Friday, August 16, 2013

How to salute a professor

[Genuine, unretouched Google search that brought a seeker to Orange Crate Art.]

I can think of three explanations for wanting to know how to salute a professor in an e-mail:

1. The searcher is a student at a military academy.

2. The searcher has English as a second language.

3. The searcher, intent on observing all formalities, is thinking in terms of salutation, a term better reserved for dowdy old letter-writing.

I am glad though to see someone asking the question rather than beginning with Hey, or with nothing at all: I am a student in your class, &c. Good titles for poems there: “Poem Beginning with Hey,” “Poem Beginning with Nothing at All.”

Everything this searcher seeks can be found in this world-famous Orange Crate Art post: How to e-mail a professor. Am I tooting my own horn? I guess. Toot. Toot. I am tooting softly, with a Harmon mute.

The word salute reminds me of a startling essay-starter that Claire Hahn of Fordham University shared with our class one day: “Chaucer stood with one foot firmly planted in the Middle Ages, and with the other he saluted the dawn of the Renaissance.” She loved it.

Which in turn reminds me of something my friend Rob Zseleczky was fond of recalling: someone asking him a professor at a party, “Milton: didn’t he write Chaucer?”

But my favorite use of the word salute is this one:

[I’ve corrected the anecdote, as per Luanne Koper’s memory: it was Rob’s story, but the question was asked of a professor.]

comments: 8

Jim and Lu K said...

I believe the correct quote was: "Milton: didn't he write Chaucer?" (Not that it matters...but I know you like accuracy!)

Michael Leddy said...

Hi guys. You may be right. Heck, you must be right. I will amend.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine just pointed out: “We know that Shakespeare didn’t write Chaucer!”

Slywy said...

The old Merriam-Webster collegiate dictionary used to have a section on something like "guide to forms of address," including how to address the president, members of congress, the mayor, attorneys, doctors, and the variations on doctoral degrees.

(Sorry if this comes through twice; Blogger froze and is being wonky.)

Michael Leddy said...

We had the World Book dictionary when I was a kid — I remember being fascinated by that stuff.

My M-W Collegiate (tenth edition) has it in the back, in the Handbook of Style. It’s not in the table of contents though. To my surprise, the unabridged has it too. I thought that was exactly the kind of thing they got rid of when working on the Third.

Slywy said...

Happy to hear that newer editions still have it.

By the way, I just found out Bookman's Alley in Evanston is still open - through September (extended lease). Would that I had known.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your quote from one of my favorite professors. I took Claire Hahn's poetry and Chauncer courses at Fordham. She was a great teacher and the world is a poorer place since she has passed. Fordham has recognized her with the Claire Hahn Becker award.

Michael Leddy said...

I wish I’d known Claire Hahn better: she was in and out of the hospital during the semester I was in her Chaucer class, and someone else eventually took over. I still have a chapbook with excerpts from her writing. I think it came in the mail after I contributed to that scholarship.

Did you know Jim Doyle at Fordham? There are some posts about him in these pages.