“You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.”

“You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.” -Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.

As a person in his early 40’s, I have come to grips with the notion that I will have fellow faculty members who I once counseled through the admission process.  However, I refuse to accept the notion that you don’t recognize the above quote.  The significance of the Princess Bride continues to resonate as much today as it did in 1987, and the above quote crystallizes so much of the work that we do.  I actually really like 1987, but that’s another blog post.  Anyway, if you haven’t seen this classic, drop whatever piece of literary snobbishness you’re currently reading or the Harry Potter fan fiction that unravels the untold love story of Ron Weasley and Cedric Diggory (RIP), and consume this quintessential piece of pop culture.  When you’re done, go back to reading books because, as Peter Falk said in the same movie, “In my day, television was called books.”

It’s admission essay season and I thought that I would quickly share one of my favorite stories from students over the years.  Prep school students have a long history of attempting to outthink the room when it comes to the essay and it’s typically good for some solid laughs.  I know, I know I shouldn’t be making fun of my students, but if I can’t make fun of either my own biological children or my students, frankly a piece of me dies.  So, a few years ago, I’m reading the essay of one of my all-time favorite students and she is essentially describing the things that you need to know about her in order to understand her potential contribution.  Of course, all of this was wrapped in a 500 word package that lays out her plan to solve (insert global issue here).  She is describing growth over the years, when she mentions that the trait that she is most proud of having developed in her life is her self defecating sense of humor.  That’s right, you read that correctly.  Self-defecating.  Now, I’m not old, but I’ve lived a good piece and my experience tells me that a self-defecating sense of humor is one the least respected traits that you could have.  Self-deprecating?  Very charming.  Self-defecating?  Just awkward.  The English language is such a fickle mistress that we have words so close and yet so far apart.  Like I said, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” I’m guessing when you get bit by a snake you’re not looking for the anecdote, but the antidote.  Although, I do believe that well timed story can heal many wounds.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I will leave you with this: Keep embracing the privilege that is this work and, in some small way, shape the future.  And on the days when the future make you laugh until you feel like your abs just hung out with Shaun T in the Asylum (Google it)? Well, that’s just a bonus.

By Jeff Morrow

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