Monday, September 19, 2011


"The Boys of Summer", watercolor, by Johanna Bohoy
Occasionally I see a group of guys gathered around some motorcycles doing a little of what we might call shoptalk, and it makes me think of my English students on the days when they comment on classmates’ essay drafts. They’re talking about words and sentences instead of motorcycles, but their talk does occasionally take on the appearance of a creative, academic kind of shoptalk. They sometimes look at a classmate’s sentence on the projection screen the way guys stare at a carburetor, and they often comment on a sentence with the keenness of bikers bringing their praise and criticism to the bikes of fellow riders. A student might say, pointing to a properly placed adjective, “I really like that adjective right there. It’s in a perfect spot” -- and I picture in my mind a biker guy getting giddy as he praises the look of some sweet exhaust pipes. I have ice water and small cookies available for my students, so they sometimes take a sip of water or a bite of a cookie as they stand back to praise a prepositional phrase or suggest a better placement for a participle. They’re not swilling down a beer as they talk, but still, they sometimes remind me of biker dudes doing shoptalk around a first-rate Harley in front of the local watering hole.

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