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2:06pm on Monday, 6th December, 2010:

Land of Litotes


This week, I'll take in (hopefully) 26 CE217 assignments and start to mark them. The students will get back a commented version of their report so critical that they'll wonder how they got any marks at all, let alone good ones. This is the same whenever I look at something with a view to sharing my opinion on it: it's almost always entirely negative.

Actually, though, it's not negative. Most of the doucment will not be commented, and that's because I like it. I tend to write primarily when I don't like it, which means there are vast numbers of crticisms. They're outnumbered by the vaster numbers of sentences I make no comment on, but that's not how it looks to students.

I think the reason is because I'm from Yorkshire. Alan Bennett famously (well, not famously enough for it to be recorded on the Internet, but famously enough for me to have heard it on TV) referred to Yorkshire as the "Land of Litotes", by which he meant that Yorkshire people tend to describe things as the negative of their opposite — "not bad" instead of "good", "not good" instead of "bad", that sort of thing. Disregard what it isn't, and you're left with what it is.

When I mark assignments, by pointing out everything that's wrong I reveal the rest to be right. That's how it feels to me. To my students, though, it's more like I'm a vicious, smug, callous cynic. OK, so I may actually be one, but that's not what the comments I make are supposed to convey...

Oh well.

What goes "no ... no ... no ... no ... no ... this one"?
A Yorkshire satnav.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).