Rocks for Jocks, etc. (UNCLASSIFIED)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 27 18:12:57 UTC 2010

FWIW, in four years of college and several more of grad school beginning in
1970, and despite a professional curiosity about student slang, the only two
satirical course names I ever heard "in the wild" were "Rocks for Jocks" and
"Words for Nerds" (freshman composition).

I estimate the number of times I actually heard them as once or twice each.

Allow me to suggest therefore that most such terms exist primarily as
folkloric rather than fully lexicalized items, though I'd expect
that several have become relatively well known over the past decades.

"Gut" and "crip" were both in use at NYU to describe easy courses, but among
the people I knew "crip" was by far the more common.

I used to teach a course on war literature that extended from the _Iliad_
through Vietnam. Someone (not a student) suggested I call it "Homer to

It would have been a concise cultural as well as chronoIogical summation,
but I didn't.

(An updated version might be "Tyrtaeus to Petraeus.")


On Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 1:47 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Rocks for Jocks, etc. (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 4:39 PM +0000 4/27/10, ronbutters at wrote:
> >Isn't it the same thing!?
> Oh, I was thinking of the old-fashioned emphatic "so" without a
> complement that Jespersen claimed only women use ("I'm so tired" as
> opposed to "I'm so tired that I'm going to sleep", with only the
> latter being approved for use by men).  But I see on re-reading that
> Jon's is indeed what I meant by "Gen-X _so_", not what Jespersen (and
> Robin Lakoff) meant by "emphatic _so_" of the supposedly sex-linked
> variety. Just a terminological issue.
> LH
> >------Original Message------
> >From: Laurence Horn
> >Sender: ADS-L
> >To: ADS-L
> >ReplyTo: ADS-L
> >Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Rocks for Jocks, etc. (UNCLASSIFIED)
> >Sent: Apr 27, 2010 11:53 AM
> >
> >At 11:40 AM -0400 4/27/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>"Physics for Poets" was the official name of an introductory physics
> course
> >>for non-majors at NYU around 1970. It was so listed in the catalogue.
> >>
> >>(That's the standard, not the emphatic, use of "so.")
> >
> >Or the Gen-X use, as in "I'm so not taking that course."
> >
> >LH
> >
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