When Tom Voden came to us in the Mathematics Division some eight or more years ago, I was interested to hear him utter the word "Beast" as a highly laudatory description of a remarkable student. Of course, I had been familiar with other uses of the word besides the hairy counterpoint to "Beauty" such as, "Don't be such a beast," or "You're so beastly!" (You will have to excuse me but I just finished another incredibly sentimental episode of 'Downton'.) However, I was quickly able to discern that this was an entirely new use of the word 'beast'. And given Tom's not very advanced chronos, he was either 26 or 27 years old at the time, he couldn't remember which, I felt certain that this was very likely an expression in common usage among the carefree young. I was drawn to it, but I failed to get in the habit of using it. I tried it out on Dr. Riggs once when he was here serving as our Interim President, "You're a beast, Dr. Riggs!" I yelled out at a faculty meeting. But it didn't seem to go over well. And now that he is rumored to be writing a book about the GCC governance process, I somehow feel responsible.
All of this is a long preamble to what I learned from my Calc II students this past Winter on this subject. I had this wonderful class, one that comes along only every few years. Three and a half hours, five mornings a week for five weeks. It seemed like a good portion of the class was spent in me badgering (or perhaps battering) them with questions. The energy level was high. No flipping, no group work, just questions. At one point a young man came up with an innovative response and I shouted, "Edgar, you are a ..." I stopped. If I called him a beast he might be offended. So I said to the class in a much calmer voice, "What word would you use? Beast, maybe?" Everyone laughed. "No, no, no. No one would say that." "What, then?", I inquired. "Savage," was the response from a student named Joey. "Like, Stathis, you're savage!" This greatly surprised me. I had not heard it before. But I liked it. "Wait a minute," I said. "Am I savage or am I a savage?" "Either way," Joey said. For the rest of the semester, the class and I traded off referring to each other, of course only at the appropriate times, as "savage."
But this is not the end of the story. In the middle of this madness, I applied for the Student Equity Coordinator position here at GCC. For the interview, I was to give a 10 minute presentation on the Student Equity programs here. I figured everyone would do a conventional PowerPoint so, somehow the notion hatched to write a short play that included a dialogue between Socrates playing the student equity coordinator and a young Frederick Douglass playing a new GCC student, and two other such dialogues. I had the interview committee play the parts. If I remember correctly, Paul Schlossman was Socrates and Ed Karpp may have been Sigmund Freud. It was brilliant, but then again, I am not totally impartial.
However, I felt I needed to make the students' language authentic. So I asked my students for some youthster lexicon to spice up the student speeches. They were rather noncommittal. I suspect there is some code of honor about giving away the fountain of youth. One bright light, named Jay, suggested I use dabbing, which if you don't know, is a beautifully theatrical gesture that looks like you are blowing your nose on your shirt sleeve while raising your other arm out to the side. Pointing and staring at some unseen object in the distance is optional. Apparently, Cam Newton was supposed to demonstrate it at the Superbowl, but it didn't work out. Another student suggested just to google for some new words, which I did. I used "awz" for awesome, "cra-cra" for crazy and I even made up one of my own, "awks" for awkward. But the funny thing was, after all this research, I didn't get a final interview! Amazeballs. I like to think that the committee was trying to figure out if my play was ahead of its time or just one more Greek tragedy. Or perhaps I was just a bit too savage.
Peter (Savage) Stathis
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