I’m not en English major, a fact which I’m frequently having to remind people of. I’m an English language major. Which I guess really doesn’t sound any different. But it is. My major studies the linguistic aspects of English (semantics, phonology, syntax… how the language actually works). English majors analyze and write about literary works. Different. Very different.
But I don’t always get to explain all that when I’m asked the dreaded, “So what are you studying?” question. So most of the time I lie and tell people I’m an linguistics major. One friend of mine said he used to circumvent this problem by telling people he was an ELANG major. But then one day somebody thought he said he was a healing major, which is not actually a real thing at BYU.
The conversation often goes something like this:
Person: So what’s your major?
Me: English language.
Person: Oh cool, so you want to teach English?
Me: Not really. (And I wouldn’t actually be qualified to do so. Unless you’re talking about teaching English as a second language. But you’re not.)
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with studying literature. I in fact, used to be an English major. Used to. And maybe that’s part of why I bristle so much at people thinking I study literature. I’ve noticed there’s a certain stigma attached to the English major, which I did not appreciate being connected to when I was in the major, much less now when I’m out of it. And like many major related stigmas, there’s some foundation to the assumptions. Because there are certain types of people who gravitate toward the major. Types which I have broadly classified here (with nifty “illustrations” as per tradition).
I don’t really know what I want to study, but I liked English in high school
- Mostly just wants to get married to a guy who will support her.
- Likes to read, but doesn’t love literary criticism
- Thought the major was just a big book club.
- Carries a brief case
- Has a professional hair cut
- Always wears a suit
- Gets hit on by all the girls in the class because at any given time he’ll be the only marriageable thing in the room.
- No plans to do anything besides major in English.
- Wears clashing neon colored clothes.
- Doesn’t care about beard restrictions.
- Enjoys arguing…er… “discussing” books
- Complains about how narrow minded BYU students are.
- Dominates class discussion
- Thinks studying English makes her cultured
- Wears a scarf most days.
- Travels to Europe frequently.
- Thinks she is Elizabeth Bennett.
The aspiring writer
- Wants to be a writer, and thinks the English major will help them with creative writing
- May also have an editing minor because they want to have actual job prospects after graduating.
- Will spend an hour talking about their book if you let them.
- Actually likes literary criticism and is good at it.
- Wants to continue on in academia.
- Most of the other types believe they fall in this category, even if they don’t.
The one that escaped before it was too late
This post was inspired by a similar blog post, which my friend shared with me. My friend then challenged me to make my own version of the types of English majors at BYU, and here it is.