league with dentists, that’s what I think.

Anyway, but all of that just detracts from the main gripe I have for this evening, which is what happens when you forget your words.

When pointing to esoteric mathematical symbols: “… this guy…” or “… these guys…”

It burns, I tell you, it burns! They’re not even objects, for fuck’s sake – they’re symbols. Patterns on a projector (or a blackboard, if the lecturer is old-school!). English has gender neutral pronouns. Please use them properly.  It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a one-off, but it’s not. It’s all the time.

“This guy”. *points at symbol*

“This guy”. *points at symbol*.

“This guy”. *points at symbol*.

You see how it starts to get annoying?

You know, I sit in those lectures, and I reckon half, or maybe just over half of the students are female. Sometimes, even the lecturer is female. We’ve had a ratio of 2:4  female:male lecturers in both semesters this year. Four different women, eight different men. So I’m not badly represented. And yet… the lecturers saying “this guy” when they really mean “mu” or “X squared” or “theta” or “the gravitational force acting on an object”… that makes me feel invisible. It makes me feel like they’re talking to the men in the room, and only the men in the room. As though the whole of mathematics is an inherently masculine domain. Which is ironic, really, considering that on the prospectus, they called maths “the Queen of Sciences”.

It is at this point that I realise I have wasted a lot of time by playing Bill Bailey clips, in the hopes of finding something even slightly appropriate to put here that would make me feel less grumpy. Sadly, I can procrastinate no longer. Coursework beckons.

2 Comments on “Phrases That Have Been Getting On My Nerves”

  1. EKSwitaj says:

    What’s wrong with asking if you have any questions?

  2. Rachel says:

    Nothing per se, and I generally approve of the lecturers trying to work out where we’re at. But there is no question I can sensibly ask if I *just don’t get it*. That’s not helpful to either me or the lecturer. And it frustrates me when it’s said in the context of “and *obviously*….”, because it generally isn’t at all obvious, and I’ll still be trying to work out why one thing follows from the other at the point we’re asked for feedback. Which nobody ever gives, so I don’t think it’s just me that feels this way.

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