Yesterday, while brunching with my usual cohorts at our usual watering hole, several things decided to pop their heads onto the table over beers, bloody marys, and totally awesome waffles and French toast.
The first thing was a way of putting this horrible feeling that we are all going through over the uncertainty of our futures due to PhD applications being in the mail and decision letters on the horizon. During a round of your average “how are you?”s, someone brought the topic up (it might have been me). It was inevitable, right? It’s at the back of all of our minds. Getting us together and adding a little booze was only less likely to make us ignore the elephant in the room. So someone said PhD applications, someone said decision letters, someone said job applications, and my friend (the husband of my other friend), ever-the-sage, piped up with this little gem:
“How is she doing? Are you kidding? She hasn’t finished a sentence in months!”
I stopped, gaped, briefly considered, and slowly realized how apt this description was. I then attempted to launch into my own description of how I was doing, and wound up with a slew of started and re-started sentences and phrases not amounting to much of anything but a ball of stress and upset.
“See?” He said, “Like that.”
Oh god. It’s true. It may even be the root of why all this is bothering me so much. How can you live without knowing what the end of the sentence is? We’ve begun it, surely, but now that things are out of our hands there is absolutely no way to complete it without someone inserting a word mad-lib-style… and all of our mad-lib buddies are in the bathroom, or checking their facebook in the other room, or on the phone with their moms for a family emergency, or otherwise detained in some fashion and unable to give us the crucial noun, verb, or color to continue!
We’re stuck mid-mad-lib!
Do you know how infuriating it is for an English major to be stuck mid-sentence? In that pause space that Tim Curry adds as Frankenfurter when he says “I see you shiver with antici….” and the whole audience shouts “say it! SAY IT!” before he finally outs with “…pation” and the crowd goes wild. We’re ellipsis. No, we’re not even ellipsis, ellipsis imply an interruption in the thought that will be filled with dramatic tension and indicates an omission in the text. While the tension is there, the omission will not be forever. Eventually it will be filled. We’re stuck at sentence fragments. We know the subject, but not the verb.
How am I supposed to analyze a text if I don’t know the story?
This brief moment of panic aside, the waitress was a very inquisitive individual who started asking questions about who we were and what we did and, feeling the bravado of Winter Lager in my system, I boldly told her “we’re professors!”. Yes, I know, it’s a stretch of the truth, but without time to explain what we really do it’s the best way to say what our passions are and what our careers will be. She then started asking about our fields. I pointed us out one by one; “Feminist” (aforementioned friend-wife-of-husband-friend), “Shakespearean” (yours truly), “Secular Critic” (actually not a lady, but he was late to brunch and thereby I don't feel too horrible about picking on him indiscriminately in this blog post).
“And together we make the justice league!” The secular critic said.
…which really got me thinking, if we did make the justice league what would our powers be and what sorts of crimes would we solve? Would we be the scourges of bad grammarians everywhere? Copy-editing with iron quills? Or would we be Defenders of the Text, like the lorax but speaking for books and authors whose words none can hear any longer without our help? Or would we swoop in and rescue libraries from burning down and give away used books to poor children who didn’t have money to buy them? Or would we just wear funny costumes and sit around a citadel all day talking about the awesome things we would get around to doing eventually but couldn’t because our reading loads were too much?
At this juncture, fretting about random punctuation marks was pushed to the back of my mind. I was instead worried about my super hero ensemble and name.
I think “The Bardette” would suffice… or maybe “The Quillmistress”… and my icon would be a skull with a feather quill crossed over it and an open book emblazoned behind it… and my colors would probably be white and burgundy because white for “the sweet swan of Avon” and burgundy because every velvet or leather-bound Shakespeare volume I’ve ever seen was in burgundy and my primary weapon would be an iron-bound copy of the First Folio that I would use to bludgeon my assailants to death and I need to come up with a clever and punish catch phrase and…
…I like thinking about this a lot more than thinking about the space between ellipses.