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  • Writer's picturePratima Agnihotri

#mailfail 4: They said it!

This blog unravels how “e-mails@e-ducation” released non-stop unintended comedy # the Corona Context. Auto-correction by the g-mail, students’ `novel’ties created literally laugh-a-minute riots which were in a way a combo of human errors and context errors which ended in a cruel murder of the seven c’s!

The pandemic period indeed metamorphosed the business of education beyond belief. Master Covid crafted an e-(that is, both educational and e-mailed) communication so provocative that the great Roman poet would have blushed beetroot red. Yes, you guessed it right. The culprit was indeed the e-mail as the teaching/testing mode was online. You do not believe me? Okay, let me share a few gems that would support my claim.

“Let me conceive you,” was the assurance I often received whenever a long-answer assignment was not submitted on time. Well, I never doubted the creative powers of the darlings! It was too embarrassing, however, to suffer so many re-births repeatedly. Soon the mystery cleared when I realized that the criminal was the keyboard that auto-corrected ‘convince’ to ‘conceive’ for whatever reason!

Oh, yes, many students assured me “I remain your dear, Madam” each time they tried their mobile at a message. So much love was indeed baffling! Soon I realized that this outpouring of affection was actually a concoction of poor punctuation, bad English and mobile-assisted editing.

Well, the mistake in a way was mine. As a lecturer in Eng. Lit., I felt that students should not always get away with the appeasement mode @ objective assessment. Moreover, when the online academic session began, they all confessed that they wished to be either teachers or media people. Obviously, expressive power would have to be their forte. Beyond the objective questions, hence, my twenty something (both age- and number-wise) students needed to write short notes, long answer questions, and the `explain with reference to context” kind of traditional offline answers. The hitch was that they had to e-mail these!

“Silly Mariner,” read an e-mail, “is a story about a man and a babe. He found her on the street. He loved her golden hairs”. Thus continued the summary. No, the university did not prescribe any soft porn. This was the summary of Silas Marner! When asked to `explain with reference to context’ the ‘sixth age’ from poor dear Shakespeare’s “All the World is a Stage”, most all were sure that ‘pantaloons’ referred to their favorite store that unfortunately had no “slippers”. The original ‘commedia dell’ arte’ possibly could not be that funny, right? The ‘friendship week experts’ could explain the simile in “my luv is like a red, red rose”, but when Burns talked of “sands o’ life shall run”, they thought it was ‘metafor’, hooked as they were to the FB and WhatsApp, and mind you, as modes of studying!

I wonder why I had the itch to actually teach during that sick season. Most students were indeed at their creative best. Often Shakespeare wrote novels then! Well, you see, the online lectures allowed the Compulsory English prodigies to be present online, with audio-video muted. Google Guru ruled the roost. The errors thus multiplied when they tried to vary the copy-paste in their own special way.

No use hence asking them to ‘justify’ their point of view as one would be bombarded left, right, center! No wonder, their answers would be replete with “gr8”, “4 u”, “@ the x-road” (the title of a Hardy poem, by the way), “sintax” (never knew grammar was so unholy!), and so on.

The list is endless. In brief, if you were to be an e-mail enthusiast, your students’ online English would be the greatest and ‘bestest’ de-addiction chill-pill as they would put it. In the meantime, I am happy, finally they `passed out’, both the Covid years and the (b)rave new wor(l)ds of online learners! “To e-mail or not to e-mail an answer is no longer ‘the’ question!”


Pratima Agnihotri teaches English literature and linguistics, and foreign languages at the UG/PG levels. She has many and varied academic and journalistic publications to her credit. A JRF/SRF holder (she cleared the UGC NET twice with Eng Lit), she presented papers in many national and international seminars. She collaborated on eleven EMRC programmes from the pre-to post-production stages and wrote scripts for NGO productions. She has many AIR programs to her credit.

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