A poll

What do teacherly [ETA: and studenty!] folks think of a student using the expression “sexing-up” in an essay?

I think it expresses pretty well what’s going on in the source materials he’s discussing, but is it too colloquial? Should I tell him to be more boring in future?

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10 Responses to A poll

  1. Milan says:

    It demonstrates a certain awareness of current events, but it’s probably worth warning the student that such terminology will not always be appreciated.

  2. Wilson says:

    If you don’t mind my studently opinion, I say the expression is just fine as long as the meaning is clear. When we students think we can’t get away with an occasional informality, our writing becomes a pretentious parody of formal diction. As a former English tutor and current history grader, I hate reading the results.

  3. Sharon says:

    Wilson, good point. I already get more than enough students trying to impress me by using big words they don’t really understand. (It’s either that or they’ve turned on the auto-spelling-correct and not bothered to check what the computer makes of their misspellings. It definitely happens. It can be quite hysterical.)

  4. Me? I’m of two minds. If the student placed inverted commas/quotes around it, then I would be OK with it, but still leave a note saying that some people might find it too colloquial. If not, then I’d ask them to find a less colloquial phrase.

  5. Alun says:

    I’m with Wilson too. I don’t see any virtue in being boring because a few academics are good at being boring. Nevertheless a good reason for avoiding colloquialisms like sexing-up is that they’re often ambiguous. Is it sexed-up in a Blair or Color Me Badd sense?

  6. I’m pretty sure I know what it means — if the Iraqi intelligence/BBC flap covers the meaning reasonably well — but I’d probably point out that it’s not a widely enough used term to be really clear to a broad readership….

  7. It is a term that I use quite often (which may label me a politics/media wonk…) If I used it in an essay I’d use quote marks, to show it was something slightly anachronistic, and I’d make sure I also explained in other words what I meant.

  8. rob says:

    Having just used the awful phrase “a depiction of war which might make Michel Leiris salivate” in an essay, I am in no position to judge. Generally, as a student who is just coming to the end of another 20,000-word Easter, I can empathise with any attempt to inject a bit of fun into what can be a rather debilitating trek across topics, and would thus implore you to be nice.

    Nevertheless, I think this particular anachronism should be in quotation marks; largely because I absolutely abhor that phrase (it sums up everything about the continuing British middle-class cutesy immaturity in relation to all things sexual–“ooh, ‘sexed-up’, that’s a bit of naughty phrase! teehee!”) and it would soften the blow.

  9. Sharon says:

    Surely that should have been ‘drool’ not ‘salivate’? I promise I don’t intend to be nasty to the student – I mean I’m not actually going to take marks off.

    (Jonathan: it may well be less familiar to a US audience, but I think it’s safe to say that the phrase is common currency in Britain.)

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