"... grades on _a_ curve."

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 26 16:37:58 UTC 2013

On Dec 26, 2013, at 11:24 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> In my recollection (mid '60s), "grade on *a* curve" did effectively mean
> "raise our grades according to some theory that we don't really understand
> but which is obviously fairer than giving us what we deserve."

Perfect gloss for the usage with which I'm familiar.  Except for the implication that we/they don't *deserve* a higher grade than the one assigned based on the answers submitted.  Different definitions of merit, I guess.

>  It was much
> more common than _on *the* curve_, which implies that the speaker has a
> some notion of what sort of curve is involved.
whence the recent Clint Eastwood movie "Trouble with the Curve"


> On Wed, Dec 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM, Dave Hause <dwhause at cablemo.net> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Dave Hause <dwhause at CABLEMO.NET>
>> Subject:      Re: "... grades on _a_ curve."
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> I remember it as a request of instructors in the 60s and 70s, although the
>> request actually meant something like "give us better grades than we
>> earned"
>> and not "give most of us Cs and flunk the same number as get As."
>> Dave Hause
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at ALUM.MIT.EDU>
>> Remember that bygone era when the expression was,
>> "grade on _the_ [bell] curve"?
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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