What's It Like To Be An English Major? 49 Things Only We The Well-Read Truly Understand
So you've decided to be an English major. Good for you! You're in great company. Some of the greatest humans to ever live were English majors, like Mitt Romney. Who doesn't want to be like Mitt Romney?
But all jokes aside, being an English major is awesome. You're not only fulfilling your dream of spending four years of writing a never-ending barrage of papers, but you'll also learn a lifetime's worth of literary references that most non-English majors will never understand. It's glorious, and worth every single cent of your college loans.
Once upon a time, I too was an English major with high hopes for the future. I was going to be the next Salinger, win the Pulitzer, and even get nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Perhaps things haven't gone entirely as I planned, but hey, I still have time. At least I'm a full-time freelance writer and get to work from home in my pajamas! I do love my pajamas.
If you've chosen to major in English, then this list is for you. If you're just starting this fall, then this is what you can expect. Because there are some things only we English majors can truly understand.
everyone asks whether you WANT TO BE A TEACHER...
...but you probably You want to be a writer
YOU FEEL COMPLETELY IN YOUR ELEMENT LUGGING A PILE OF ANTHOLOGIES AROUND ALL DAY
In fact, you've dreamed of this since you were 12.
WHEN YOUR PROFESSOR CHOOSES AUSTEN’S ‘PERSUASION’ OVER ‘PRIDE AND PREJUDICE,’ YOU GET EXCITED...
At the prospect of judging your friends who've only read P&P.
AFTER ONE DRUNKEN NIGHT OF SCRIBING STANZAS AND RHYMES, YOU BRIEFLY CHANGE YOUR MAJOR TO POETRY
Because you're obviously the next Sylvia Plath
or ANNE SEXTON
You know she's way "edgier" anyway.
YOU LOVE EXPLAINING TO PEOPLE WHAT A ‘CONCEIT’ IS
“You’ve never read John Donne? I thought that was a staple no matter what your major.”
WHEN YOU DO POORLY IN A MANDATORY SCIENCE COURSE YOUR EXCUSE IS EASY: ‘I’M AN ENGLISH MAJOR.’
YOUR SECOND HOME IS THE CLOSEST COFFEE SHOP
AND WHEN YOU’RE IN THAT COFFEE SHOP, YOU REALLY HOPE A STRANGER WILL ASK YOU WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON
Because "my honors thesis" has a nice ring to it.
THE BARISTA KNOWS THAT ALL YOUR DRINKS GET AN EXTRA SHOT OF ESPRESSO, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED
How else are you supposed to stay up until 5am reading that 75-page assignment? And that's just one class!
you know EVERY CONVERSATION HAS A DEEPER MEANING
YOU LIVE TO CORRECT PEOPLE’S MISPRONUNCIATIONS OF DOSTOYEVSKY, GOETHE, AND RILKE
YOU TELL PEOPLE YOU READ ‘BEOWULF’ IN THE ORIGINAL OLD ENGLISH, BUT DON'T TELL THEM YOU DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT
“HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum, þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!”
WHEN YOUR PROFESSOR SAYS YOUR PAPER CAN BE NO LONGER THAN 10 PAGES YOU GO INTO PANIC MODE
Only 10?! Go home, Professor, you're drunk. Again.
YOU LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE YOUR LIFE IS SO ‘KAFKAESQUE’
But aren’t all our lives?
WHEN YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE LIBRARY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR A WEEK:
WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU THEY'RE AN ENGLISH MAJOR BECAUSE they 'DIDN'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO:'
Get some passion, man!
YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TREE ON CAMPUS just for sitting AND READing
and YOU FLY INTO A RAGE WHEN IT’S OCCUPIED BY SOME UNDERCLASSMEN
Do. Not. Kill. The. Freshmen. With. Words.
you know that A 1000-PAGE BOOK IS NOTHING TO FEAR
But a 150-page book is. Like, how can they get to everything they want to say in so few pages?
YOU CURSE YOURSELF WHEN YOU CATCH YOURSELF SAYING ‘LIKE’ IN THAT WAY
Same goes for “um.”
YOU will ARGUE WITH ANYONE WHO DOESN’T SEE HOW MUCH OF AN ASSHOLE DAISY BUCHANAN IS
Non-English majors will never understand.
and YOU’VE READ EVERYTHING FITZGERALD EVER WROTE
Even the letters!
THE THOUGHT OF SELLING YOUR BOOKS BACK AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER IS JUST WEIRD
Every book brings you one step closer to the ultimate library.
YOU plan to live in PARIS at some point, BECAUSE ALL THE ‘REAL’ WRITERS did
THE HIGHLIGHT will be YOUR PILGRIMAGE TO PÉRE LACHAISE TO PAY YOUR RESPECT TO PROUST and WILDE
And you don't forget to kiss Oscar’s headstone with your red lipstick.
THERE’S NOTHING QUITE AS SEDUCTIVE AS THE SMELL OF AN OLD BOOK
Except for a whole store of old books.
though NEW NOTEBOOKS LITERALLY MAKE YOU HIGH
If you were a dude, you’d probably get an erection over just the idea of buying new ones.
YOU ONLY GO TO SPECIALTY STORES TO BUY YOUR PENS
You're never without at least five of your prized ultra fine point BFFs at all times.
YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN AUTHORITY ON GRAMMAR
And break into cold sweats when you accidentally fuck up "your" and "you're" in a text because you were "in a rush."
YOU TUTOR MATH AND SCIENCE MAJORS ON HOW TO WRITE PAPERS PROPERLY 'FOR FUN'
YOU BRAG FOR WEEKS WHEN YOUR PROFESSOR IS PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER
You also know you’re probably, most definitely, next.
HEMINGWAY’S ‘HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS’ IS ALWAYS YOUR GO-TO IN MOST ABORTION DISCUSSIONS
Even if it doesn’t fit every time.
ALL YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT AT PARTIES IS THE SYMBOLISM IN JOAN DIDION’S ‘PLAY IT AS IT LAYS’
“Let’s talk about freeway signs, you guys!”
and WHEN YOU HAVE PARTIES, you'd better believe THEY have LITERARY THEMES
Because, of course.
YOU ONLY DATE FELLOW ENGLISH MAJORS BECAUSE YOU'RE HOPING FOR SOME HENRY MILLER-ANAÏS NIN LOVE AFFAIR
“Writing is not, for us, an art, but breathing.”
YOU LIVE TO PROOFREAD YOUR FRIENDS' PAPERS
Although it always ends up getting edited, not just proofread. You can't help yourself!
YOU WANT A NEW ROOMMATE WHEN YOU FIND OUT HER FAVORITE AUTHOR IS JACK KEROUAC...
Beat writers are SO something you like when you’re 13.
...though YOU do HAVE ALLEN GINSBERG’S ‘HOWL’ MEMORIZED
Because as a future English major, you were that cool at 13.
WHEN YOU DON’T GET ACCEPTED INTO A CLASS, YOU COMPARE YOURSELF to VONNEGUT
You also know you have the next Cat’s Cradle somewhere in you.
(YOU ALSO THINK ENGLISH CLASSES THAT REQUIRE ACCEPTANCE ESSAYS SHOULDN’T EXIST FOR MAJORS)
Save that shit for the science majors who wouldn't recognize a hyperbole even if it jumped on their face and started to hump.
EVERY HALLOWEEN is just A STRUGGLE TO DECIDE WHich DICKENS CHARACTER YOU’LL BE
You were Miss Havisham last year, so Oliver Twist this year?
THEN YOU’RE ANNOYED WHEN NO ONE ‘GETS IT’
Should have just gone all out and been Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
YOU'll TELL ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN YOUR THEORy that SHAKESPEARE was MORE THAN ONE PERSON
And aLTHOUGH YOU’LL NEVER ADMIT IT, YOU’RE SCARED YOU’LL ACTUALLY END UP BEING A TEACHER AFTER ALL...
Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just wasn't part of the plan.
...OR A WAITRESS
...But, hey, at least you'll be a waitress who knows what a ‘conceit’ is.
No regrets. Just prose.