Inadvertent Parallelism

Sometimes it’s not the things students write, but what they say. I recall overhearing a couple of students as they walked into our building after lunch. Keep in mind, as you eavesdrop with me, that the only classes taught in this building are English classes of one level or another.

Student One: What class do you have right now?

Student Two: English.

Student One, blithely: Okay.

I was hard-pressed to keep a straight face. Of course English!

So where does parallelism come into it? I have taught The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet a few too many times. In I:i, we see this conversation:

Benvolio: Tell me in sadness, who is it that you love?

Romeo: […] In sadness cousin, I do love a woman.

Benvolio: I aimed so near, when I supposed you loved.

Romeo’s response to his cousin’s query produces in the audience the same “Gee, really?” response that I experienced while listening to the two students. It is Benvolio’s dry response, however, that makes Shakespeare’s version rise to the heights of literature while the poor students I overheard will go down in very few annals of history for their witticisms.

“It’s Elementary, my dear Watson!”

I’m sure I’ve had a few stellar conversational gambits of my own–please don’t think I make fun of these things because I’m infallible. I just enjoy them so. I hope that my own oddities and “duh” moments provided someone else with the amusement I derive from the ones I’ve collected over the years. After all, “for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 57).

Do pardon the jumble of literary references in this post. I have read enough that allusions are a standard part of my conversational vocabulary.

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