A Murder of Logos

Wish me luck: today was the day when I proved to the Canadian government (nay, all of Canada) that I am a competent speaker of English, in a series of tests that consumed the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I won't find out the result, on which my application for permanent residency depends, for another thirteen days.  While I fret away the time (because really, how beyond embarrassing would it be if I did poorly on this test?), I thought I'd give you a blow by blow of the day.


I have a nightmare in which anxiety about the oral test causes me to break, suddenly, into a logorrheic deluge of academic jargon. "I don't know what language this is," my examiner will jot on his notepad, "but it sure isn't English."

Wait: is "logorrheic" a word I should avoid in my oral test?

10:00-10:30 a.m. : The Oral Test

I think I may have nailed my spoken English test, given that my examiner kept grinning at me delightedly throughout the highly scripted exam, as if to give the questions a certain hipster irony.

But I will say this, nation of Canada: if you wanted me NOT to break into academic logorrhea, WHY did you make "celebrity" the subject of the exam? I mean, how am I supposed to respond to a question like, "Why do you think society focuses so much on celebrity?" without breaking out the jargon? At one point I found myself talking about rituals of surrogation and sacrifice.

God, I hope they'll still let me stay in this country.

Noon-4:45 p.m.: The Written Test

Update #2: I may have thought, when I took the GREs, that I would never again have to take a standardized test. I may have thought when I took the SATs that I would never again fill in a computer-legible sheet of bubbles. I may have forgotten, in the years since I was a child, that I am historically terrible at reading comprehension tests, despite having devoted my entire career to it, because of the curse of the overanalyzing mind.

This was hubris, all of it.

Side-bar: The Aural Test

Also: I have become a terrible listener. During the "Listening" test, I became distracted when the first two questions were about a woman who was registering for a drama workshop ("Did they just say 'drahma'?" I thought, "Ha! Suck it, Canadian pronunciation! Wait: was that the information I needed for this question? DAMMIT.") and an account of how a woman undertook the research for her dissertation ("OH GOD, HOW IS SHE EVER GOING TO FINISH A PROJECT WITH THAT SCOPE?? THIS MAKES ME SO ANXIOUS.").

So if they deem me an unworthy speaker of this fine language, I think we'll know why.

The Aftermath

I call D as I leave the testing facility, which is temporarily at a university just to the north of mine that goes by the unsettling moniker, "The Mount."

"It's 5 p.m., and it's already pitch black," I say to D bitterly, "What's that about?"

"Daylight Savings?  Northern latitudes?"

"Well, I don't care for it. Not at all.  It's gothically gloomy, and freezing cold, and RAINING, and I have a long steep walk ["the Mount," remember?] back to my car because there was nowhere on campus I could park for four and a half hours." I shift to a stage whisper: "Also, I'm really grateful that I teach where I do, because this campus is so freaking... outdoorsy.  Which is beautiful, but, I mean, we live in CANADA.  It's freezing cold and I'm about to fall down this hill."

"Yeah, I couldn't hear any of that," comes the reply from Honolulu, where it's morning, and 80 degrees. 

"Well, I'm trying not to yell my criticisms while I'm actually still ON this campus.  Although, come to think of it, I am creepily alone in the middle of these woods.  Where am I?"

Eventually I reach rock bottom, orient myself, and begin climbing the next bit of hilly allegory to where I parked my car.  It gets even darker.

A large bird flies overheard to land on a well-populated power line.  "Oh, wow: there's quite a murder of crows sitting right above my car. Two, four, six, eight of them."


"Oh wait," I peer through the thickening dark, "There are some more of them... No, it seems like... Oh my God.  Every surface of every tree is completely covered by crows. And all the houses.  I'M NOT KIDDING, D."

"I believe you!" he say urgently, "They've come to eat your liver."

"Oh God, I've got to go."


8 November 2012

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