Academics have a way with words. Sometimes terse, other times – maybe more often – going on at extraordinary length.

In their writing, which can (but doesn’t have to) be painfully dull, academics are trained to make their points by offering evidence and invite scholarly input.

But in their verbal orations, eloquence coupled with length knows no bounds.

Masters at disguising meaning, despite their academic training which instructs exactly the opposite, academics are constantly in search of a new way to say something other than what they mean.

“I’m not being critical of anyone,” the speaker begins. Which is code for: And here’s just how dumb you are.

Or, “Is this negotiable?,” which is code for: Can we just do things my way?

A recently popular academic rhetorical trope seems to at once place blame on the speaker while simultaneously serving to critique the person being referenced.

“I’m confused,” the academic will state plaintively.

This might follow such difficult-to-understand assertions as “The world is spherical” or “Two plus two equals four.”

“I’m confused” seeks sympathy for the speaker coupled with empathy: get into my shoes and help me with this. Academics, accustom to being teachers place themselves in the role of learners.

Help me to understand the perplexing complexity of that which was just said.

Usually, though, “I’m confused” is code for something else.

The beginning of an argument, for instance.

Often it means: I disagree.

Or: No, I won’t.

Or: Do things my way, not yours.

And: Why won’t the world spin in the direction I prefer?

Now I’m confused. Really confused.

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