May 10, 2009

Being a Tutor

Filed under: culture,language,teaching — Kim @ 3:46 pm

My new job title is “EAP Tutor” and because the term is used consistently throughout university documents, I am reminded of this honour on a daily basis. I have never been a “tutor” before and I quite like the quaintness of my new title. But also, for some reason I am unable to explain, I kind of prefer the American pronunciation [‘tu:tər], and will occasionally use it if asked what my job is.

In one lesson I asked my students to read out this little limerick in US then UK accents…

A tutor who tutored the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot;
Said the two to the tutor
“Is it harder to toot or
To tutor two tooters to toot?”

which only works properly in an American accent.

But also, as with so many things these days, I only had an imperfect recall of this limerick and so was forced to google it. It came up in a document called “UNITED STATES ARMY SERGEANTS MAJOR ACADEMY. PROTOCOL AND ETIQUETTE HANDBOOK”. This turned out to be a most amusing document, crammed with incredibly detailed advice and couched in a ludicrously pompous style. To wit:

Practiced in certain messes, is the tradition of chiding or poking good natured fun at fellow members of the mess through limericks and ditties. This is a form of self-generated entertainment during the dinner hour, and serves to enhance camaraderie and unit/section esprit, while remembering the formality of the occasion. The procedure normally followed is for the member who wishes to propose a limerick, to first secure permission from Mr. Vice, then present his limerick. If the limerick’s humor is not readily apparent to all members and guests of the mess, a brief explanation, to all present (but not to divulge the humor in the wit.) so that they may share. A group or person, upon receiving a limerick, is bound by honor to refute the remark prior to the close of the dinner hour, lest all present believe the remark to be true…Remember, a limerick should be witty to all, elicit a response from the “victim”, be fun, in good taste, and not cause undue embarrassment.

A far cry from “Full Metal Jacket” then. I wonder if any US Sergeant has ever plowed thru this turgid tome and taken on the mindset invoked in its solemn tones.

Well, what better way to end than with a couple of my favourite ribald limericks that would surely prove suitable for a gathering of Civilian Tutors around the table of a hostelry of an evening? To woo:

From the depths of the crypt at St Giles
Came a scream that resounded for miles.
Said the vicar, ‘Good gracious!
Has Father Ignatius
Forgotten the bishop has piles?’

As the poets have mournfully sung,
Death takes the innocent young,
The rolling-in-money,
The screamingly-funny,
And those who are very well hung.


  1. Joyce, I believe, or at least reputedly so, and Auden, definitely. the last line of the Auden, by the by, should be “and also the very well hung.”

    I hear you will be in Sussex for the summer. as a tutor?

    Comment by brother Samuel — May 12, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  2. I know why you like the American pronunciation of ‘tutor’. Saying it reminds you of how much you like the American pronunciation of the ‘r’ in ‘burn’, which in turn reminds you of the ‘r’ in ‘porn’, which reminds you porn! Voila!

    Comment by Sean — June 5, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

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